World Cup 2010: Top Five Surprises So Far
The Miracle of Berne, the "Hand of God", North Korea in 2002–no World Cup would be complete without a few moments which leave you questioning the football gods. Here are my top five of these moments so far in 2010.
I do not think that anyone thought that Japan would qualify for the knockout stages in the style that they have done. They comfortably saw off difficult opposition in the form of the Danes and Cameroon, and were unlucky to lose to Holland. The "Blue Samurai" have earned a lot of fans with their exploits so far, and I would love to see them progress further into the competition.
4: New Zealand
Yes, they did not pick up a win and yes, they are out of the tournament, but the team who were predicted to be whipping boys picked up credible draws against world champions Italy, a decent Slovakian side, and a good Paraguay team. They can leave South Africa with their honour intact and heads held high.
3: Ji Yum Nam
Hearing that Brazil would open against North Korea, I, like many others, tuned in to see a goal fest. Instead, we were shown a plucky side undone by a couple of moments of samba magic. Ji Yum Nam's control, sprint into the box, and assured finish past one of the best keepers at the tournament was no more than was deserved, but was certainly unexpected.
The top two hold no mystery for those who have been watching the World Cup. France failed miserably, finishing at the bottom of their group and three points short of hosts South Africa. Watching France was akin to watching 11 guillotined chickens. The French squad are all undoubtedly individually skillful but are utterly lacking any team direction.
Completing the disgraced set of Germany 2006 finalists is Italy. Like France, the world champions were utterly bereft of team direction, and the aging Cannavaro was completely out of his depth. A sad end for a World Cup-winning captain. The parallels with France continue as Italy finished at the bottom of their group following a bore-draw with Uruguay, a point against New Zealand which required a soft penalty in Italy's favour, and a stunning loss to Slovakia in the final game. One of the worst defences of a title in any sport ever.