2010 FIFA World Cup: The 10 Best Games of the 2010 World Cup
The South Africa World Cup may have climaxed to a disappointing final game, but before that there were a number of great match-ups to remember.
We count down the 10 best games of the 2010 World Cup.
No. 10: Holland 2 Brazil 1
The eagerly anticipated quarterfinal clash between Brazil and Holland did not reach the heights of the team’s two classic encounters in the 90s, but it certainly provided great drama.
Brazil began the match by playing some of its best soccer in the tournament and when Felipe Melo dissected a huge gap in the Dutch defense with a simple pass, Robinho ran clear to open the scoring.
Holland could not get into the game and the South Americans looked like they could cruise to victory, with only a good save from Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg preventing Kaka from doubling Brazil’s advantage.
However, the second half saw Holland come out with more aggression and looking to exploit the one weakness it had uncovered in Brazil’s armor during the first half.
Arjen Robben once more ran past Brazilian fullback Michel Bastos, who fouled the Dutch winger.
The resulting free-kick taken by Wesley Sneijder saw Brazil’s previously unflappable goalkeeper Julio Cesar fail to make a punch as the ball flicked off Melo’s head and into his own net.
15 minutes later Holland had taken the lead as Sneijder headed home a corner, after a neat near-post flick-on by Dirk Kuyt.
Melo would make one final contribution to the drama by stamping on Robben to earn himself a red card and the 10-man Brazilian squad could not force its way beyond the snarling Dutch midfield pairing of Nigel De Jong and Mark Van Bommel, who somehow managed to avoid a booking.
No. 9: Argentina 4 South Korea 1
This Group B clash between Argentina and South Korea was a much closer contest than the score-line suggests.
South Korea’s defensive plan was undermined by a goal after 16 minutes and Gonzalo Higuain’s header a quarter of an hour later.
It looked like a case of how many until an awful mistake by Martin Demichelis allowed Park Ji-Sung to pull one back for South Korea just before half time.
The Asian side came out for the second half with greater belief and should have equalized when Yeom Ki-hum ran through on goal only to shoot wide.
The game continued to swing back and forth until a swift Argentine counter-attack saw Messi hit the post and Higuain finish the rebound.
Argentina turned on the style a few minutes later when a brilliant move involving Messi, Sergio Aguero and Higuain saw the striker complete his hat trick and seal the win with a simple header.
No. 8: Germany 3 Uruguay 2
In truth, this was one of the best games of the tournament and should be higher up the list.
But it was the third place playoff match and therefore doesn’t really count, as the consolation game is always a good one.
It is amazing how much freedom teams can play with when the pressure is off.
All those carefully planned tactics and hours of work on solidity and shape went out the window as Germany and Uruguay simply attacked one another.
Thomas Muller opened the scoring in the first half following a mistake by Uruguay’s goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, but a brilliant Uruguay break led to Edinson Cavani’s equalizer less than ten minutes later.
Forlán put Uruguay ahead with a classy volley early in the second half, only for another Muslera error to allow Marcus Jansen to head Germany back into the game.
Germany finally won it in the 82nd minute when Sami Khedira poked home from a corner, though there was still time for Forlán to dramatically clip the crossbar with a free kick.
No. 7: Denmark 2 Cameroon 1
It was a very rare occurrence at the 2010 World Cup, but this Group E clash featured two teams who couldn’t defend and didn’t seem to care.
Dennis Rommedahl had already burst through the Cameroon defense only to blaze his chance over the crossbar, when Christian Poulsen played a dreadful pass straight to Cameroon’s Pierre Webo who laid on Samuel Eto’o for the opening goal.
Denmark hit back just after the half-hour with a brilliant goal from Nicklas Bendtner that came after a long pass from the back found Rommedahl in space behind the African’s defense again.
The Danes took the lead after 62 minutes when Bendtner set up Rommedahl for a great finish.
Both teams continued to attack and make mistakes at the back but Cameroon’s push for an equalizer that would keep the Indomitable Lions in the tournament was let down by poor finishing.
No. 6: Germany 4 Argentina 0
This hugely anticipated game between two of the tournament’s most attacking sides did result in a great game, though not in the way anyone expected.
Germany’s destruction of Diego Maradona’s World Cup dream started early when Thomas Muller headed home a free kick in the third minute.
Argentina responded by dominating possession but could not create any chances.
Germany looked like it could score every time it counter-attacked and Miroslav Klose missed a great chance from a Muller cross midway through the half.
Argentina continued to control the ball in the second half and looked to be closing in on an equalizer, when another German break resulted in Klose making it 2-0.
From then on it was a case of Argentina desperately chasing a goal, while Germany counter-attacked with pace and killed off the game with two more excellent goals from Arne Friedrich and Klose.
No. 5: Slovenia 2 USA 2
This excellent Group C encounter was a tale of two halves that ended with a hugely controversial refereeing decision.
USA players had talked before the game about the need to not concede an early goal, so it was no surprise when Valter Birsa put Slovenia ahead after just 13 minutes.
Slovenia continued to dominate the half and, just as USA finally started to put some attacks together, the Europeans countered and Ljubijankic doubled the lead.
