English Art Of Moaning: In Defence Of The 2010 World Cup

jamie fj rooneyContributor ISeptember 6, 2010

BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 27:  England fans enjoy the atmosphere ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Round of Sixteen match between Germany and England at Free State Stadium on June 27, 2010 in Bloemfontein, South Africa.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

England kicked off their Euro 2012 campaign with an impressive 4-0 victory over an unimaginative Bulgarian side.

Those with their rifles aimed at Capello have temporally lowered them as the post match analysis was generally upbeat, albeit with comparative grumbles with what happened in the World Cup, but qualification football is a different game to tournament football.

The Art of Moaning

Grumbling even when something is good is a talent the English have honed over many generations. The English are wired with an inherent knack for moaning, not in the tone of a ranting tirade, although capable. No, the English art of moaning is more akin to an apologetic gripe of accepted dissatisfaction, laced with a drop of cynicism.

And it's this art which has been in motion in particular quarters since the 2010 World Cup finished eight weeks ago.

With the familiar faces back on television fronting coverage of English football, familiar noises have returned; pace to burn, best league, terrible defending and the turbo charged Jamie Redknapp literal misuse of the word "literally". Joining the familiar noises on a temporary basis is the murmur of World Cup bashing, reinforcing or possibly fuelling an opinion uttered since June.

Arguably for the greater majority in the UK, this summers World Cup finals in South Africa was considered to be a poor tournament, which of course is opinion, not a fact.


An opinion some TV pundits have been happy to voice on regular occasions, in particular Sky Sports Andy Gray, who in-between vocal disdain of the World Cup, infuses heaps of praise on the English Premier and Champions Leagues, competitions Sky Sports cover extensively, unlike the World Cup. 

Misplaced Expectations

The English have very high expectations for their national football team, so when the team fail to meet these expectation which they invariably do, the nation falls in to a depressed state of painful analysis, as to what happened this summer when England exited the World Cup at the 2nd Round stage; the pre-World Cup excitement was soon replaced with a distinct lack of interest.

Of course the inquest continues, how could a team who qualified so impressively fail to deliver so spectacularly? 

Aside to this, many other sub plots have gathered some momentum, one being the disappointment of England's World Cup performance tagging itself to the whole tournament; England were bad, the World Cup was bad. 

A fair conclusion or should the two be decoupled?

To state with certainty the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a poor tournament feels more like a generalisation based on England's performance than a considered view from a wider perspective and it's understandable the English feel this way as the national team provided little to get excited about. 


Writing on the Wall

Even before a ball was kicked, doubts of a successful South African World Cup were being strongly voiced - The FA sounded out an idea with FIFA that England were ready to step in at short notice to stage the event, if need be.

On day five of the World Cup in South Africa and even before every team had played, BBC Radio Five Live's phone-in topic was 'Is this the Worst World Cup ever?' - a ridiculous notion only superseded by approximately 90% of it's callers agreeing.

If anyone claimed The Godfather was the worse film of all time after 20 minutes viewing, you'd not only question their intentions, you'd raise an eyebrow towards their intelligence, yet Five Live's phone-in debate was not only accepted but ratiocinated.

World Cup's historically are slow to get going, the first game is crucial to the ambitions of each team, although on the morning of day 5 the World Cup had already given us an exciting opener, an enjoyable tactical view of South Korea, a German side full of creativity and clues that Paraguay were on route to their greatest World Cup campaign thus far.

False Comparisons

The root of the gripe was the quality of the football, beyond day five the view of the World Cup remained the same, off the pitch a success, on it very poor.

But was the quality of the football in the 2010 World cup poor?


Within the last 20 something years English football has transformed itself from a up-and-at-them tactically devoid game, fuelled by raw passion and excluded from European competition in to a high-paced elitist playground for players and coaches from the world's four corners, at the forefront of European competition.     

Within this time-frame, the English Premier League (EPL) has become a worldwide brand and it's by no coincidence this transformation has occurred since Sky TV has been at the helm, pumping unprecedented volumes of money in to developing the league. Which gives reason as to why Andy Gray is keen to promote it over the World Cup where, Sky TV carries a diluted influence.

This provides evidence that the football consumer in England has been conditioned to a high quality product available almost daily, accustomed with plenty of razzmatazz, ladled with subliminal messages of we are watching the best league in the world, arguably aiding the subconscious with a tool of comparison when viewing a World Cup which is held every four years.

It's important to judge a tournament within it's context, for instance the 1990 World Cup finals was a bit of a damp squib, it produced a lower goal average then 2010 and the quality of football on show wasn't as high, yet for England fans who can remember, the 1990 World Cup was one of the greatest. But to compare 1990 with 2010 makes no sense because so much as changed.


As an example, in 1990 players would have covered about 7 or 8 kilometres per game, which allowed space to be more freely available. Nowadays, players will cover 12 or 13kms, space has become precious, players have to be smarter, creative football is more of a challenge.

