Mike Gibbons


 
Mike Gibbons is an aspiring young journalist from the UK who has followed the World Cup with passion from an early age. He will share his views about the past, present and future of this event.

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The World Cup Awards 2006



    Now that the dust has settled and the competition is over, it’s time to reflect on the 2006 World Cup. It wasn’t a great year for the dear old tournament, low on goals and later on low on excitement, with no discernable improvement from the poor showing in the Far East four years ago. Despite the current malaise the tournament finds itself in there were several notable moments, whether they will be remembered in forty years time is debatable but they are worth rewarding now. So here I present to you the highs and lows of Germany 2006, my own unofficial (obviously, I can’t think I’ll have the unequivocal backing of FIFA for this) awards ceremony. They are not the Oscars by any means so no Billy Crystal/Jack Nicholson banter but at least you can be assured these weren’t rigged. Here goes…


TEAMS


Best Team – Argentina. I know Italy won, and Germany knocked them out, but no team captured the imagination in this World Cup quite like Argentina. They advanced upon the quarter-finals amidst a blizzard of brilliant goals before over-confidence and strange substitutions undid them against the hosts. Put on the best team display by a country mile in their seminal 6-0 thrashing of Serbia and Montenegro.

Worst Team – Either Poland or Paraguay, they may share this dishonour. Statistically there were worse teams and they did both win their final games but they had already been eliminated by that point. Their lack of ambition from the outset, when millions watching around the world would sell their souls on e-bay to play in the World Cup, was horrific. Flip a coin for who was the worst, we could make them play-off for it but who would watch that game? If it was on in my back garden I would close the curtains.

Unluckiest Team – The Ivory Coast. Drawing the toughest group imaginable they could have written this tournament off as a learning curve but they frightened the life out of Holland and Argentina, losing each game 1-2, before overturning a two goal deficit to beat Serbia and Montenegro in their final game.

Most Disappointing Team – Without question this goes to Brazil. The most ludicrously hyped team prior to the tournament played poorly throughout, their superstar players shown up as ancient full-backs and fat forwards before surrendering their title in their timid collapse against France.

The Uruguay 86 Award for Most Cynical Team – Portugal. With two reds and twenty-four yellows it couldn’t be anyone else. Holland were as culpable in that free-for-all in Nuremburg but Portugal sealed their claim to this title by further disgracing themselves with more diving, fouling and rolling against England and France.


BEST GAMES


1st place – Germany 0 Italy 2. A technically fascinating game in normal time opened up in the extra-period as both teams went for broke. The dramatic conclusion provided by goals from Grosso and Del Piero is one of the most memorable moments from the whole tournament.

2nd Place – Ghana 2 Czech Republic 0. Like a schoolyard game with no midfield and just attackers and defenders at either end, this pulsating game revived Ghana and Africa’s World Cup and was notable for a logic-defying performance from Petr Cech.

3rd Place – Australia 2 Croatia 2. As we will see later the referee made the headlines but this decider to qualify for the last 16 had much more besides, with Harry Kewell’s late, very offside goal putting Australia through.


REFEREES


Best Referee – Benito Archundia for his handling of the Germany-Italy semi-final. Can we clone people yet?

Worst Referee – Graham Poll for his comical handling of the Australia-Croatia game. Booking a player three times and missing two clear penalties? All in an inept days work for our Graham.

Most Sadistic Referee – Carlos Simon of Brazil. I assume Teddy Lucic felt bad enough when committing his second bookable offence with his Swedish team two goals down to Germany in the first half. When Simon brandished the red card with a grin as wide as the Rhine that was rubbing it in just a little too much. Why not whip him across the back with a cat o’ nine tails as he leaves the pitch for good measure?


COACHES


Best Coach – Jurgen Klinsmann. I thought for a while that my defining World Cup image of Jurgen would be his flying header against Yugoslavia in 1990. Now it will be his manic touchline celebrations as his young charges made two years of botched friendly results look like a Machiavellian wheeze as they came within a few minutes of a dream final. Sent his team out to attack at all costs and has been a breath of fresh air compared to some of his more dour and cynical colleagues.

Worst Coach – Carlos Alberto Parreira. Named his team (five of them over 30 and his star forward massively overweight) a month before the tournament and watched it struggle against Croatia and Australia. Found his best team against Japan – Cicinho and Gilberto at full-back, Robinho up front, Juninho Pernambucano given license to roam – watched it play brilliantly and then benched it. Bottled the big decision to drop his underperforming stars.

Bravest Coach – Marcello Lippi. With the World Cup semi-final on the line against the host nation he replaced two midfielders with forwards and bypassed the dreaded penalty route to win it at the death. Probably the defining moment of Italy’s tournament.


BEST GOALS


1st Place – Without question the 24 pass, 56 second master class that was Argentina’s second goal against Serbia and Montenegro, converted by Esteban Cambiasso. One of the greatest goals ever scored.

2nd Place – Maxi Rodriguez for his spectacular chest trap and volley to win Argentina’s second round tie with Mexico. Worthy of winning any game.

3rd Place – For setting the tournament alight within six minutes of kick-off, an honourable mention for Philipp Lahm putting Germany in front against Costa Rica with a beautiful, arcing shot into the top corner.

