The World Cup final was the entire tournament in microcosm. Questionable football, lots of cheating, star players underperforming (with the exception of match-winner Andres Iniesta), Fernando Torres pulling up injured, and a psychic octopus emerging triumphant.
The South Africans have been genial hosts, and thankfully the scare stories about crime and the like proved to be more overhyped than Lionel Messi. The country has well and truly put itself on the world map as never before, and the attitude and smiles of the locals throughout the world’s greatest football tournament are to their great credit. Have we ever seen a World Cup played to such colour and enthusiasm outside the stadiums?
It’s a crying shame that when all is said and done, we’ll look back at the tournament with critical eyes – not for the way it was run (aside from FIFA’s Luddite attitude to technology), but for the paucity of truly decent matches. A couple of arguable cases aside, there have been no real classic encounters, with games such as the hotly anticipated meeting of Spain and Portugal proving to be horrendously damp squibs. The megastar players were generally disappointing too, whether because of long seasons beforehand or the immense pressure put upon them. (That expensive Nike “Write The Future” advert now looks like it was written by the psychic octopus’s evil twin.) And then there was the ball. The much-hyped Jabulani often behaved like something you’d buy from a motorway service station for £2.99 as a kid. Routinely embarrassing players who are supposed to have good touch, it also made free kicks just outside the box seem worth the foul.
Four weeks of football, though. It was still worth it, and even though the only thing long remembered about this tournament will be where it took place, I’ll miss endlessly refreshing the ITV website in the office to try to get a picture. The World Cup made long afternoons doing accounts actually enjoyable. Maybe that’s the only epitaph it needs.