The 2010 World Cup — the bureaucrats got it wrong but the players got it right

Soccer is a pretty basic game. You need a ball and a field. Unfortunately, the bureaucrats who run soccer couldn’t get either element right for soccer’s showcase event.
The ball used at the World Cup had an unnatural swerve that confounded the game’s best goal-keepers. Consequently, the number of world class saves I saw was the lowest I can recall at a World Cup. The ball also had an unnatural tendency to soar. Thus, it was only during the second half of the tournament that I began to see effective free kicks. And even at the end, there still seemed to be some distances from which it was virtually impossible to clear the defensive wall and keep the shot on goal.
As for the playing surfaces in South Africa, some of them were scarecly better than those of second division teams in Scotland after a bad weak of winter weather. For example, the condition of the pitch in the semi-final match between Spain and Germany was a disgrace.
Once soccer becomes organized, you get crowds and a referee. The soccer bureaucrats messed up these elements too. The horns blown incessantly during all matches annoyed viewers and, worse, are said to have made it difficult for players to communicate during goal mouth incidents.
Soccer can be a very difficult game to referee, but even taking this into account the officiating in South Africa was quite poor, especially early in the tournament. It’s no secret who the better referees are. The bureaucrats need to use these refs and not worry about affirmative action for parts of the world that aren’t producing them.
But despite all of these problems, the World Cup did produce some standout play, though not nearly enough by goal-keepers. Here is my pick of the crop, based on watching about 75 percent of the matches either live or on tape, and reading at least two reports on every match:

First Team
Casillas -Spain
Lahm – Germany
Fucile – Uruquay
Nelsen – New Zealand
Juan – Brazil
Schweinsteiger – Germany
Iniesta – Spain
Muller – Germany
Sneijder – Holland
Villa – Spain
Forlan – Uruguay
Second team
Stecklenberg – Holland
Maicon – Brazil
Coentrao – Portugal
Pique – Spain
Friedrich – Germany
Y. Toure – Ivory Coast
Van Bommel – Holland
Donovan – U.S.
Ozil – Germany
Messi – Argentina
Tevez – Argentina
Third team
Benaglio – Switzerland
S. Ramos – Spain
Salcido – Mexico
Carvalho – Portugal
Tulio – Japan
Arevalo – Uruguay
Xavi – Spain
Robben – Holland
Gyan – Ghana
Suarez – Uruguay
Klose – Germany
Honorable mention
Neuer – Germany
Eduardo – Portugal
J.S. Lee – South Korea
Lucio – Brazil
Skertl – Slovakia
Alcarez – Paraguay
Puyol – Spain
Marquez – Mexico
Masherano – Argentina
Vidal – Chile
Bradley – U.S.
Gerrard – England
Annan – Ghana
J.S. Park – South Korea
Kuyt – Holland (added to original post)
Robinho – Brazil
C. Ronaldo – Portugal
Vittek – Slovakia
Top three players (in order)

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