With the second set of games in group play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup wrapping up and the knockout rounds gaining the spotlight, the tournament has already taught football fans many things.
We have learned who's fake and who's for real. Who the stars will be and who dies under scrutiny. Which goalies can handle the new ball and which cannot.
The beginnings to the World Cup have been exciting, and here are 10 things we have learned to date.
The 2006 World Cup in Germany ended with Italy knocking off fellow European rival France in the championship match. Entering the 2010 Cup, both teams had high expectations after such masterful performances.
Apparently, however, there has been no carryover from the '06 Cup into South Africa. Both teams are on the verge of elimination with one match to go and needing a win and help from other teams.
France is in the more dire situation. Saturday night it was announced that striker Anelka was released from the team, adding to an already tumultuous go in the World Cup. Today reports have it that French players refused to train to protest Anelka's dismissal.
This is beyond awful for a team that needs a big win over South Africa and a blowout from either Mexico or Uruguay in Group A.
Italy was shocked by the Kiwis of New Zealand in a 1-1 draw Sunday morning. This kept them in a tie for second place, needing points and a New Zealand loss in order to advance.
Before you ask, "Now how can they be a dark horse with those bright orange uniforms", let me say, "Don't worry about that".
In just two matches in Group E, the Dutch have advanced to the knockout stages with convincing wins over Denmark and Japan. Despite only possessing a +3 scoring margin, they have dominated both games, allowing few chances on defense and creating enough on offense.
Against Denmark, they were given a goal from an own-goal and Dirk Kuyt followed with the clincher in the 85th minute. They tallied quickly in the second half against Japan and held them quiet in a convincing 1-0 game in which they did what they had to and no more in order to get a victory.
Watch out for Holland in the knockout stages.
Just in case the Argentinian's 4-1 win over previously impressive South Korea and their roster consisting of players such as Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Gabriel Heinze and Sergio Romero aren't impressive enough, this slide is here to state the obvious.
In two games, both wins over Nigeria and South Korea, the blue and white have only allowed three shots on goal. The win over Nigeria was a simple 1-0 game with the only score coming off of a dandy set play.
Gonzalo Higuain was outstanding against South Korea. With a hat trick, he scored more goals than South Korea had shots on goal. Lionel Messi was in the thick of play, coming up with beautiful balls that led to Higuain's scores.
Argentina came into the World Cup as one of the heavy favorites and now have distinguished themselves as front—runners.
Young players such as Winston Reid, Tommy Smith, Giovani Dos Santos, Lee Chung-Yong, Michael Bradley, Gonzalo Higuain, and Luis Suarez are making themselves known to the football world with their play in the World Cup.
Reid scored the immensely clutch equalizer for New Zealand against Slovakia at the 93' mark with a stellar header toward the post.
Smith, a fellow Kiwi, has done very well in defense for New Zealand. He was the culprit of a flop that led to Italy's one goal on a PK, but aside from that questionable call he has been the All White's best defense—man.
Dos Santos has been unlucky not to score and has dazzled fans with his quickness and ability with the ball. Chung-Yong made a nice play to score Korea's only goal against Argentina when he stole the ball and fired it into the net.
Bradley, aside from Higuain, has been the best young player in the Cup. At 22, he was one of the US's two best offensive players against England. He delivered wonderful balls and sharp passes and played a large role in only allowing one goal.
He scored his first World Cup goal against Slovenia on a wonderful one-touch strike over a charging goalie.
Just two months ago, most Americans would have asked "vu-vu-what?" when hearing the name of these noise making horns. Now two weeks into the World Cup, they are globally known and heard.
When the Cup kicked off with host South Africa drawing with Mexico, I enjoyed the atmosphere the vuvuzelas brought. But then I kept watching, and all I heard is a loud swarm of bees in a football stadium.
I am not the only one that is getting irritated by the vuvuzelas; there have been many requests by players and fans to have them banned. They have created communication problems on the field that have, quite possibly, led to mishaps. But they are a local tradition, so the swarm of bees will stay.
There is no denying the lack of offense that the 2010 World Cup has produced. It has even turned some disloyal fans away from the game. There have been 21 games with two or fewer combined goals. Eight have ended 1-0 and three have been scoreless draws.
This can be attributed to the defense. Teams are cracking down in their zone and allowing nothing to get through, all the while being more cautious on the attack.
It may also be a result of group play in which teams can scrutinized their opponents and look for every minute strength and weakness through scouting. Teams are making sure not to leave men open and not to allow too many goals because it may cost them down the road.
After expecting to dominate Group C and head out with either seven or nine points, England is sitting with a whopping two and on the brink of elimination with a loss or draw and an American win.
With Rooney, Cole, Gerrard, Heskey, Lampard, and Terry, their talent is not questioned. But there are so many things not going well for the Brits that they have drawn with America and Algeria.
Wayne Rooney is being labeled as a "prima dona". Ashley Cole has been going through a divorce recently. Sophisticated coach Fabio Capello does not get along with many of his players and has made questionable moves and doubted his team. The players do not like his treatment of them.
English fans are beyond disappointed with their team's lackluster performance.
After the Algeria game, the boos were very distinct, and Rooney called the fans out on it and drew himself criticism. They have not played well as a team. Everything is a mess for the English, and they only have two days to fix it or they're gone.
More unexpected plot twists other than France, Italy, and England have appeared. Switzerland defeated FIFA No. 2 Spain. Japan beat Cameroon. Cameroon is eliminated after two games. Serbia defeated Germany. Slovenia leads Group C and Ghana is on top of Group D.
Upsets have headlined the World Cup. We have seen some of the top teams fall victims to upstart underdogs. Surprise teams are sitting in first place in many groups.
Unexpected things are going down in South Africa. Nobody knows what's going to happen next and that's why we have to watch every game possible.
This is more of a restatement of a previously known fact.
Against both England and Slovenia, the Americans have fallen behind early. The English scored the first goal within seven minutes and it took a mistake by England for the US to draw.
In another draw with Slovenia, the Yanks dug themselves a 2-0 hole at halftime before utterly dominating the second half in a game they would have won if it weren't for the referee.
USA has played very well outside of their lackluster starts to each match. They cannot dig themselves a hole against top teams. To advance, they have to beat Algeria by pouncing on them early because the Algerians showed they can stifle powerful offenses late in games as they did versus England.
The new Adidas Jabulani ball has received mixed reviews from players, but it is accepted among them all that it bounces and swerves like none other.
The ball is more lightweight and can sail farther, higher, and faster. It also bounces higher and can create problems.
It has received most of the attention for gaffes made by goalkeepers in the Cup. English keeper Rob Green made a pee-wee play by missing a simple attempt at scooping up the ball and allowing a goal for US's Clint Dempsey.
Algeria's Faouzi Chaouchi, Vincent Enyeama of Nigeria, Paraguay's Juston Villar and Alexanderos Tvorzas of Greece have all looked foolish while net-minding. The ball has taken some crazy turns and caused last-second adjustments leading to goals.
Now, it is not fair to put the blame for goalies' mistakes on a spherical ball. The mistakes being made can be focused on the men between the sticks, but that doesn't mean that the Jabulani doesn't bounce around.
Not participating in the World Cup, English keeper Peter Shilton said,"It does some strange things and moves around a bit. It bounces more than any other ball that's been used at this level. If you combine that with the altitude you know it's going to be unpredictable."