The biggest sporting extravaganza in the world never fails to deliver moments that remained etched in one’s memory forever. Africa’s first ever world cup as a host didn’t disappoint global football fans either. Here are the ten most memorable mentions from the world cup.
10. Messi against Korea Republic
One of the most famous snaps of 1986 world cup is this – Maradona surrounded by numerous Belgian defenders. That didn’t stop him, as he inspired Argentina to a memorable world cup win.
His heir apparent, Messi, was not far behind him in this game. Despite being marked by more than two defenders for the entire game, Messi still sparkled. His dribbles, dodges and ball distribution led Argentina to a comfortable 4-1 win. The only difference between Messi and his coach was, unlike Maradona against Belgium, Messi didn’t get his name on the score-sheet.
Messi has superpowers!
9. Second costly British spill after BP
Robert Green’s lack of experience in the top level was all too evident as he spilled a harmless Clint Dempsey shot into his own goal; USA got their equalizer as a result, and dominated the game. After David Seaman, James and Scott Carson in recent times, Green joined the club of biggest goalkeeping gaffes. One must not forget Peter Shilton’s howler against Italy in the 1990 world cup. Looks like English goalkeepers are a cursed lot.
Not unnatural for an English goalkeeper
8. Jong Tae-Se sheds tears
Jong Tae-Se was highly rated coming into this world cup; known as the Asian Rooney for his work-rate, he was supposed to be the main striker for Korea DPR. As he lined up against Brazil in the first game, a touching scene enfolded. When the Korean anthem was being played, streams of tears flowed down his cheeks. It is an extremely rare sight these days, when smug players like Cristiano Ronaldo or Camoranesi don’t even bother to sing their nation’s anthem. Tae-Se’s excellent performance in that game earned him further respect.
A touching moment
7. Yakubu’s incredible miss
The score-line in the Nigeria-Korea Republic match was tied at 2-2. It was a crunch game; Korea would progress with a draw, while Nigeria needed all three points to advance. The Nigerian fans thought they had won the game, when the ball fell to the experienced Yakubu in front of goal. The Korean goalkeeper, lying on the ground, watched helplessly as the open net gaped widely at Yakubu. Incredibly, he did the improbable; he actually managed to hit the ball wide of the post, when scoring was easier. It was a costly miss and possibly prevented Nigeria from reaching the second round. It was a miss worthy to fit into any football bloopers collection.
How did he miss that?
6. Slovakia upsets Italy
Slovakia, making their first world cup appearance as a separate nation, created havoc when they upset the defending world champions. Having got just a single point from their previous two outings, the Slovaks were expected to roll-over for Cannavaro and Co. Instead they made forays into the heart of the famed Catenaccio defence throughout the game. The goals were just a matter of time. Vittek took advantage of defensive lapses and scored a brace to help Slovakia lead 2-1. Kamil Kopunek came on in the 87th minute, and scored the third on the very next minute! Fabio Cannavaro, the best player in the world in 2006, watched helplessly as his chip flew past Marchetti. This was the first time Italy let in 3 goals in a world cup match since 1970. Slovakia pulled off a win that they would never forget, ensuring passage to round two.
Kopunek makes it 3-1 for Slovakia
5. Tshabalala starts the African party
A nervy South Africa started off the first ever world cup game on African soil. They lacked ideas in first half and struggled to create chances. The players settled down in the second half and started taking advantage of the high Mexican defence line. In the 55th minute, Modise slipped off a ball past the Mexican backline to Siphiwe Tshabalala. Tshabalala followed the ball and rammed a sweet left-footed strike into the far corner of the goal. The opening goal fittingly went to an African player, and sparked off hysterical celebrations across the continent.
The Party starts…..
4. Lampard’s “Ghost” goal
The young German team had run England ragged in the pre-quarter-final game. The first half was still not over, and they had raced to a 2-0 lead. England tried to get back into the game, and reduced the deficit to one goal through Upson. What followed was one of the most controversial calls in the world cup. Frank Lampard spotted Neuer standing further off his goal line, and tried his luck from long range. The ball hit the inside of the post, and bounced inside the goal-line – a clear goal. But to everyone’s surprise, the referee waved play on without giving the goal! The replay in giant screen validated the goal, and the crowd broke into a crescendo of jeers.
The events were ironically similar to another Anglo-Teuton clash of 44 years ago – in the 1966 world cup final, where Geoff Hurst’ s controversial second goal was not cancelled by the Uzbek linesman. England took a 3-2 lead and captured the world cup. Poetic justice was served, but the result in this particular game might have changed had the goal been given.
Atleast Neuer got a clear sight of what happened…
3. Suarez makes the “save of the tournament”
Shocking, isn’t it ? One of the best saves in this tournament was made by a centre-forward! It was the last minute of extra-time in the quarter final match between Ghana and Uruguay. Ghana thought they had scored a memorable goal to take them to semi-final, but the header was cleared by Suarez off the line with his hand. He got a straight red, and Ghana got a penalty. Gyan missed the crucial kick, and his team lost out in the tie-breaker. Suarez later reportedly boasted about how he took advantage of the rule to deny a sure goal.
His action didn’t do him any favours and he became a hated figure in South Africa, but was revered back in his homeland. He has been subsequently labeled as “cheat” by some sections of the media.
Suarez can switch positions if his goalscoring form dips…
2. Nigel de Jong gets inspired by “Karate Kid”
This world cup has seen its fair share of kung-fu moments. But nothing beats Nigel de Jong going all Eric Cantona on Xabi, that too in the final. This martial arts moment typified what the final was all about – rough and ugly. The Manchester City man went for the ball with terror inspiring high studs; he missed the Jabulani, and promptly tonked the onrushing Xabi. It was a miracle that Xabi continued in the match; it was even more miraculous that de Jong didn’t get sent off for that tackle.
The 2006 final saw Zidane place a perfectly timed head-butt on Materazzi’s chest. The trend of assaulting your opponent’s torsal area continues unabated.
Not a pretty sight from any angle…
1. Andres Iniesta inspires another baby boom ?
Barcelona hospitals reported a sharp rise in birth rates in a period which came ten months after Iniesta’s strike against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final. A year later, he might have inspired another baby boom.
The final seemed to heading for a tie-breaker, till Iniesta latched onto a pass from Fabregas. Netherlands had lost Heitinga a few minutes earlier, and for once their defence was wide open. When the Spanish move started, Iniesta was in an off-side position; but once the ball was cleared and landed at Fabregas’ feet, he came back just in time; he finished coolly past Stekelenberg to send the entire stadium into raptures. Fittingly, Spain’s world cup winning goal was scored by one of her top performers in this tournament. In a memorable celebration, Iniesta took off his shirt, to reveal an under-shirt with a written dedication to the deceased footballer, Dani Jarque.
The most famous goal in Spanish football history…