South Africa 2010 has been a huge success: a colorful, noisy and vibrant celebration of the Beautiful Game that reflects the proud heritage of its host nation. Sycophantic reflections aside, it's now time to look forward to the next World Cup, to be held in Brazil in 2014. Based on what we have seen over the past month, here's 10 things we would like to see at the next meeting of the greatest talents in international football ...
1. More superstar performances
Some of the biggest names in football simply didn't turn up at this tournament. Predicted Golden Boot winner Leo Messi failed to find the net, new daddy Cristiano Ronaldo did little other than fumble a comedy goal during Portugal's North Korea walkover, and Wayne Rooney seemed to forget how to run, let alone kick a ball. The capitulation of the box office names may have allowed rising talents like Thomas Mueller to take center stage, but we hope the big stars shine the brightest in Brazil.
2. A less annoying fan craze
Traditionally, fans at World Cup tournaments find a way of making their presence known - Mexico '86 had the Mexican Wave, Argentina '78 saw an overzealous use of ticker tape, and South Africa's prevalent fan leitmotif has been the vuvuzela. An omnipresent irritation for TV viewers, and a deafening distraction for players, the plastic horn is a stalwart of African football culture that is in grave danger of spreading to the rest of the world. Let's hope fans in Brazil introduce a slightly less annoying novelty. Samba dancing and bikini street parades, anyone?
3. Less empty seats
Yes, South Africa is a long haul flight away from Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia, but the amount of empty seats we have seen at stadiums during the tournament is unforgivable -- there were even a few going spare in the semis. Perhaps FIFA could have spent less time prosecuting attractive Dutch girls and more time investing some of the $3.3 billion profit it made from the tournament in putting butts on seats.
4. More Maradona
With his animated touchline antics, punishing training sessions, bizarre superstitions and inability to go five minutes without saying something outrageous, Diego Maradona was a constant source of amusement before his severe lack of tactical nous was finally exposed by Germany. He hasn't stopped crying since his return to Argentina, but hopefully he will be persuaded to stay on as coach for the tournament hosted by his nation's fierce rivals. If his entertainment value was matched by managerial skill, he would truly be the Jose Mourinho of the international stage.
5. The introduction of video technology
After years of stoic resistance, FIFA have finally decided to consider implementing video technology, following numerous controversial incidents in South Africa. "It is obvious that after the experience so far in this World Cup it would be nonsense to not reopen the file of technology at the business meeting of the International FA Board in July," said Blatter following Frank Lampard's faux goal and Carlos Tevez's miles-offside strike against Mexico. It's likely the technology would simply be a camera in the goal, but it paves the way for more exciting rule changes, like a tennis-style system where teams could get three opportunities to call for replays of non-goal mouth incidents. Or robot referees. That would be sweet.
6. Less psychic animals
Paul the octopus, you may be a contender for Ruler of the Universe, but you've truly opened a psychic animal can of worms (pun intended). The first pretender to the throne was Mani the Parakeet, then came Pino the chimp and Apfelsin the Red River Hog. Lin Ping the psychic panda was the last straw of animal exploitation, apparently drawing out the prognosticating abilities of a species that is generally too lazy to even procreate. What started as a hilarious novelty turned into a shameless promotional exercise for zoos and aquariums across the world.
7. More ambush marketing
If the Dutch ambush marketing debacle was anything to go by, FIFA is taking steps to set up its own rogue state, where citizens adhere to FIFA laws while exclusively enjoying FIFA-endorsed goods and services. For having the audacity to promote a non-FIFA approved brand, several Dutch women were ejected from the Netherlands vs. Denmark game. Fans of good looking young women in small dresses were left bitterly disappointed.
8. More French mishaps
Having qualified for the tournament via a Thierry Henry handball, the shoulder-shrugging nation received their karmic comeuppance by suffering an Anelka walkout, subsequent player strikes, infighting and shoddy performances that left them rock bottom of Group A and with the threat of a ban from international football. France's arrogance-fuelled capitulation armed football fans with plenty of surrender-based jokes, and a warming feeling of schadenfreude.
9. Better stadium security
The England fan who broke into the team dressing room after the Algeria game to see Joe Cole stepping out of the shower left the world with two questions: why was Joe Cole having a shower after a game he didn't play in, and how was security so poor that a regular fan found himself in the company of Capello's men? Another serious breach occured prior to the final, when notorious pitch invader Jimmy Jump came within inches of touching the prize trophy. South Africa has experienced problems with security staff who have gone on strike over pay, and one can only hope that the Brazilians run a tighter ship.
10. A better final
Admittedly, classic World Cup matches are few and far between, but the 2010 edition was pretty dire by any standards. Referee Howard Webb handed out eight yellow cards and a red to a Dutch team determined to kick their opponents up and down the pitch all evening (whatever happened to Total Football?) and Spain's finishing let them down on countless occasions. A Brazilian final - which will surely feature a rejuvenated Brazil side – will almost certainly prove more entertaining.
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