Recent World Cups, and especially the 2006 edition, have seen more even matches and an emphasis on defensive strengths. Franz Beckenbauer blamed the coaches for not being adventurous enough but the fact is, all teams are fighting harder, not just the big ones.
Luckily for us, there were still some amazing matches played over the course of the month – and it goes without saying that the France vs Italy final will be a candidate for this list as well.
I’m going the great matches that missed out first, and then talk about the 5 best matches.You’re welcome to add your favorites in the comments.
Germany 4 – 2 Costa Rica (group stage)
What a way to start a World Cup! Lahm and Frings provided two of the best goals of the tournament, and Germany showed how teams could play attacking football and still win. Too bad everyone else was playing 4-5-1…
Australia 3 – 1 Japan (group stage)
3 goals in the last 10 minutes took Japanese supporters from hope to shock to frustration to abject despair as Cahill took Japan apart with two excellent goals. Australia were one of the highlights of the World Cup, and it’s a shame that they went out to a penalty won by a Grosso tumble (who is suddenly the media darling after his goal against Germany – how quickly people forget).
Portugal 1 – 0 Holland (second round)
After 16 yellow cards and 4 red cards, this match will stay in World Cup history for the wrong reasons. One of the reasons referees started giving far fewer cards from teh quarters onwards.
France 2 – 0 Togo, France 3 – 1 Spain, France 1 – 0 Brazil
Three matches, three reasons to celebrate the French Renaissance. The world has praised Zidane for his brilliant role in France’s march to the final but it was Vieira who saw them through against Togo, Vieira who scored the second goal and Henry who was there to win the free kick against Spain, the penalty against Portugal and scored the only goal against Brazil. The French story has several heroes, not just Zidane.
Candidates for Best Matches
Argentina 2 – 1 Mexico (second round)
End to end football, Rafael Marquez with one of the best performances this World Cup has seen and Mexico fighting tooth and nail against a team that was supposed to beat them easily. The match went into extra time and only a Maxi Rodriguez wonder strike (the leading contender for best goal of the tournament) helped Argentina through to the quarters.
*Germany 1-1 Argentina (quarter final)
A fantastic match that was going Argentina’s way until Pekerman pulled Riquelme off. Germany’s fight back was brilliant and so was Lehmann’s shot-stopping in the penalty shootout. The after-match brawl made sure people forgot about the Holland-Portugal match (which had studs up tackles, headbutting and what not) and considering how that one match has brought this site so much traffic, it has been popular with watchers as well.
Italy 2-0 Germany (semi final)
2 goals in the last two minutes of extra time. If that doesn’t tell you enough, think of this as perhaps the best match the tournament has seen so far in terms of quality of football.
Group C and E matches (group matches)
These two groups provided some of the best football of the World Cup. They made up for the dry fare on display in Groups B and G. A little balance next time would help and ensure that the best teams get through and poorer teams like the Swiss and Ukraine get clocked in the group stages.
Ivory Coast, along with Ghana, are two of the unluckiest teams. They were both in ‘groups of death’, and while Ghana got through thanks to a smashing 2-0 win against the Czechs, Ivory Coast could not live up to their promise, losing to both Argentina and Holland. South Africa 2010 awaits.
Italy ? – ? France (final)
I’m betting on this match being the best of the World Cup. Hopefully…
Ok, I’ve said my piece. What do you think?