Soccer America's Top 25 Losers

[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.

22. WPS.
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.

18. Vuvuzela.
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).

15. Celebrities.
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.

13. Jabulani.
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.

11. FIFA.
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.)

9. Italy.
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.

6. Africa.

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.

4. Refereeing.
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.

3. Goalscoring.
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.

1. France.
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.

25 comments about "Soccer America's Top 25 Losers".
  1. Mark Bushman, July 14, 2010 at 8:22 a.m.

    Mick Jagger goes to every World Cup, and is one of the biggest fans in the world. Please don't lump him in with the likes of Paris Hilton and Leo, who are merely fame-whores wanting to be "seen" at a worldwide event such as this...

  2. Steven SIegel, July 14, 2010 at 9:35 a.m.

    Only two less goals in this WC than the last. This WC lacked a really great game like Mexico-Argentina of 2006. Unfortunate calls marred England-Germany and Mexico-Argentina this time around. This WC did feature some stunning late-game heroics, though, in Ghana-Uruguay, USA-Algeria, and Slovakia-Italy.

  3. Corey Zimmerman, July 14, 2010 at 10:29 a.m.

    Listing Efan Ekoku as one of the 25 worst things is a slap in the face to ESPN and the brilliant coverage it provided. Diehard soccer fans in the US like myself finally got what we've always wanted, a sports broadcasting company that poured millions of dollars behind this great sports event to bring us the extensive coverage it deserved. So Ekoku made one comment in 20-30 games that you didnt like. Awfully nitpicky. If that's your criteria, where's John Harkes on this list. I thought Harkes was mostly terrific but he said a few dumb things during his many hours of commentary. And why did ESPN choose Ekoku to do the final over Harkes, b/c he was worse? If this is your criteria then I put SA in my 25 worst things of the WC b/c surely SA's commentary was entirely lacking at times (most egregiously, its lack of anything remotely critical of Bob Bradley or anyone at USSF) Shame on you Paul!

  4. Jim Murphy, July 14, 2010 at 10:38 a.m.

    Corey you beat me to it. Harkes clearly didn't have the broadcasting chops to hold his own with the likes of Tyler and Darke. And it was a huge slap in the face that ABC went with Ekoku for the final. For what it's worth though, I think JP Dellacamera has always done a fine job, and deserves a spot in the rotation next time around.

  5. P R, July 14, 2010 at 11:18 a.m.

    So celebrities were among the losers because they went to some games? Clinton was the only celebrity who had reason to be there? What are you talking about?!? Why shouldn't they go? The only reason you seemed to give was because some fans couldn't afford to go? Would that somehow be different than any other WC held anywhere else, or should celebrities never attend matches of any type, anywhere, unless admission is free, and transportation and expenses for less well to do fans are paid for? So, in SA's opinion, it's ok for "ordinary" fans to go support their teams, or just watch matches of interest, but if a celebrity is a fan of the sport and wants to watch some games, they should only watch them on TV, unless they have some reason to be there other than just wanting to see games in person?

  6. Tom Symonds, July 14, 2010 at 11:20 a.m.

    Agree with Corey...ESPN's presentation of WC2010 was its finest moment. The broadcast teams, the studio pundits, the review/highlights shows...hey, lines get fluffed in any performance, but ESPN's overall effort was consistently top shelf throughout.
    Regarding refereeing: On the whole, I thought the refereeing was alright. I was particularly impressed with Mister Irmatov (Uzbekistan) and Mister Nishimura (Japan). Although soccer snobs will hate to admit it, these referees from the backwaters of soccer were head-and-shoulders above the so-called elite referees, such as, Rosetti (Italy). Your comments regarding refereeing seemed to me to be centered more of FIFA's failure to embrace technological assistance to referees rather than against referees themselves.

  7. Tiffany Christensen, July 14, 2010 at 11:35 a.m.

    So, Ally McCoist is a big loser because he has an Scottish accent? I'll be sure to pass that on to all my Scottish friends.

