Leading article: Blame game

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The Independent Online

If the World Cup was awarded for the best excuses and conspiracy theories, this would be a hell of a competition. Many things have been blamed by teams in South Africa for underperformance, from the treacherous aerodynamic properties of the match ball, to the drone of vuvuzelas drowning out the fans. The Slovenian manager even blamed the turf (he should try playing at Wembley).

So is it Jabulani? Or is it just balls? That's hardly for us to say, divorced as we are from the frenzy of the action. But teams out in South Africa might want to bear in mind that there are plenty of other factors that have adversely affected sporting performance in the past and that should not be ruled out now.

In 1996 Sir Alex Ferguson discovered that the colour of Manchester United's strip was responsible for them losing a match. In 2000 the Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard blamed his team's card school. Fixture congestion is a notorious culprit for defeat. Hot weather can be terribly off-putting (although that's a tough sell as it's winter in South Africa). And, of course, if all else fails there's always the blind/useless/biased referee. Sometimes the simplest explanations are the best.