The Americans were fired up for the second half and Landon Donovan quickly reduced the deficit with a brilliant finish.
With time running out, Michael Bradley charged into the Slovenia penalty area and hit a dramatic equalizer, but that was not the end of events.
Four minutes later Maurice Edu volleyed a Donovan dead-ball home, but the referee blew for Slovenian free kick and disallowed the goal.
Replays and the referee failed to confirm a foul but the US had to be content with a draw.
No. 4: Nigeria 2 South Korea 2
Going into this final Group B game, a win for either team could secure qualification assuming that Argentina beat Greece in the other match being played simultaneously.
The game started promisingly for the Super Eagles as Kalu Uche gave Nigeria a 12th minute lead.
South Korea pushed for an equalizer, which duly arrived when Lee Jung-soo scored on 38 minutes.
Three minutes into the second half and the Koreans were ahead when Park Chu-young curled a free kick into the corner of the Nigerian net.
Now it was Nigeria’s turn to press for a goal and Yakubu Aiyegbeni wasted a number of good opportunities, including an unbelievable miss in front of an open goal that must rank amongst the top squandered chances in World Cup history.
But the striker made amends a minute later when South Korea conceded a penalty and Yakubu showed nerves of steal to slot it home.
With Greece losing to Argentina, a draw would be enough for South Korea to reach the second round, but the Asian side continued to look for a winner.
But an entertaining final 20 minutes of end-to-end soccer didn’t yield a further goal and Nigeria was out of the World Cup.
No. 3: Germany 4 England 1
This isn’t a game England fans will remember fondly, even though their team did contribute to its status as of the 2010 World Cup’s best matches.
Of course, that was mostly through awful defending especially the inability of defenders John Terry and Matthew Upson to deal with a bouncing ball that allowed Miroslav Klose to open the scoring for Germany after 20 minutes.
Poorer defending allowed Klose to set up Lucas Podolski for a second and it looked like England was in real trouble.
However, five minutes later Upson partly redeemed his earlier error by heading in a free kick.
And then came the most controversial moment of the tournament, as a Frank Lampard shot hit the crossbar and looked to have bounced over the line for an England equalizer.
But the referee didn’t see it and waved play-on, despite replays showing that the ball was at least a yard past the goal line.
England began the second-half as it ended the first, pushing for an equalizer but the German players gradually composed themselves and preventing its opponents from creating clear-cut chances.
On 67 minutes, Germany finished the game after an England free-kick was cleared and chased down by four German players, who set up Thomas Muller to make it 3-1.
The rout was complete three minutes later when Mesut Ozil raced clear and played in Muller for his second and Germany’s fourth.
No. 2: Slovakia 3 Italy 2
Both Slovakia and Italy had been less than impressive heading into the decisive game of Group F.
Each had only managed a draw with New Zealand, while Italy had also tied with Paraguay, whom Slovakia had lost to.
But a win would guarantee either side a place in the second round and Slovakia certainly started like it actually wanted to qualify from the group stage.
Striker Robert Vittek had already created a great chance for Marek Hamsik and forced a good save from Italy’s goalkeeper Federico Marchetti, when he put Slovakia ahead after 25 minutes.
Italy’s response was muted and Vittek added a second with just 17 minutes remaining.
And then finally the World Cup holders started playing like champions.
Antonio Di Natale pulled a goal back on 81 minutes and, with a draw looking like it would be enough to send Italy into the second round, the comeback seemed complete when Fabio Quagliarella finished from close-range.
However, the goal was ruled out for offside and Slovakia went down the other end of pitch where substitute Kamil Kopunek scored with his first touch of the game.
But Italy still wasn’t finished. Quagliarella made it 3-2 with one of the best goals of the tournament in injury time.
With the referee looking at his watch, Simone Pepe had a great chance to grab a vital equalizer when he got free at the far post, but his shot went wide and the holders were out of the World Cup.
No. 1: Uruguay 1 Ghana 1
A thoroughly entertaining quarterfinal match between Uruguay and Ghana suddenly reached classic status with the most dramatic moments of the tournament deep into extra time.
The regulation 90 minutes had seen both sides play quality soccer and score a pair of excellent goals.
Sully Muntari hit an unbelievable strike past Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernado Muslera just before halftime, while Diego Forlán responded for the South American side with an excellent free kick 10 minutes after the break.
The teams continued to attack forcing saves from both goalkeepers as the game went into extra-time.
With a decisive penalty shootout looming, Ghana began to dominate and looked to have won the match when Dominic Adiyiah’s header beat Muslera.
However Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez was standing on the goal line and he deflected a certain goal with his hands.
The referee awarded Ghana a penalty and sent Suarez off, but in a dramatic twist Asamoah Gyan—who had already scored from the spot twice in the tournament—hit the crossbar with his kick.
The game then had to be decided by a penalty shootout and after Uruguay had scored its first penalty, Gyan showed nerves of steel to step up once more to level for Ghana.
Both two of his teammates could not repeat his feat and Africa’s last remaining representative was out of the World Cup, leaving a distraught Gyan to wonder what might have been.
Meanwhile, Uruguay and Suarez earned the wrath of the South African fans with its joyous celebrations at having reached its first World Cup semifinal since 1970.