[WORST OF THE WORLD CUP] The 2010 World Cup didn't lack for controversy. No World Cup in recent memory produced as much drama on and off the field ...
25. Roberto Pettinato.
The host of Argentine television show "A Perfect World," exacted revenge for Octopus Paul's prediction that Germany would defeat Argentina in the quarterfinals of the World Cup by grabbing an octopus live on air, cutting off its head off and putting bits of it in a blender.
24. Rafik Saifi.
The "enfant terrible" of Algerian soccer certainly lived up to his reputation, striking a female reporter, Asma Halimi of the sports daily Competition, in the mixed zone after the USA's 1-0 win over Algeria eliminated the Desert Foxes from the World Cup. (Tim Howard saved Saifi's close-range header, triggering the decisive U.S. counterattack.) Saifi insists that he was set up by those out to get him and that Halimi struck him first with her tape recorder.
23. Special courtrooms.
Such was the fear of trouble at the World Cup that the government set up 56 special courtrooms to deal swift justice to World Cup-related criminals and hired 110 magistrates, 260 prosecutors, 1,140 court officials and 200 translators. They were a waste of money and resources as only 172 cases came to the courts, an average of less than four cases per court.
The women's pro league played through the World Cup without a break and suffered with its worst stretch at the gate since its launch in 2009. It went straight 13 league games with crowds below 4,000 -- and five of them dipped below 3,000.
21. Efan Ekoku.
ESPN "imported" a team of British-based experts to handle the bulk of the World Cup game action, but Ekoku's blundering analysis of a first-half offside call in the opening game raised questions about his expertise. Referee Ravshan Irmatov disallowed Mexican Carlos Vela's goal for offside, but even after several replays showed there was no doubt that Irmatov was right Ekoku continued to call the decision "awful."
20. Ally McCoist.
McCoist's day job is as the assistant manager at Glasgow Rangers, waiting to take over when boss Walter Smith retires, but he is also a well-known pundit. He was another of the ESPN Brit commentators brought in to handle the World Cup, but he was often incomprehensible with his thick Scottish accent.
19. Carlos Queiroz.
The Portuguese coach was once in line to take the U.S. national team coaching job filled by Steve Sampson and was mentioned as a candidate for the job Bob Bradley took in 2006. He also was paid handsomely for what was dubbed the Queiroz Report, a 113-page plan to take the USA to the top of the soccer world. Queiroz finally got a shot with Portugal that he never got with the USA, and he failed miserably. Despite the presence of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Queiroz's Portugal was one of the most boring teams at the World Cup.
The World Cup came and went without FIFA banning the annoying South African horn. Indeed, such was vuvumania that the noisemaker became a Twitter “trending” item and sales of the plastic horns went through the roof. Now that the tournament is over, the move to eradicate the vuvuzela has begun. The United Arab Emirates has prohibited the public use of vuvuzelas louder than 100 decibels. Anaheim Stadium, venue of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, has banned fans from bringing vuvuzelas into the stadium, and KFC introduced the Vuvuzela Exchange Program: the first 500 fans who send their horn to KFC will receive a gift card for a Doublicious sandwich.
17. U.S. forwards.
The day after the USA was eliminated from the World Cup, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati took notice of the problems in the U.S. attack. "We've gone two World Cups without a forward scoring a goal," he said in his instant analysis. "That's not a good thing."
16. Thierry Henry.
Expected to sign this week with MLS's New York Red Bulls, Henry convinced Coach Raymond Domenech to take him for his fourth World Cup even though it meant he was no longer a starter and therefore no longer captain. Big mistake. Henry's reputation took a big hit. He was a bit player in France's disastrous World Cup campaign and heavily criticized for not stopping the mutiny between the Bleus' second and third game (see below).
At least former President Bill Clinton -- lobbying on behalf of the USA World Cup 2018/2022 bid -- had a reason for being at the World Cup. While many ordinary fans couldn't afford the trip to South Africa, celebrities like Mick Jagger, Paris Hilton and Leonardo DiCaprio were conspicuous in their presence.
14. Durban airport.
Transportation was always considered the weak link of South Africa's World Cup organization. With little public transportation, there were only two reliable ways to get around: car or plane. Everything worked OK until the semifinals in Durban, where so many private planes carrying VIPs landed at the new King Shaka International Airport that airport controllers couldn't handle the traffic and shut it down. Six airplanes carrying Spanish and Germany fans were diverted, preventing many of them from making the game.
Before the World Cup, goalkeepers complained they couldn't judge the flight of the the adidas match ball. After the tournament started, strikers complained they couldn't control the flight of the ball. Soon it was being blamed for the World Cup's low scores. It didn't matter that other factors were at work. The Jabulani was an easy target.
12. Luis Suarez's hand ball.
In the time it took for the young Ajax striker to get from the field to the tunnel, he went from Uruguayan goat to hero. Or African villain. Suarez swatted Dominic Adiyiah's last-second header off the goal line with what he later described as "the best of the tournament." The move earned Suarez a red card and Ghana a penalty kick, but it was all worth it when Asamoah Gyan missed the ensuing spot kick and Uruguay beat Ghana in a shootout. Afterward, FIFA President Sepp Blatter rejected calls for a "penalty goal," saying a referee wasn't empowered to "award" a goal. We think otherwise. Basketball has an answer to such a situation. It's called goal-tending.
