They think it's all over, it is now. So what can England's bid learn?
South Africa score nine out of 10 for organisation, much less for football. But the next hosts don't seem ready
Sunday 18 July 2010
So how successful was it?
After all the fears about security, transport and accommodation, organisation was better than expected, leading Fifa's Sepp Blatter to award the local organising commitee nine out of 10. A huge increase in police numbers, allied to draconian punishments, helped contain crime and some of the measures brought in, like quicker justice, will become permanent. Despite the lack of a national rail system, transport chaos was restricted to the opening game in Johannesburg and Durban airport for the semi-final, which hundreds of supporters missed. The football, alas, is likely to be remembered as a negative, with few outstanding matches and a hugely disappointing final blighted by a record number of yellow cards. Suggestions that the new ball and altitude would lead to a glut of goals were belied by the scoring rate at 2.27, which was only just above the lowest-ever (2.21 in 1990), reflecting the cautious nature of much of the play. As in 1990, when back-passes and tackling from behind were outlawed, there may be a positive outcome in the overdue introduction of technology, at least on goallines.
Who made the money?
Fifa, naturally; about £2.3 billion, which somehow appears to be free of tax, including VAT in South Africa. Some £50m is expected to go to the South African Football Association for development. Adidas have done very nicely, claiming sales of at least one million replica shirts for each of Argentina, Germany, Mexico, Spain and South Africa; plus of course the Jabulani ball. Hotel chains charging up to £600 per night in Johannesburg were reporting full houses and the Chinese factory manufacturing vuvuzelas believes further big profits are yet to come. Less happy were the small traders hoping to sell their wares, many of them reduced to operating at roadsides and traffic junctions after being kept out of official zones immediately around the stadiums and fan parks. The big numbers in the bigger picture contain a huge element of guesswork and can change dramatically; when the bid book was produced in 2003, estimated spending on stadiums and infrastructure was £203m but it finished at 20 times more. Accountants Grant Thornton, who have monitored income and expenditure during that time, now estimate that the World Cup's contribution to South Africa's GDP to be £8bn.
What's the legacy?
Physical evidence includes improved roads and airports plus a high-speed train from Johannesburg's main airport that will eventually run to Pretoria. Then, of course, there are the 10 impressive stadiums, which face uncertainty over future use and whose 415,000 jobs have largely disappeared. The three grandest – Soccer City plus those in Cape Town and Durban – were all built either adjacent or close to existing large rugby union grounds and without an anchor tenant. Some, like Port Elizabeth and Polokwane, do not even have a South African Premier League team in town. Soccer City (likely to be renamed) will stage a rugby Test next month between the Springboks and the All Blacks, and Johannesburg, like Durban and Cape Town, wants to use its new stadium as a centrepiece for the Olympic Games, preferably as soon as 2020. The latter pair are expected to be serious contenders, for the success of Africa's first World Cup has already produced a widespread conviction that the continent – or at least the country – could stage the Olympics. At the contrasting level of bare grass roots, much good work has been done by projects like Football For Hope in the townships and 1 Goal (maximising education for children). What the country hopes to build on above all is the spirit of unity that by common consent was the greatest since democracy was established in 1994.
How prepared are Brazil?
Not very well at all, by all accounts. Here's the normally positive Jérôme Valcke, Fifa's chief executive: "We have to build some stadiums, airports, accommodation and so on." Best get started, then. Many of the concerns, of course, are those expressed about South Africa, where Brazilian officials have been much in evidence these past few weeks. Danny Jordaan, the driving force behind the whole South African operation for many years, has stressed to them the importance of infrastructure. Although it somehow staged a World Cup 60 years ago (on an admittedly smaller scale of 13 teams), Brazil is a huge country: 3.2million square miles, seven times larger than South Africa, where distances could be daunting enough (from Manaus in north-western Brazil to Porto Alegre is 2,000 miles). Temperatures will vary even more. One benefit will be that groups will have to be arranged on a geographical basis, although much air travel will be required, which is why the construction of new airports is paramount. So are improvements to many of the stadiums in 12 host cities, which nobody appears keen to pay for. The largest city, Sao Paulo, due to stage the opening game, is currently not eligible after refusing to guarantee the necessary finance. What there will be is enthusiasm for the sport: average crowds of more than 60,000 at the 1950 competition are second only to the USA in 1994 as the highest in the tournament's history.
