Thought I’d wrap up the tournament with my picks for the best we’ve seen over the past month. These are some of the memories that this World Cup has left us to savor:
10. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) vs. North Korea — If he’d actually meant to balance the ball on the back of his neck before he scored, I’d rank this higher.
9. David Villa (Spain) vs. Chile — I don’t care if the goalkeeper made a mistake. Any time you score from 50 yards out, you make the list.
8. Siphiwe Tshabalala (South Africa) vs. Mexico — The first goal of the tournament was a beauty, placed perfectly in the corner where no goalkeeper could stop it. Nice celebration, too. How did I leave this player off my All-Name Team?
7-6. Landon Donovan (USA) vs. Slovenia, Maicon (Brazil) vs. North Korea — The Brazilian got his shot behind the keeper somehow, but Donovan nearly took the keeper’s head off with his shot. Can’t decide between these two.
5. Miroslav Klose (Germany) vs. Argentina — Klose’s finish is pretty good, but Thomas Müller’s pass to set it up while he’s lying on the ground is what makes this one special.
4. Mesut Özil (Germany) vs. Ghana — The Turkish-descended, Qu’ran-quoting attacking midfielder looked like a new star, especially with this piece of skill to break open a stalemate.
3. Keisuke Honda (Japan) vs. Denmark — Who’s having problems with the Jabulani ball? Not the Japanese striker, whose thunderbolt of a free kick was fantastic.
2. Fabio Quagliarella (Italy) vs. Slovakia — Absolutely beautiful, but it only raises the question: Why didn’t Italy play him earlier in the tournament?
1. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Netherlands) vs. Uruguay — The goal of World Cup 2010.
USA 1, Algeria 0 — No team went from total devastation to total joy the way USA did in the moments just before and after Landon Donovan’s goal.
Italy 1, New Zealand 1 — The All Whites strike first, give up a (soft but deserved) penalty, spend the rest of the match hanging on for dear life, and come away with a scoreline for their history books.
Slovakia 3, Italy 2 — A totally bonkers last 20 minutes featuring four goals, another good one wiped out by an offside call, and a stagnant Italy team deservedly crashing out.
Slovenia 2, USA 2 — High drama with the Yanks coming back from the dead and then being robbed of a win.
Denmark 2, Cameroon 1 — A game that could have easily been 5-4 with all the scoring chances that went begging. Both teams playing wide-open attacking soccer made this fun to watch.
Germany 3, Uruguay 2 — An excellent argument for keeping the third-place game at these tournaments.
Germany 4, Argentina 0 — Of all of Germany’s lopsided victories, this was the most impressive one.
Uruguay 1, Ghana 1 (Uruguay wins 4-2 on penalties) — A game that had everything except Asamoah Gyan planting his penalty in the back of the net at the end of extra time.