Sunday's dull, chippy and mostly joyless championship game between Spain and the Netherlands was a fitting end to a tournament that, for the most part, anyway, failed to live up to the hype. Not to say that there were not some dazzling moments in South Africa, but from start to finish there always seemed to be something obstructing entertaining soccer from being played. Whether it was the ball, the altitude, the new environment, or the prevalence of defensive tactics, the play in South Africa just seemed a little off.
Maybe it's a case of unrealistic expectations. There were 145 goals scored in the 64 games at the World Cup, which is in line with the pace set at the 2006 tournament in Germany, when 147 goals were scored. It might just be that the supposed lack of goals has more to do with modern football tactics than it does with anything else. We'll just have to wait for 2014 in Brazil to settle that score.
In the meantime, here is my team of the tournament and a list of the top five goals.
It's hard to imagine the all-tournament team lining up in anything other than a 4-2-3-1, so here it is.
Goalie: Iker Casillas, Spain. The Real Madrid keeper only let two goals by him in seven games, and no save was bigger than Casillas' save on Robben's breakaway.
Left Fullback: Giovanni Van Bronkhorst, the Netherlands. Holland's defense believed to be a major liability at the World Cup. Thanks to their captain's example, the Dutch were solid in defense up until the very end.
Central Defender: Diego Lugano, Uruguay. La Celeste allowed more goals (3) in the one game Lugano missed than the five game their captain played in (2).
Central Defender: Carles Puyol/Gerard Pique, Spain. Impossible to distinguish between Spain's two impressive defenders. Their chemistry as club mates at Barca showed on the pitch.
Right Fullback: Sergio Ramos, Spain. Solid on defense, dangerous on the counter, Ramos plays perfectly for Spain's set up. Kept Robben mostly quiet in the final.
Center Midfielder: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany. Ably stepped up to replace the injured captain Michael Ballack. Germany's midfield had their way until they ran into Spain.
Center Midfielder: Sergio Busquets, Spain. Who? Did the dirty work for Spain, allowing Xavi, Iniesta and Co to roam. Shutdown Ozil in the semifinal and helped silence Robben and Sneijder in the final.
Left Midfielder: Tomas Muller, Germany. Muller won the golden boot winner at the ripe age of 20. Should win young player award too; major breakout star of the tournament.
Center Forward: Wesley Sneijder, the Netherlands. A win in the finals would have capped the best season ever in football history. The Inter man will settle for the treble, five goals at the world cup and a runners-up medal.
Right Midfielder: David Villa, Spain. On fire from the start, he scored the winners against Portugal and Paraguay. Future at Barca looks bright, to say the least.
Striker: Diego Forlan, Uruguay. Carried unfancied Uruguay all the way to fourth place. Master of the Jabulani, Forlan came oh-so-close to tying Germany in the dying minutes.
Top Five Goals:
5: Keisuke Honda, Japan vs. Denmark. A nifty free kick fooled Denmark's keeper and showed everyone that the Jabulani could be harnessed.
4: Siphiwe Tshabalala, South Africa vs. Mexcio: Got things started in classy fashion.
3: Diego Forlan, Uruguay vs. Germany. A brilliant half-volley to bring Uruguay back into the third-place game.
2: Landon Donovan, United States vs. Algeria. An excellent team goal at a crucial time. From the keepers hands to the back of the net in just a few seconds.
1: Giovanno Van Bronkhorst, the Netherlands vs. Uruguay. A wonderful blast from way out lands right into the top corner.