2010 FIFA World Cup: The Five Best Players Who Have Gone Home
They went home!
After two weeks in South Africa, the dream has ended for 16 nations: South Africa, France, Greece, Nigeria, Slovenia, Algeria, Australia, Serbia, Denmark, Cameroon, New Zealand, Italy, Ivory Coast, North Korea, Switzerland and Honduras.
So while the other 16 teams battle it out for the greatest prize in sport, the players of the aforementioned sides will be lazing by the beach.
Some—Italy and France— exited the competition humiliated. While others—New Zealand and South Africa—can hold their heads high after a good effort with limited squads.
Here, we look at five players who gave it their all but ultimately failed to help their country through the group stages.
5. Siphiwe Tshabalala (South Africa)
The man with a great name and a great haircut, sent the vuvuzelas crazy in Johannesburg on the opening night when he struck a thunderbolt from the edge of the penalty box to give the hosts a surprise lead against Mexico.
Mexico did manage an equalizer but at least Tshabalala's goal enabled the South African's to act out their elaborate rehearsed celebration.
Although they were the first hosts to exit at the group stage, the South Africans did themselves and their country proud. The draw with Mexico was followed by defeat to Uruguay and a historic win over the pitiful French.
The chief creator in the pack was the Kazier Chiefs' man whose flicks and tricks excited the crowd and opened up defenses.
A move to a lower level club in the English Premier league has been mooted for the 25-year-old.
4. Miloš Krasić (Serbia)
The much vaunted Serbia side went out with a whimper in the end after defeats to Germany and Ghana saw them finish bottom of group D.
Coming into the tournament CSKA Moscow's midfielder Miloš Krasić was touted as one to watch, and he didn't disappoint.
The Serbian used his pace down the right flank to create as much havoc as possible in the opposition defense. A clever player, Krasić seems to have the knack in knowing when to go direct and knowing when to cross and pick out a team-mate.
This guy looks a real player and it certainly won't be the last time his name will be praised.
3. Simon Kjær (Denmark)
While France and Italy always had the possibility to embarrass themselves in South Africa, perhaps the most disappointing European side has been Denmark.
The Danes came into the tournament off the back of a great qualifying campaign which saw them defeat bitter rivals Sweden.
In a group containing Holland, Cameroon and Japan, the Danish spirit was expected to see them through alongside their European counterparts.
However, with what can only be described as haphazard tactics, the Danes exited after losing to Holland and Japan.
While many around him were running around like headless chickens, young Palermo defender Kjær was one of the few to exit the tournament with his reputation in tact.
He was often left to clean up his team-mates mess and made some fine last ditch efforts to protect his goalkeeper. Two yellow cards in the opening two games of the tournament saw him miss the game against Japan through suspension and how he was missed.
Strong, with a strong spacial awareness, it is no surprise that the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Real Madrid have been inquiring about his services.
2. Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria)
Once again, the Super Eagles failed to impress on the biggest stage.
Despite the loss to Argentina in the first game, goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was named Man of the Match thanks to a showing of super human proportions.
While Maradona's side ran out 1-0 winners, it would and should have been far worse but for the intervention of Nigeria's number one. He made six top class saves during the 90 minutes, four of them preventing World Player of the Year Lionel Messi getting his name on the score sheet.
Overall, he has been credited with 24 saves over the three games.
Sadly, he dulled his star as his slip against Greece ultimately saw Nigeria lose a goal they never recovered from. However, this should not tarnish what has been an outstanding tournament for the Hapoel Tel Aviv keeper.
1. Simon Elliot (New Zealand)
Paired with Paraguay, Slovakia and reigning champions Italy, New Zealand's script said they would just celebrate the fact they qualified, be the whipping boys of Group F and go home happy for the outing.
Problem is, no-one from the All-Whites read the script, and if they did, they just ripped it to pieces and wrote their own.
The nation known more for its rugby left South Africa with their heads held very high having not lost a game.
New Zealand were the lowest ranked side in this year's World Cup, having qualified through the Oceania group of Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji before beating Bahrain in a play-off.
Despite that, they more than held their own against their more illustrious opponents and the draw against Italy is sure to go down into the annals of New Zealand sporting history.
While the whole team did themselves proud, it was Simon Elliot who emerged as the cream of the crop.
The veteran defensive midfielder came into the World Cup club-less after been released by MLS side San Jose Earthquakes. After this showing, he should find a club despite his 36 years.
Elliot stood tall in midfield in all three games for the All-Whites and made sure his compatriots were not over-awed by the occasion.
Special Mention: Jong Tae-Se (North Korea)
Didn't do enough to warrant a place in the top five but for pure effort, deserves a special mention.
Despite being eligible to play for South Korea or Japan, Jong Tae-Se chose to play for North Korea when it wasn't the fashionable thing to do.
Entering the tournament he vowed to score in every game, sadly he didn't even manage one, although he does have an assist to his name.
However, his sheer will and effort to score was a delight and could teach the spoiled brats of France a thing or two.
His tears during the North Korean national anthem in the opening game against Brazil is sure to go down into World Cup folklore—in North Korea at least.