  8. Kyr-Roger St.-Denis, July 14, 2010 at 12:08 p.m.

    I had no trouble understanding McCoist, and thought Ekoku was an excellent commentator (after somebody explained the offside rule to him). Many times I've seen commentators who look at replays but don't see the same things that I see.
    The worst of a good lot of commentators was John Harkes. He's not as bad as any of the commentators ESPN uses in its MLS broadcasts, and certainly better than the commentators used by Fox Soccer Channel (for MLS -- the EPL matches have almost uniformly excellent commentary). But Harkes suffers in comparison with his colleagues here, mainly because he starts sentences with no clear idea of where they end, and so he ends up either (a) rambling, (b) fumbling for the right word, or (c) saying something outlandish, dull, or merely stupid. He seems to suffer from Mike-Fright.

  9. Kyr-Roger St.-Denis, July 14, 2010 at 12:11 p.m.

    Nigeria's team is amazing, isn't it? What other team could come "close to advancing on the final day of group play" without actually being a competitor in the tournament?
    (I suspect Mr Kennedy meant to refer to Algeria, but that is twice in a month that he's referred to Nigeria as though it were in the World Cup.)

  10. P R, July 14, 2010 at 12:12 p.m.

    Regarding the coverage, I was quite happy with the ESPN, the amount of effort they put in, and how seriously they treated the event, but I thought both color guys, Ekoku and Harkes, were poor. Ekoku made many mistakes, the offside comment that was mentioned was just his worst. Harkes also comes up with many inane comments, such as his question/statement following Suarez's handball 'what was he thinking!?!'. John, he was thinking that he'd take away a certain goal in injury time, and give his team a chance to advance. Unpopularity aside, it didn't work out so badly for him.

  11. David V, July 14, 2010 at 12:12 p.m.

    Another loser - David Villa...

    This may not be what you think. Villa was forced to play out of his natural position for 3 games (#1, #6, #7).... in those games he did not have Torres or another forward to play up with, he played alone up top. He scored no goals in those 3. In his natural position, in 4 games, he scored 5 goals. Villa lost out on the golden boot, mvp of the tournament and the final, and no goal in the final because he had to play in the wrong position for him... he lost out in those ways... probablly would have had at least 8 goals... oh well, I think he's probably satisfied as WORLD CHAMPION :)

  12. P R, July 14, 2010 at 12:32 p.m.

    uh, Kyr-Roger, I'm all for calling out members of the media or whomever when they make mistakes, but, ... how do I put this lightly... you might want to check out group B.

  13. Ronald Dennis Reyes, July 14, 2010 at 12:33 p.m.

    Hey, Kyr-Roger St. Denis -- Nigeria was among the 32 participants in WC 2010. You are forgetting that Nigeria was bracketed in Group B along with Argentina, South Korea and Greece.

  14. Mark Wallis, July 14, 2010 at 2:11 p.m.

    I was going to become rich and famous, but now I am concerned that I won't be able to attend the WC. Perhaps they will have some sort of test that the celebrity can pass to show that they are a soccer fan. Perhaps Paris Hilton can explain the offsides rule. To be fair, Clinton would have to pass the same test, but he can't explain what "having sex" means, so the offsides rule may be beyond him.

    Also, McCoist's incomprehensibility level pales in comparison to that of "Emperor for Life" Sepp Blatter, who talks constantly, but rarely says something that makes sense to anyone.

  15. David Huff, July 14, 2010 at 2:31 p.m.

    Mexico's coach, Javier Aguirre, certainly deserves a place on this list where he did not start the best possible team on the field (with players such as Ochoa, Guardado, Hernandez) but instead chose to go with "boys" from 2002 such as the old/slow/ineffective Perez, Franco, Bautista. Certainly the rest of the club world has taken note of his choices in srating 2nd string players while keeping the best on the bench due to petty politics, he'll have a hard time getting hired for that European plum job that he wanted given his manifest incompetence.

  16. SSU Soccer, July 14, 2010 at 4:43 p.m.

    Biggest Loser - JOHN HARKES - say something interesting and insightful - please no more generalizations. "They look like they are playing with confidence!" thanks for the comment.

  17. SSU Soccer, July 14, 2010 at 4:45 p.m.

    I had the chance to watch a Canadian broadcast of a world cup game. Only one announcer - just the play by play guy. Some much better than a color guy spitting out obvious points. Americans are not dumb -

  18. Kent James, July 14, 2010 at 5:34 p.m.

    Tom Symonds comments echo my thoughts exactly, especially the quality of the referee from Uzbekistan and Japan; calm, firm, not falling for dives but not tolerating thuggery; generally excellent. Efan Okoku mangled the offside rule badly (more than once), but otherwise I thought was generally pretty good. I felt the play by play announcers (Dark, Tyler and Rae) really have no English speaking equivalents, so I was glad ESPN used them. My problem with the English (and incomprehensibly Scottish) color guys is not that they're so bad, but for an American network, we have guys that are no worse. But generally I was very impressed with the quality of the ESPN coverage; they had timely replays! From multiple angles, and many were close-ups. The camera work was simply exceptional (I also love the offside shading they used; if only the ARs could use it!).

