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Paris – In years to come, the impact of the 2010 World Cup may be gauged by the words that it introduced to the footballing lexicon.
'Vuvuzela', 'Jabulani' and 'tiki-taka' would have meant little to football fans at the dawn of the year, but at the end of the month-long extravaganza in South Africa they were on the tips of every tongue.
The ubiquitous noise of the vuvuzela – a plastic horn blown by fans that emitted a sound not dissimilar to a swarm of hornets –- was the first indication that Africa's first World Cup would dance to a different rhythm.
The cacophony created by the trumpets was such that some broadcasters developed technology to block it out of their coverage, while the Adidas Jabulani – the official tournament ball – proved similarly controversial.
Designed to be more perfectly spherical than any ball in history, it proved an irritant to goalkeepers and was derided as “horrible” by Spain's Iker Casillas and his Italian counterpart Gianluigi Buffon.
It was England's Robert Green who suffered the greatest embarrassment, however, letting a tame Clint Dempsey shot squirm through his grasp and into the net in his side's opening game, a 1-1 draw with the United States.
The vuvuzela and the Jabulani may ultimately become little more than footnotes in the story of South Africa 2010, but the tiki-taka style of slick passing football that swept Spain to their first ever World Cup triumph will provide a more enduring monument.
Success at the 2008 European Championship had made Spain one of the pre-tournament favourites, but they fell to a shock 1-0 defeat against Switzerland in their first match.
La Roja battled into the knockout rounds, however, before consecutive 1-0 wins against Portugal, Paraguay and Germany took them to the final.
The margins of victory may have been slender but Spain's modus operandi remained the same: patient inter-changes of passes, orchestrated by Barcelona playmaker Xavi, punctuated by rapier-like bursts into opposition territory.
The Netherlands barred Spain's path to glory, having disposed of Dunga's heavily backed but ultimately one-dimensional Brazil in the last eight.
A slow-burning final at Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium was initially remarkable for a succession of robust Dutch challenges, including a chest-high assault on Xabi Alonso by Nigel de Jong that somehow failed to draw a red card from English referee Howard Webb.
Spain would not be cowed, however, and with four minutes of extra time remaining Andres Iniesta gathered Cesc Fabregas's pass before drilling an unerring drive into the bottom-left corner.
“Spain deserved to win this World Cup,” said Iniesta afterwards.
“It's something we have to remember and enjoy, and we should feel very proud of everyone in this squad. To win the World Cup – there are no words to describe it.”
Vicente del Bosque's team were acclaimed as worthy winners, but there were also plaudits for Joachim Loew's effervescent young Germany, who thrashed old foes England 4-1 in the last 16 before overwhelming Diego Maradona's Argentina 4-0 in the quarterfinals.
German forward Thomas Mueller won the Golden Boot for top scorer, while Diego Forlan was crowned player of the tournament after firing Uruguay to the last four for the first time since 1970.
Italy and France both limped out in the group phase; France amid high farce after their players boycotted a training session in protest at the expulsion of Nicolas Anelka for clashing with coach Raymond Domenech.
Ghana, meanwhile, came within a whisker of becoming the first African team to reach the semifinals, but Asamoah Gyan's missed penalty in the last minute of extra time against Uruguay enabled the South Americans to progress at their expense.
None of it came as any surprise to the tournament's true star, however.
Paul the Octopus earned international fame by correctly 'predicting' the outcome of eight consecutive games before passing away at a German aquarium in October. – Sapa-AFP
Grant P, wrote
The loud distracting horn and the crooked ball sums it all up.
spelling freak, wrote
Check your spelling IOL
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