The 2010 World Cup in South Africa is now in the history books.
We'll remember it for vuvuzelas, lots of draws, and Larissa Riquelme, but a lot of things happened for the first time in South Africa.
Let’s start with the tournament itself.
2010 is the first time the World Cup has ever been held on the continent of Africa.
Sadly, it also marks the first time the host nation has ever failed to advance to the knockout stages.
At least they had a nice victory over France.
This was the second time that Slovenia qualified for the World Cup Finals, but the first time they won a match in the tournament.
They lost three straight matches in 2002, failing to earn a single point.
They almost made it out of the group as well. If the United States had not scored against Algeria (and they almost didn’t), that match would have ended in a draw and Slovenia would have advanced to the Round of 16.
Slovakia had three firsts in South Africa 2010:
It was the first time they’ve ever qualified for the World Cup Finals, the first time they’ve ever received points in group play, and the first time they’ve ever advanced to the knockout stages.
New Zealand made it to the World Cup Finals this year for the first time since 1982, their only other appearance, where they failed to win a single match and were outscored by their opponents 12-2. Ouch!
Their dramatic injury time equalizer against Slovakia in their opening match gave the All Whites their first ever point in the World Cup.
They earned another one in a draw against defending world champions Italy and a third with quarter-finalists Paraguay, making New Zealand the only undefeated team in South Africa.
Quite an improvement from the last time.
After losing their opening match to Argentina, Nigeria really needed a win over Greece—and they were well on their way to getting one, already up 1-0, when Sani Kaita crippled his country in the 33rd minute.
Kaita threw a kick at Greece’s Vasileios Torosidis near the touch line (see video below), earning a straight red card as well as the distinction of becoming the first Nigerian to ever be sent off World Cup match.
Greece responded by adding a third striker and went on the win the match 2-1.
Kaita received numerous death threats for a lapse in judgment that probably cost the Super Eagles a spot in the Round of 16.
Greece scored their first-ever World Cup goal in their first-ever World Cup win (against Nigeria) in a World Cup full of firsts.
Heading into the tournament, many pundits described Italy as “the worst team to ever defend a World Cup,” and apparently they were right. The Azzurri’s loss to Slovakia saw them take an early exit from this year’s competition.
Italy is not the first defending champion to exit the tournament at the group stage. Brazil did it in 1966 and France did it in 2002.
It does, however, mark the first time that both teams from the previous World Cup final were eliminated at the group stage.
Landon Donovan’s spectacular injury time goal took USA from the brink of elimination to group winners and marked the first time the Yanks have ever earned any points in their third group match.
It’s also the first time the United States has won their group since the inaugural tournament in 1930.
In that World Cup, USA beat both Paraguay and Belgium by a 3-0 score line, but they only played two group matches that year.
Spain won the World Cup for the first time in their first visit to the final match.
They also became the first European nation to ever win the World Cup on non-European soil.
Their loss to Switzerland also made Spain the first team to ever win the World Cup after losing their opening match.