Lessons for England's bid
If South Africa's mantra was "infrastructure" and Brazil's is "airports", then "transport, transport, transport" should be London's. Memories of taking up to four hours to make the 45-minute journey to Soccer City on the day of the opening game will stay with those who endured it until long after the 2012 Games are opened. Shuttles from King's Cross to Stratford will decrease the problem, but not solve it without the use of bus lanes and contraflow plus a contingency plan for when the first lorry gets stuck in the Blackwall Tunnel. Park-and-ride is fine as long as there is not a long hike or solid jam at the stadium end, going in or out. The 2018 bid team were conspicuous among Fifa's movers and shakers in Sandton. Supporters from all countries would like reassurances from them that they will not be ripped off by hoteliers; and, to return to the transport theme, that there will be adequate trains and planes between all venues, above all the two semi- finals (presumably Manchester and London). Memo to Virgin Trains...
What we learnt from the World Cup
Attacking full-backs: There is a theory that full-backs are the most important players in a team in the modern game because they have so much time on the ball. As wingers have dropped deeper into midfield, so the full-back has more time and space to push forward. The danger is that he can then be caught out when his team lose possession, leaving too much space behind him for a counter-attack. The United States talked openly before playing England about luring Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole forward, then darting in behind them. Though they were not particularly successful that day, it worked perfectly for Germany, who caught England with two counters for their third and fourth goals and then did the same to Argentina. Brazil and Spain had almost recklessly positive right-backs in Maicon and Sergio Ramos respectively, who relied heavily on their centre-halves covering for them when they charged upfield. Old-timers will insist that a full-back's primary job is defensive, which is where many feel Johnson falls down; Philipp Lahm, Germany's captain, was the best example of a happy compromise in defending solidly while starting many attacks with his astute passing.
Holding midfielders: The notion of winning the World Cup with a defensive midfielder can be traced as far back as 1966 and Nobby Stiles. Patrolling in front of Jack Charlton and Bobby Moore, he was not in the team for his creative passing, but to growl at any opponent and take the ball from them by fair means or the other. "Front sweeper" was for a while the fashionable term. The more recent development, confirmed by many if not most sides in South Africa, was to have two such players. These could either alternate in going forward, or have one player, such as Xabi Alonso in Spain's case, being more adventurous than Sergio Busquets. Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger was generally pushing further forward than Sami Khedira. Holland used both Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong destructively; the fact that each could easily have been sent off in the final illustrated the thin line such players tread with referees, especially once they have received a yellow card. England, who ideally wanted Owen Hargreaves as their holding man with a more creative player alongside, need to find a successor to him, since Gareth Barry did not look the part and the Lampard-Gerrard combination was as flawed as ever.
Change at No 10: If any regional variations could be distinguished in a sport televised so universally and regularly that there are few secrets, it was in the unexpectedly bold approach of some of the Central and South American sides such as Mexico, Chile and Uruguay. All three were often prepared to leave three players at the back or push three right forward, Mexico and Chile often using a flexible 3-4-3 which eventually came to grief against the more experienced Argentina and Brazil respectively. Overall, however, the predominant formation was the 4-2-3-1 that coaches have been watching in the Champions' League and (increasingly) the Premier League for the past couple of seasons. Two holding players sit in front of the back four and are given varying degrees of licence to break forward but concentrating above all on subduing the opposition's principal creative player. That player, the No10 of old, is the one in the middle of the row of three, namely Xavi for Spain, Wesley Sneijder for the Dutch or Mesut Ozil for Germany. The system allows either for two players staying wide, such as Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt, or a more flexible group like Spain's use of Andres Iniesta and Pedro, coming in off the flanks and interchanging in passing and movement with Xavi. But the three need to work back as well, which Brazil's seemed reluctant to do.
The lone striker: As the history of tactics is essentially a shift from attacking orientation to defensive ones, the use of a single striker is a natural if unwelcome progression. Not all teams employed it; Uruguay were notably successful in playing Diego Forlan behind two forwards, less so when Luis Suarez was suspended and Forlan had to move into the front line. Argentina also pushed Carlos Tevez up with Gonzalo Higuain, using Lionel Messi behind them. But for lone strikers such as Miroslav Klose, Robin van Persie and even either David Villa or Fernando Torres, it can be a thankless position, demanding hard running, a physical battle against two markers and even an obligation to chase and press when the opposition play the ball around at the back. Few of those chosen for the role lasted a full 90 minutes, whether at altitude or not; and significantly, the main contenders for the Golden Boot scored most of their goals playing either on the flanks (Villa, early on, and Thomas Müller) or behind the main striker (Sneijder). The role could yet become more defensive still, if the support of three players behind him is reduced to, say, a 4-3-2-1. One of Fabio Capello's many decisions is whether Wayne Rooney can play it without undue frustration.
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