Blatter's empire does not come out of the World Cup looking so hot. From its botched hospitality ticket program to its get-tough stance on Dutch women decked out in orange mini-skirts, FIFA lived up to its reputation as being the "imposing overlords of international soccer."
10. Felipe Melo.
The Brazilian has been in hiding since returning home from the World Cup. The Juventus midfielder was blamed for Brazil's surprise loss to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, originally being credited with an own goal on Wesley Sneijder's shot goalie Julio Cesar failed to catch and soon thereafter being sent off for a foul on Arjen Robben. (Felipe Melo blamed the vuvuzelas for not hearing that Julio Cesar called for the ball.)
The Azzurri became only the fourth World Cup champions not the get out of the group stage in their next World Cup. It also happened to Italy in 1950, Brazil in 1966 and France in 2002. What makes Italy's early exit in 2010 so embarrassing was that it finished last -- behind Paraguay, Slovakia and even New Zealand -- in what was considered one of the easiest groups.
8. John Terry.
When the French players revolted, they at least did so in unison. After England's 0-0 tie with Algeria, John Terry, stripped of his England captaincy during the winter after revelations of his affair with the mother of former teammate Wayne Bridge's children, questioned Coach Fabio Capello's tactics and the team's camp setup. Small problem: none of his teammates would come forward to second his complaints. Capello's response: "This is the big mistake, this is the very big mistake."
7. Wayne Rooney.
Rooney went from the most feared striker in the English Premier League to a non-factor for England at the World Cup. He scored a career-high 34 goals for Manchester United in all competitions but was scoreless in South Africa. He ended up being the poster boy for the Nike Jinx. The stars in the show company's “Write the Future” campaign all had tournaments ranging from poor to terrible.
This was supposed to be Africa's World Cup, but only Ghana advanced out of the group stage. Just like in 2006. And it wasn't like the others were competitive. Only Nigeria came close to advancing on the final day of group play. The Super Eagles were so disappointing -- one point in three games -- that President Goodluck Jonathan suspended them from international competition for two years as punishment until FIFA warned him that it would -- well -- suspend Nigeria if the government didn't back down from its threat.
5. Koman Coulibaly.
The Malian referee became public enemy No. 1 of thousands of new U.S. soccer fans when he disallowed Maurice Edu's winning goal late in the USA's 2-2 tie with Slovenia. He compounded his error by refusing to explain his decision to incredulous U.S. players. And FIFA added to the mess with its absurd policy of not commenting on referee's decisions.
FIFA presented data on refereeing decisions at the World Cup, suggesting referees were right 96 percent of the time on key decisions. Spaniard Jose Maria Garcia-Aranda, FIFA's head of refereeing, boasted that the "success rate" was higher than for players taking penalties. But tell that to England and Mexico. FIFA President Sepp Blatter did comment on those two missed calls -- Englishman Frank Lampard's shot that clearly crossed the goal line against Germany and Argentine Carlos Tevez's goal against Mexico that should have been called back for offside -- apologizing to England and Mexico for the "evident referee mistakes," but it was a little too late. Goal-line technology -- shunned by Blatter -- would have caught the Lampard goal, and additional referee's assistants -- adopted by UEFA for the Europa League -- would have probably caught both mistakes.
Where shall be begin? The 2010 World Cup finished with an average of 2.27 goals a game, the second lowest in history. Spain's eight goals in seven games were the fewest of any team to win the World Cup. Twenty-four games ended 1-0 or 0-0 -- four more than than previous record set in 1990.
2. Spain-Netherlands final.
As World Cup finals go, the Spain-Netherlands match wasn't the worst but it was sure close. It wasn't the most boring. That honor goes to the 1994 Brazil-Italy final at the Rose Bowl (0-0 after 120 minutes). It wasn't the most depressing. The 1990 final decided in West Germany's favor on a late penalty kick and featuring a pair of red cards to losing Argentina completed a horrible World Cup in Italy. But Sunday's final at Soccer City was certainly the most cynical. Fourteen yellow cards. One red card. And lots of complaining by both teams.
France's collapse at the World Cup began, as Coach Raymond Domenech would later say, "a simple matter of difference over tactics," but it escalated into a national crisis. A dispute between Domenech and striker Nicolas Anelka over Anelka's positioning in the first half of France's game against Mexico would have remained a difference of opinion between player and coach, but the incident was leaked to French sports daily L'Equipe, which printed Anelka's expletive remarks in big headlines on its front page. It was all downhill from there. Anelka was sent home. Captain Patrice Evra vowed to find the traitor who leaked Anelka's remarks. And French players refused to train in a mutiny viewed on national television until they withdrew to their team bus and pulled down the curtains. The boys on the bus were derided as buffoons and imbeciles, and those were the kind remarks. The controversy had racial tones as many of the Bleus were players of color, immigrants or the sons of immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean. French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for an investigation into the Bleus' collapse and insisted that those in charge must be removed.