The most memorable moments of the World Cup

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The month-long football extravaganza that was World Cup 2010 is almost over.
Doctors and hospitals the world over are now probably bracing themselves to treat the extreme withdrawal symptoms expected to afflict a wide swathe of the public.
After Sunday night, only the memories will remain - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Image Courtesy: AP and Reuters Images

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
Lampard's ghost goal It was the goal that wasn't.
The much-maligned Frank Lampard launched a long ball that struck the crossbar and dropped a foot behind the goal-line to cap a seemingly remarkable England comeback in the round-of-16 match against Germany in Bloemfontein.
But even before they could launch their celebrations, Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda, to England's horror, waved the game on after German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer swiftly returned the ball into play.
Their spirit crushed, Fabio Capello's wards let in two more goals to make an early exit from the World Cup.
Neuer wore his blatant act of cheating as a badge of pride when he admitted later that he had conned the referee.
The irony was not lost on anyone, the Germans, in particular, who were quick to call it a long-delayed payback for the Geoff Hurst 'goal' in the 1966 World Cup final.

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
Hand of God 2.0 When Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez stopped the ball with his hands on the goal-line at the fag-end of extra-time with the goalkeeper well beaten, he denied Ghana a certain place in the semi-finals.
It was an instinctive act done in full view of the referee and deservedly invited the punishment of a red card and a penalty.
But Suarez's disappointment soon turned to joy when Ghana's Asamoah Gyan, who had coolly slotted in two penalties in the group stage, stepped up and slammed the ball into the crossbar.
Gyan atoned for the lapse by converting his penalty in the ensuing shootout but two of his comrades missed and Ghana tantalisingly failed to become the first African team to reach the last four.
With his team in the semis, Suarez later claimed that the Hand of God now rightfully belonged to him rather than a certain Argentine.
His Ajax team-mate and Dutch goal-keeper Martin Stekelenburg was quick to text him, tongue firmly in cheek, saying that he should get the Lev Yashin award for being the best goalie of 2010 World Cup.
The most memorable moments of the World Cup
Off with the coach The French entered the World Cup with a slightly shamefaced air after booking a place in the final 32 courtesy an egregious double handball by Thierry Henry in their play-off game against Ireland.
They departed shamed even further after a goalless draw and two losses interrupted by a revolt within the ranks after Nicolas Anelka had been rightly sent home for abusing the coach Raymond Domenech.
It was an undignified end to Domenech's coaching tenure, which was at least a couple of years too long.
Incoming coach Laurent Blanc is now saddled with the task of knitting together the pieces of what used to be a football team, and a rather decent one at that.
Image: Anelka (right) and Domenech

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
Red-faced Green England has had a rich legacy of goalkeeping blunders dating back to Peter Bonetti against West Germany in the 1970 World Cup, if not earlier.
Robert Green (seen here) was keen not to be left out of that distinguished roster as he allowed a speculative effort from Clint Dempsey that was harmlessly drifting into his gloves to spill out and into the goal.
As the joke went, it was one British spillage the Americans did not moan about.
He was subsequently dropped in favour of David James but the damage had been done by then.
That goal condemned England to second place in the group and a ultimately fatal round-of-16 meeting with Germany instead of them negotiating a possibly less tortuous path to the semis via meetings with Ghana and Uruguay.

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
Podolski betrays his origins The Germans don't miss penalties.
At least not since 1974 in regulation time and not since 1982 in a shootout in the World Cup.
Which is why it was so jaw-dropping when Lukas Podolski's left-footer was easily parried by Serbian custodian Vladimir Stojkovic!
Of course, Podolski's actually Polish. No doubt that explains the aberration.

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
He scored with his tears One of the more intriguing characters seen in action in South Africa, Jong is a Japanese resident of South Korean origin.
Instead of choosing to represent either of those countries, he opted to sport the North Korean jersey instead despite never having lived there.
It turns out that he attended a North Korean funded school in Japan where he was taught to respect the Dear Leader and his peculiar brand of nationalism.
Jong is known to become overwrought with emotion at the honour of representing North Korea and sure enough he was seen shedding tears during the rendering of the national anthem before the game against Brazil.
The World Cup's biggest crybaby. He probably was.

Meet Paul, the footballing Nostradamus
That darned Octopus! Paul, the eight-armed mollusc from Oberhausen, confounded amateur pundits by correctly predicting the outcome of every German game in the World Cup.
Showing no loyalty whatsoever, Paul, who is of English origin, had little compunction in giving his native country the marching orders before the round of 16 and did the same for his adopted country before the semi-final.
Aggrieved parties are already calling for his tentacles and if they have their way, he could soon become an ex-octopus.

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
It's all about timing A joke doing the rounds after the group stage reflected on the eerie parallels between this World Cup and the Second World War - the French surrendered early, the Italians were useless, the Americans arrived late and the English were left to fight it out with the Germans.
Indeed, the Americans did choose the latest possible moment to arrive.
With England leading Slovenia 1-0 in Port Elizabeth, the US needed to beat Algeria in a simultaneous game in Pretoria.
It looked all over as the clock ticked into injury time. But the US team, which had recovered from 2-0 down to beat Slovenia, was not done yet.
After a Clint Dempsey shot was parried by the Algerian goalie, Landon Donovan pounced on the rebound to nonchalantly slot it home as the US bench erupted in joy.
Image: Donovan celebrates his match-winner.