  19. Freddy Espinoza, July 14, 2010 at 5:46 p.m.

    @SSU: I like how you think... KISS.
    @Kent: The 'coverage' is not provided by ESPN... the feed comes from the IBC-- everyone has access to the feed (in one way or another), said network only provides the faces & mumbling maroons. Prime example: Univision, really? Chilavert? really????

  20. Sean Cunningham, July 14, 2010 at 9:16 p.m.

    KRSD - NIgeria actually WAS in the World Cup. They were in Group B with Argentina, South Korea, and Greece. So, actually, that's twice in a month that you've given Mr. Kennedy crap for implying that Nigeria was in the World Cup without actually checking to see if, just maybe, you were wrong.

  21. James Madison, July 14, 2010 at 11:49 p.m.

    I would have praised McCoist along with Gullit and Klinsmann as the three best studio analysts and give John Harkes high ranking among the losers. His amateurish prattle marred the otherwise outstanding tv commentating. As for the Jabalani, those who were skilled at striking the ball, like Forlan, seemed to have no trouble. As for the officating, the English goal, which was the only incident to justify a goal line official, as the ball outran the AR, and the Coulibaly mystery call against the US were among the few flaws in an amazingly well-refereed tournament (We still need to hear what the AR saw and advised the CR on the Tevez goal against Mexico, but, even if that decision was erroneous, it was no excuse for our friends from South of the Border to become totally unglued). If you are giving out "loser" awards, you should also consider "winners." In that category, in addition to the tv coverage in general (and in particular the English commentators and the advertisements on Univision), I nominate Lalas, not because he was that good, but because he was an order of magnitude better than any of us had any right to expect. Tell me, if anyone has an explanation, why, for example, if the same product was advertised both on Univision and also on ABC/ESPN, the more clever and enticing version was that on Univision. It got to the point that, come halftime, I would switch to Univision just to watch the ads.

  22. Alex Yousef, July 15, 2010 at 1:08 a.m.

    Right on Tiffany, calling someone a loser for accent and apparently any celebrity who watches any sports in person is a loser too?! Jack Nicholson is a loser 'cuz he goes to Laker games?How do you come up with such things? And the biggest loser he failed to mention was football itself - the quality of games in this world cup.Even horrible world cups like 90 had at least one game where there was end to end action for 90 minutes.SA 2010 had none.

  23. Kenneth Barr, July 15, 2010 at 1:27 a.m.

    Gee, next you'll be saying Elton John and Rod Stewart have no business at football matches. No wonder the reat of the world thinks we still haven't a clue about the beautiful game. It's putative #1 publication resorts to cheap shots. As far as Efan Ekoku, his analysis in the final was spot on and he often had to wake up a sleepy Martin Tyler in others. He made one flub. You've made many more.

  24. Jesse Anthony, July 15, 2010 at 11:09 a.m.

    Celebrities are losers because they can afford to attend events such as the WC? Get real! If I could have afforded it I would have gone to SA. I certainly would have if I had the kind of income of Jagger and DiCaprio and any other celebs who were at matches but didn't happen to be spotted by TV while in a stadium. Anyone listen to ESPN Radio's broadcasts? John Paul Dellacamera and Tommy Smyth, whose Irish accent didn't get in the way, did a fabulous job calling the games I heard while driving. Can someone explain why ESPN chose not to use them on TV? I was tempted to put my TV on mute, esp. when John Harkes was on, and turn on my radio to hear JP and Tommy while watching the action on TV. Ask U of North Carolina basketball fans how that works...many shut off Dick Vitale and listen instead to Woody Durham on the radio while watching the Tar Heels games.

  25. Bret Newman, July 16, 2010 at 7:02 a.m.

    Unlike some of these other comments, I thought Harkes was good, and he is pleasant to hear, which is important. That McCoist was absolutely boring, and he was unpleasant to listen to with his thick accent. I didn't like most of his comments either.

Next story loading loading..