Hazy View

Within the same time frame the EPL has been developing in to a highly consumable product, many lesser nations have been making improvements to their football infrastructures. 

Zaire in the 1974 World Cup are typical labelled as a bit of a joke, but the Zaire team of '74 weren't a particular bad bunch of footballers, they were just tactically inferior to the teams around them at that time.

In the last 20 years, more and more coaches from Europe have been trading their ideas in more and more remote places throughout the world, as a consequence the rest of the world has caught up, Ghana 2010 for example.

This means the gap between the best and worse teams at a World Cup finals is narrower than it's ever been before.  Which of course leads to a higher quality product that may suffer the effects of what is seen to be as negative football, attaching itself to the conclusion of poor quality.

Being disappointed by a distinct lack of excitement shouldn't cloud the judgement of the product, Spain's 1-0 semi-final victory over Germany is arguably the most perfect game of football ever played at a World Cup finals, technically speaking. The ball was in actual play for 76 minutes, hard to comprehend how this amounts to poor quality, especially when the EPL and Champions League average is somewhat below this. 


Associated Influences 

The birth of the internet and satellite television has provided the football observing world with a platform to be better prepared; in the 1990 World Cup, to the masses, Cameroon were a refreshing curiosity, but in 2010 moderate football followers can name a handful of the Algerian team, the few plying they trade in the EPL, as a minimum. So the element of surprise, which has always been a key ingredient in previous World Cups, has slowly diminished.  

In the modern football world, pragmatism plays an important role, blending itself with patches of art-football. Spain, the deserved winners, are the best example of this.

Spain's approach was a pragmatic one, the technical qualities within the team enabled Spain to present a high standard of football, giving the illusion of art-football. Their tactic was simple, keep the ball, frustrate the opposition and exploit the weakness.

Spain won the World Cup scoring 8 goals in 8 games, they won every knock-out match including the final 1-0, their goal coming after the 60th minute in each game.

Germany, exciting throughout the World Cup, knew their tactic was better equipped when matched against Australia, England and Argentina - be patient, keep the ball and exploit the weaknesses, Germany did this with style.

Against Spain however, Germany adopted a more reserved tactic, they had to adapt because Joachim Loew knew going like for like would play in to the hands of Spain. The shift in tactic defused the excitement but it didn't diminish the quality. 


Assisting Factors 

The South African World Cup passed incident free, all of the stories regarding the serious concerns over crime before the tournament began, proved to be completely unfounded.

South Africa recognises the fact it has issues, but those issues were blown completely out of proportion in the western world. The majority of South Africa's serious crime is isolated to highly populated areas by illegal immigrants reliant on tic, with little hope or ambition to find regular income. 

Using the World Cup as its vehicle, South Africa has tackled those issues and laid down a foundation of hope for the future.   

World Cup 2010 is the 3rd highest participated World Cup in term of attendances, yet how many times were concerns over ticketing raised? There were some empty seats, about 1% of the total allocation, but 99% of tickets were sold.

UEFA this week has reinforced what most clubs have already done and banned vuvuzela from being used in European grounds based on the idea they are an unwelcome addition. To make a judgement without trial feels draconian. From day one vuvuzela's were much maligned in England, yet millions have been exported out of South Africa.

In Conclusion 


Most people generally agree South Africa hosted a fantastic World Cup, but to continuously single out the quality of football on display at the 2010 World Cup as rubbish, feels like a lazy sweeping generalisation. 

It may not have had the high volumes of twists, shocks and goals of previous World Cup's, but in a modern football world where the gap between the best and the worst is smaller than ever before, the quality of football on display was the best it has ever been - an open argument of course.  

The 2010 version of the World Cup is on par with 2006 and better than 2002. In fact, to illustrate the comparison you would probably need to venture back to Mexico 1986, one of the greatest World Cup's.

The English view, albeit myopic, is understandable, but it doesn't mean this view has to translate in to the conclusion of the worst World Cup ever. To counter this view the continent of Africa believe it to be the greatest World Cup ever. The reality is probably somewhere in-between.  

In the wider perspective France and Italy no doubt share the same view as the English, Brazil won't care for 2010, any World Cup Brazil fail to win is a disaster. With 5 World Cup's triumphs in the bag, Brazilians still lament 1950, the one that got a way.

For Uruguay, Ghana, Paraguay, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the US and most certainly Spain, South Africa 2010 was a great World Cup. 

Reinforcing the idea, a successful World Cup tournament is held to ransom by the success of the national team participating in it.

If England are successful in Brazil 2014, regardless of the quality of the football throughout the tournament, it'll be labelled a great World Cup. 

More of an interesting idea to ponder though, would be to consider if England get their chance to host the World Cup Finals in 2018 and go on and produce a complete carbon-copy of the 2010 version, would it then be considered the worst ever or maybe the best ever World Cup?!


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