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
A nightmarish miss Yakubu Aiyegbeni may still be pinching himself in disbelief and hoping that he will finally wake up from a lengthy nightmare.
Unfortunately for him, he was wide awake when a cross delivered to him in front of the South Korean goal required a simple tap that even Geoff Boycott's mum could have made.
Aiyegbeni, though, contrived to drive it wide and send his team Nigeria out of the World Cup in the bargain.

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
A ba(l)d joke The World Cup has not enjoyed much comic relief on the field (as opposed to off it where Diego Maradona has taken on the unofficial position of Chief Comic Officer).
But Denmark's Simon Poulsen did his best to alleviate the tedium.
A Dutch cross into the Danish box found Poulsen's bald pate but his attempt to head the ball towards safety only managed to find the back of his team-mate Daniel Agger and subsequently the back of his side's goal.
Poulsen broke into a wry smile but his teammates did not appear to see the joke.

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
Mishit or magic? Brazil was making heavy weather of overcoming the resistance of lowly North Korea - which had the second lowest ranking among the 32 teams in the competition - in their opening World Cup fixture.
Then the burly defender Maicon raced up the right flank and broke the impasse by curling the ball with his right foot from almost a straight angle.
The ball went behind the hapless Korean goalkeeper and into the net at the far post (seen here).
Cynics contended that it was a mishit cross since Maicon's eyes appeared to focus on the box rather than the goal and suggested uncharitably that the credit ought to go to the Jabulani ball. But Maicon ably defended himself from that slur as he pointed out that he had pulled off a similar goal in a friendly against Portugal.

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
Abreu does a Zidane When Sebastian Abreu stepped up to take his spot-kick in the shootout against Ghana, he knew that a successful conversion would take Uruguay into the semi-final.
Abreu did it in style, with an insouciant chip down the centre that grazed the underside of the crossbar and dropped in, reminiscent of Zidane in the 2006 final against Italy.
And indeed of the legendary Czech Antonin Panenka who pioneered the shot in the 1976 European Championships.
The only difference was that Abreu used his left foot.
The Uruguayan later insisted that it was a touch of magic rather than madness. Now, who can argue with that?

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
The curse on Spain No team that has lost its opening game has gone on to win the World Cup.

So, Gelson Fernandes of Switzerland by the simple act of escorting the ball into the Spanish net against the run of play might have just doomed Spain.
The Spanish have subsequently risen, dusted themselves and overcome five opponents in a row to reach the final.
But if they fall at the final hurdle against the Dutch, they will know precisely whom to blame.

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
A ref's mischievous smile Luis Fabiano's (seen sporting the yellow jersey) second goal against the Ivory Coast involved the use of his arm on two occasions to control the ball.
That the referee Stephane Lannoy missed it was not unusual.
But did he really?
Lannoy's conversation with Fabiano as they returned to the centre of the pitch, which involved a smile and a gesture towards the arm, gave rise to conspiracy theories.
Unsurprisingly, it was the known Brazilian baiter Diego Maradona who drew attention to that oddity.
In the face of overwhelming evidence, Fabiano admitted that he had committed the said infringement but declared with a straight face that 'in order to make the goal more beautiful, there had to be a doubtful element.'

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
Messi's failure to score This was the curious incident that failed to happen.
Lionel Messi came into the World Cup with the undisputed tag of best player in the world although there were murmurs that he was considerably more prolific in the Barca jersey than in the Argentinian.
Messi did little to dispel those murmurs, cutting an increasingly forlorn figure as the tournament progressed.
He did contribute to Argentina's four consecutive victories but, Messi, being Messi, is held to higher standards than lesser mortals.
His failure to score even once was the major talking point of the World Cup with opinion divided on who was to blame - the little angel himself or his coach Maradona who assigned him a deeper-than-usual role in midfield.

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
All roads lead to Asuncion When Argentina was knocked out of the World Cup, the world heaved a collective sigh of relief.
After all, it at least wouldn't have to tolerate the sight of Diego Maradona bounding naked around the obelisk in Buenos Aires.
When plucky Paraguay was knocked out, however, it was quite another matter.
There was a collective groan of despair since it meant that Larissa Riquelme would now be unable to keep her promise to run in the buff across the length and breadth of Asuncion.
Hand it to the lady, though.
The lingerie model is a good sport and has promised to set off on the run with just body paint and hungry eyes for company.
'It will be a present to all of the players, and for all the people in Paraguay to enjoy, because they tried as hard as possible and gave it their all on the field,' London's Daily Telegraph quoted her as saying.

The most memorable moments of the World Cup
Small mercy The only pitch invasion of the tournament, in the fourth minute of the semi-final between Germany and Spain, was by a man wearing a Superman T-shirt and wielding a - you guessed it - vuvuzela.
Such is the nuisance value of the ubiquitous but unmusical instrument that it may have been invented by the legendary Gaulish bard Cacofonix.
Those who play it, though, believe it's the best thing since sliced kudu, whose horn it was traditionally made from.
Others beg to differ.
FIFA briefly considered banning it, but developed cold feet after fearing the indefensible charge of cultural imperialism.
With exports soaring post-World Cup 2010, let's enjoy the silence for the short while that it lasts.