4th Place – The first in that memorable six goal rout of Serbia and Montenegro, its Maxi Rodriguez again for Argentina. A kind of mini version of THAT goal, a swift flurry of passes on the left combined to put him in for an unstoppable finish.

5th Place – The mazy run and twenty yard drive into the top corner by Bakary Kone for the Ivory Coast against Holland.


MISCELLANIOUS AWARDS


The George Orwell Chilling Vision of The Future Award – The sixteen yellow, four red cards Royal Rumble between Portugal and Holland - a childish, wild and uncontrollable match that shames both sets of players. Inevitably Sepp ‘Is that a bandwagon? Park it outside my house’ Blatter got straight on the case of the referee Valentin Ivanov and suggested that he should have shown a yellow card to himself. In defence of the referee, with the attitude of the players and the rules as they are he had little choice and was in fact quite restrained. This is the logical conclusion of the game played by the rules enforced by Blatter. How much longer must we suffer this cretin in charge of our game?

The Cameroon In Italia 90 Opener Award for Worst Foul – From the match above, the incredible scything challenge by Deco on Johnny Heitinga for his first yellow card. It should have been a straight red and the disgraceful Deco even had the nerve to contest the booking after the match.

Funniest Moment – Markus Merk giving a yellow card to Dejan Stankovic for waving an imaginary card. A sublime moment from everyone’s favourite referee-cum-dentist.

Saddest Moment – Argentina’s reaction to their penalty defeat by Germany. Brazil and France in 1982 were great teams as well but simply left the field when they lost in heartbreaking circumstances in that tournament. Starting a fight was petty and should be beneath a team of Argentina’s quality.

Most Predictable Event – Spain looking great in the group phases and imploding when it got real. You can practically set your watch by it.

Most Undeserved Record – Ronaldo of Brazil breaking the all-time scoring record of Gerd Muller. Notwithstanding one of his goals in 2002 being a clear as day own goal, Ronaldo looked a ridiculous example of an athlete as he trundled into position to break the record against the scared stiff defences of Japan and Ghana. For the rest of his tournament his feet may as well have been nailed to the floor. In scoring three times it makes you wonder what he and Brazil could have done had he bothered to get down the gym a few times in May.

Most Disappointing Trend – Playing one striker up on his own and flooding the midfield. Low risk, also low entertainment value.

Most Overrated Moment – The myth that Zidane’s red card in the final cost France the World Cup is already up and running. Some perspective – there were ten minutes left and both teams were playing for penalties by then. Yes he would have taken a penalty but certainly not in place of David Trezeguet, the man who missed. Of course it was sad to see his career end with a dismissal but ultimately it had no bearing on the outcome.

Best Fans – I wasn’t in Germany so only witnessed games via the medium of television but I swear if I’d opened my window I would have heard the racket the South Koreans made against France in Leipzig. They were singing, dancing and jumping for eighty turgid minutes until Park Ji-Sung equalised, at which point they went ballistic right up until the final whistle and beyond. Brilliant.


PLAYERS


Best Player – Fabio Cannavaro. Most of the best players in this World Cup were defensive, but the captain of Italy was the best of them all. A fearless warrior who controlled his back line superbly, he was well in the running at the quarter-final stage but man of the match performances against Germany and France sealed it for him. As close to faultless as you could get for the final 240 minutes of the tournament.

Most Disappointing Player – Ronaldinho. What did he do? One flimsy assist in five games, and even that took some finishing on his own by Gilberto. He looked like a ghost of the player who has revived Barcelona and been the best player in the world since the last World Cup. The lame efforts of his team-mates hardly helped but this stylish individual produced none of the feints, flicks and tricks that we associate with him and failed to impact any of the five games he played in.

The Don’t Believe The Hype Award – Frank Lampard. If you thought John Jensen’s shooting was garbage in the 1992 European Championships (and even he managed to score in the final) I shudder to think what you made of Lampard’s pot shots at goal this summer. He took aim twenty-four times and barely warmed the keepers’ fingers with any of them. The simply volley he shinned into the floor and over the bar against Portugal summed up the tournament of a man who according to France Football is the second best player in Europe.

The Unsung Hero Award – He ran tirelessly for his country for 270 minutes and looked pure class all the way. Didier Zakora of the Ivory Coast had a fantastic first round and the Tottenham manager Martin Jol must be laughing all the way to the bank after signing him from St Etienne in the face of no opposition from any other club.

The Jesus Jones Award for International Bright Young Thing – Apologies if no-one understands that particular early nineties indie music reference point but the best young player at this tournament was Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal. The blame everyone but ourselves sections of the English media have made him the new pantomime villain of English football but with his eagerness to run with the ball and go through his repertoire of fancy tricks the World Cup could have a future star in the making. Could dive a bit less though (and suggest it as an option to his team-mates).


TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT (4-4-2, remember that?)


Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
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Willy Sagnol (France)
Philipp Lahm (Germany)
Fabio Cannavaro (Italy)
Rafael Marquez (Mexico)
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Gennaro Gattuso (Italy)
Maxi Rodriguez (Argentina)
Zinedine Zidane (France)
Juan Roman Riquelme (Argentina)
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Fernando Torres (Spain)
Miroslav Klose (Germany)



 

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