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Teamwork triumphs at World Cup of surprises

Spain lifts World Cup

Spain became the eighth nation to become World Cup champions by beating Netherlands 1-0 at Soccer City Stadium on July 11.

- Getty Images

Bruised egos, player strikes and referees embarrassed.

Goals scored with a ball boasting a suspect trajectory, European power retained and the triumph of team unity over highly-paid, underperforming individuals.

There was even a new 'Hand of God' and a very poor final where, for large parts of the night, pop star Shakira was the best performer.

Even Paul the octopus didn't see that coming.

So that was the 2010 World Cup, a four-week showpiece that delivered Spain as champions and silenced critics that dictated that crime-plagued South Africa would prove disastrous hosts.

Poster boys Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo all failed to live up the pre-tournament hype.

In their place, the World Cup showcased new talents like Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil, Javier Hernandez and Andre Ayew, while enjoying the deadly finishing skills of David Villa and all-round menace of Wesley Sneijder.

Spain were deserving winners, thanks to an extra-time winner from Andres Iniesta, of a poor final against a Dutch team that collected seven yellow cards and a red for John Heitinga.

There was no shortage of candidates for biggest flops of the tournament.

France, a car crash of a team, where egos tussled with the fading authority of much-maligned coach Raymond Domenech.

The 1998 champions went on strike in an angry response to the decision to kick Nicolas Anelka out of the squad for his foul-mouthed rant at Domenech as France finished bottom of their group.

Such was the furious public backlash that Domenech, who has been replaced by former Manchester United star Laurent Blanc, appeared before a French parliament commission to explain the fiasco.

Veteran defender William Gallas blamed Domenech; the public targeted the players for bringing ridicule upon France.

"If it was a fiasco, then there are reasons for it," said Gallas. "The real problem is the coach. You can have the best players in the world in your team, but if you don't have the coach you need, then the results will not be achieved."

Italy were just as poor.

A shadow of the team which were crowned world champions in 2006, Marcello Lippi's ageing, uninspiring one-paced team finished bottom of what had appeared a weak Group F including Paraguay and rank outsiders New Zealand.

Italy failed to win any of their games; even New Zealand left unbeaten to finish above them.

"I take full responsibility. There are no excuses," said Lippi.

England arrived in South Africa confidently expecting Lippi's highly-paid compatriot Fabio Capello to cruise through a group dubbed as 'easy' by the mass-circulation Sun newspaper.

Somebody forgot to tell the United States and Algeria, who claimed draws against a Three Lions side whose pride took a battering while Rooney never lived up to his billing.

England scraped into the Round of 16 with a 1-0 win over Slovenia but were soundly beaten by Germany 4-1.

As well as exposing the flaws in England's traditional expectations and its domestic set-up, where the influx of foreign stars is blamed for crowding out homegrown young talent, the result also forced FIFA into a hi-tech rethink.

Frank Lampard's goal that never was prompted reluctant FIFA boss Sepp Blatter to order a review of refereeing aids which could see goal-line technology and extra officials introduced at the next World Cup in 2014.

Dunga was fired after Brazil's quarterfinal exit, while Diego Maradona, whose tactical inexperience was ruthlessly exposed by Germany in their quarterfinal elimination, could stay on.

He even inspired Uruguay's Luiz Suarez to lift his hand to stop a Ghana winner in the quarterfinals.

The critics who predicted nothing but abject misery for South Africa now have four years to prepare similar obituaries for Brazil, a nation still bruised by its team failures in this tournament.

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