COS contributor Nechama Davidson takes a closer look at eleven big name World Cup flops.
There is no question that the millions of people watching the World Cup this summer expected to see great things from a number of highly touted players, who featured among the most distinguished throughout the world. However, whether it was due to the lack of player freshness, the Nike commercial curse, or, according to Maradona at least, the stars not acting with adequate selfishness, an unfortunate quantity did not compete as predicted. The sorriest of them make up the starting XI of the World Cup 2010’s greatest underachievers.
Hugo Lloris (Goalkeeper)
While he did not make any serious blunders, for someone who was crowned Goalkeeper of the Year in Ligue 1 in 2010, Lloris did not perform as was expected of him. Although not solely at fault for France’s abysmal performance in South Africa, the Les Bleus’ keeper was nervous and seemingly as unprepared as the rest of the squad.
Glen Johnson (Right Back)
That Johnson is considered one of the greatest right-backs in England may be a cause for concern. Normally quite adept at running forward with the ball, Johnson, besides for his ineptitude when playing back, was poor on the attack as well. England’s first choice as right back was at least partially responsible for Germany’s goals in the second half, which came from his side of the pitch.
Fabio Cannavaro (Center Back)
The rock of Italy’s defense in 2006 has since lost his power, with his advancing age factored in as a possible cause. Despite Cannavaro’s talent and presence as a leader, the Italy captain failed to make an impact as he created when the Azzurri won the World Cup four years ago.
John Terry (Center Back)
Based on the great expectations set out for Terry in this summer’s World Cup, his performance left much to be desired. Not known for his speed, Terry’s lack of pace was greatly exposed throughout the tournament, as he appeared vulnerable and made crucial mistakes, including the blatant misjudging of the ball which resulted in Germany’s first goal. Although he had some good runs, at times he was left standing in the wrong place.
Patrice Evra (Left Back)
Considered one of the best left-backs in the world, the France and Manchester United defender did not offer a display in South Africa that proved this fact to his audience. His powerful runs down the left were absent, his defending ordinary, and his tackling mistimed. Evra’s mutinous antics off the field, which caused him to be stripped of the captain’s armband and abandoned on the bench, will likely also be remembered among the flagrant tension within the French camp.
Lionel Messi (Right Winger)
Largely considered the greatest football player in the world, 22-year-old Lionel Messi has been deemed to perform worse in an Argentina shirt than he does in a Barcelona one. Messi’s skills, speed and instinct could have dominated this World Cup and perhaps brought his team to victory, but he failed to perform to his best, similar to his presentation in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Although he created multiple chances for teammates and drew endless saves from opposition goalkeepers, the usually prolific goal-scorer seemed frustrated, and despite his team’s easy group, the goals did not flow. A case can be made that “the next Maradona” did not have a bad World Cup, as goal scoring is not everything, but based on his potential, Messi’s performance was well lower than expected.
Kaka (Right Midfielder)
Other than a few isolated touches on the ball, Kaka, who is undoubtedly one of the best footballers of recent years, was instrumental only in weakening Brazil’s potential to win it all. The playmaker was unable to break open defenses as he is accustomed to doing with his speed and dribbling skills.
Franck Ribery (Left Midfielder)
A regular in the French team since he helped bring the side to the finals in the last World Cup, Ribery’s speed, energy and dribbling expertise have rendered him twice French Player of the Year and one of the best players in Europe. Perhaps his lack of presence can be attributed to manager Domenech playing him out of the position in which he is most comfortable-on the left-to accommodate Henry and Malouda. His single contribution was a cross to Malouda, who then scored France’s only goal of the competition.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Left Winger)
Ronaldo’s speed, agility, strength and balance make him one of the best dribblers in the world, and his repertoire of talents also includes dangerous free-kicks and headers. However, despite a 7-0 thrashing of North Korea, in which Ronaldo scored one fluke goal, two goalless draws against the Ivory Coast and Brazil and a 1-0 loss to Spain left Ronaldo fruitless in this tournament.
Wayne Rooney (Striker)
Held responsible by more than just a few for England’s catastrophic performance, Rooney was a royal flop in this World Cup, his world-class talents notwithstanding. At 24, he possesses the incredible instincts and ability to play anywhere on the field, which perhaps allowed Capello to build his strategy around the forward. But Rooney’s strikes, particularly his first touch, were weak, and the goals did not flow as anticipated. Maybe Rooney’s pre-World Cup injuries were more serious than initially imagined, hampering him from performing up to par.
Fernando Torres (Striker)
Although it may be tempting to chalk Torres’ non-performance up to the “Samson Effect,” it is still challenging to understand why he could not come through for his winning side. The reason behind Spain’s win in Euro 2008, the goal-scorer’s speed, strength and technique as a complete striker were not apparent in South Africa, and El Nino ended this campaign goalless. After repeated chances by manager Vicente del Bosque, Torres was eventually relegated to the bench.
Manager: Fabio Capello
With England at least expected to make it to the semifinals, the manager who should have led them to victory lost control of his side, which crashed out in the round of 16. Having stubbornly built his team around his specific style of play-and, seemingly, Wayne Rooney-Capello’s unwavering disciplinarian tactics ultimately failed.
Capello was particularly successful when he used the 4-4-2 at AC Milan in the 1990s, but at the highest level of play today, the 4-4-2 is being replaced by formations such as the 4-2-3-1. In the past season (’09-’10), none of the winners of the Spanish, English, Italian or Champions Leagues relied on the 4-4-2. After England’s elimination from the World Cup by a 4-2-3-1 Germany side, Capello was criticized for playing an “increasingly outdated” 4-4-2 formation.