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South Africa 2010: So It Ends

I’ll try to post this tonight, but don’t expect any links or very detailed information because I won’t be looking for them. If anyone who happens to read this notices any mistakes, please let me know.

This edition ended with a final between a team that certainly should have been there and one that shouldn’t even have made it into the quarterfinals, and possibly not even past the group stage. Unfortunately, the latter even won the trophy! So I was happy that Italy didn’t even make it past the group stage, but had Spain go all the way to the final and then even win it. Infuriating either way, because of the message this sends to any team that could be inclined to play in a way that’d give even neutral viewers something to cheer for.
Sure, Spain probably deserved to win the final itself, judging by what happened during it, but that doesn’t excuse their general attitude, noticed during the final as well, of doing just enough to get by and barely managing to scrape by each round with an 1-0 victory. Netherlands, on the other hand, gave viewers plenty to watch and cheer for during most of their matches, as did Germany, these two being the teams I saw as the probable and deserving finalists all the way through, until of course Spain got in the way.
Otherwise, I need to point out that both Australia and New Zealand impressed me, compared to what I expected from either of them, despite neither making it out of the group stage, and Ivory Coast also deserved a better fate than the one they ended up having. South Korea offered more than I thought them capable of as well, while the fighting spirit of the USA and Uruguay also deserve a special mention, with the added note that Uruguay even obtained a semifinal appearance for their efforts.

The refereeing was amazingly good at first, but then mistakes started piling up towards the end of the group stage and even more so later. Even the final was full of refereeing mistakes, the vast majority of them against Spain, but at least in this one case I didn’t mind because of what I said above regarding Spain. It was far better than in 2002, but it’d be really hard for an edition of the World Cup to be more fraught with refereeing mistakes than that one was, so this doesn’t count as a good thing in any way.
It’s just another piece of evidence, if any more was needed, in support of the idea that technology really needs to be used to make matches more fair. In fact, Roberto Rosetti had the chance to make history during the Argentina – Mexico match, but he chose to ignore the replay which was accidentally broadcasted on one of the big screens and stick to the letter of the rules, not changing his original decision based on video evidence. That was a real pity, as is FIFA’s decision not to allow replays that’d reveal the referee’s decisions to be wrong, or at least questionable, to be broadcasted on the big screens.
I really can’t see any good reason to stop referees from using such video evidence for their decisions… It’d still be the referee who makes the call, but after properly seeing what happened, as you really can’t expect one person, or even two when one of the assistants is close by, to see everything as it happens and make the proper decisions every time. They could come up with something like the challenge system in tennis, each team having a certain number of challenges available, which are only used up if they’re proven wrong. When a team decides to challenge a decision, the referee would go to a TV placed close to the playing field, so this could also work on stadiums without big screens, watch the replay of the moment in question and make a more informed decision. This could also end the complaints and discussions with the referee that you keep seeing now, as players would need to either challenge or keep quiet, receiving an immediate yellow card if they complain in any way without challenging, because it means they either know they’re wrong or they’ve been wrong too many times so far and used up their challenges already.

To move on to the organization, I have to say that the problems were somewhat fewer and less significant than I expected. I maintain my opinion that South Africa was certainly not the right country to host an edition of the World Cup, but I only heard of one person being shot and the reported thefts and robberies from the participants died down shortly after the start of the competition. Now that may be a case of media bias, as they stopped finding them interesting enough to report, but it may also mean the security forces did their job better and better. Also, likely due to a combination of security and people actually thinking with their heads for once and deciding that the risk of stumbling upon one who’s HIV positive over there is too high to be worth it, prostitution was reportedly almost nonexistent. (Not that I’d be against prostitution in general, far from it, but this was a special situation.) But I’m sure someone made lists of such events, so go look for them if you’re interested in something more accurate than this.
The number of spectators was quite low though, with stadiums very rarely being full and actually even being quite empty at a fair number of matches from the group stage, but that was to be expected, considering the rampant poverty in South Africa and perhaps also the security concerns that may have made some fans decide not to go and support their national teams. That, along with what I heard was a merchandising policy unsuitable for the purchasing power of the people in the region, means South Africa took quite a loss as a result of hosting this competition, and I was even reading an article that said the loss rose to no less than two billion euros!

But I want to end this post by going back to the qualifying slots awarded to each region and point out certain discrepancies between those numbers and the actual results, which would be a good indicator of how many slots each region should actually receive. I’ll use the number of teams that made it past the group stage for these calculations, as I think that’s the best indicator.
Africa, including the host country, had six slots. North and Central America had three and a half slots and three teams qualified, as Costa Rica was defeated by Uruguay. South America had four and a half slots and five teams qualified, as Uruguay defeated Costa Rica. Asia, which this time included Australia, had four and a half slots and four teams qualified, as Bahrain was defeated by New Zealand. Europe had 13 slots. And Oceania had half a slot and one team qualified, as New Zealand defeated Bahrain. But the number of teams that made it past the group stage was one for Africa, two for North and Central America, five for South America, two for Asia, six for Europe and none for Oceania.
As you’d expect about half the teams from each region to make it through, you can see that South America really needs more slots and Africa likely has too many. Though this is a somewhat surprising result, as normally Asia seemed to have too many slots, while North and Central America is a special case as there are obviously only two teams worth qualifying, namely USA and Mexico. But I’d like a completely different competition format anyway, so I’m just pointing out some facts here…

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