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Page last updated at 21:19 GMT, Wednesday, 7 July 2010 22:19 UK

Alan Hansen's column


World Cup tournament a success - Jordaan

Alan Hansen
Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

The best thing about this World Cup so far has been the atmosphere in South Africa - all the major tournaments I've been to, or played at, pale into insignificance in comparison.

Probably the only place it has been slightly disappointing has been on the pitch, because we have not seen the number of exciting matches that we wanted or expected.

A simple reason for that is that the lesser sides have got themselves organised and defended better than at any previous tournament.

Whether it be Switzerland against Spain or North Korea for an hour against Brazil, a number of teams have shown how effective it can be to be well-drilled at the back, defend deep and get men behind the ball - no matter how inferior your players are in comparison to the quality of the opposition.

Brazil were a massive disappointment - I have never seen a team fall apart the way they did in their quarter-final against the Netherlands

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen teams here set up with two banks of four players just to make themselves difficult to break down - and, for the most part, the tactic has worked.

Should some of the lesser teams be here in the first place? You could debate that all day.

If the World Cup was the same size as the European Championship, which has 16 teams at its finals, then only the best nations would be here.

But, if you did that, you would be taking away some of the spirit of the World Cup, where everyone has a chance to qualify.

I do not think it's necessarily a bad thing that the less fashionable sides have shown us how easy it is to make life difficult for the more-fancied teams.

It is not only the supposedly inferior countries who have done it - Brazil against Portugal was probably the most disappointing game at this World Cup for me when you look at the talented players they have both got at their disposal - and it is certainly not South Africa's fault that there have not been that many good games.

Everything has been organised magnificently and the home fans have continued to be fantastic even after South Africa went out.

I remember when I arrived in Cape Town a couple of days before the tournament started and the party was already under way.

The vuvuzelas don't seem to have stopped blowing since then. At times, they have been a pain in the neck but people really seem to have been enjoying themselves.


Berlin four years ago was great but this experience has been even better. The South African public have not just embraced this World Cup, they have enhanced it. For that reason, it should go down in history as one of the best ever.

It will be remembered for how teams who did not look the strongest on paper have done so well - three out of the four semi-finalists, with the exception of Spain, were not really expected to get so far.

For me, the stand-out matches up to this point have been the last two performances by Germany. They won't be looked at so fondly by England or Argentina but the way the Germans have showed they are a team which is greater than the sum of their parts - and scored so many goals - has been great to watch.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst scored a stunning long-range goal for the Netherlands against Uruguay in Tuesday's semi-final but early on we did not see many strikes from distance.

Some of the best goals I've seen have been those that Germany have scored on the break. The Mezut Ozil cross for Miroslav Klose to volley in their fourth against Argentina was really special.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst

Van Bronckhorst's 35-yard screamer

But the best one I have seen was Brazil's second against Chile, which was sensationally good. The touch and technique that Kaka showed with his perfectly-weighted first-time pass to set up Luis Fabiano to score was just about as good as it gets.

Overall, Brazil were a massive disappointment, however, because I have never seen a team fall apart the way they did in their quarter-final against the Netherlands.

At half-time, I was putting my mortgage on Brazil to go on and not just win that game but the entire tournament. They were the best team in the first couple of weeks of the competition but they just went to pieces after the Dutch scored. I cannot understand why that happened.

That was a memorable match but, up until now, there is only one moment for which this World Cup will be best remembered: Luis Suarez's last-minute goal-line handball that eventually helped Uruguay beat Ghana in the quarter-finals.

Everyone will have different views on how it should have been punished but anyone who has ever stood on a goal-line will tell you that they would have done the same thing.

It has been a terrific tournament - I hope it gets even better in the course of the next few days

It was a totally instinctive reaction - and another Uruguay defender tried to do exactly the same thing, too.

Can you imagine the reaction from their fans and manager if they were on the line and just let the ball go in? There would be an inquest for months, so of course Suarez was going to do whatever he could to keep it out.

The reason Ghana were so unlucky is not only because they did not score from the resulting penalty but because there was only a minute left in the game. The red card Suarez was shown meant nothing.

If there was still half-an-hour or more to go, then Uruguay would have been forced to play the rest of the game with 10 men. That punishment would have been enough.

But you cannot make new rules to meet a certain situation because they do not quite fit the crime under one set of circumstances - and it would not stop defenders handling on the line in any case.

If someone can come up with a solution, then that would be great but, as of yet, I have certainly not heard a better suggestion than the current laws. And you should not change them just because a team is unlucky.

It is a shame if that proves to be the defining incident of this World Cup because it has been a terrific tournament. I hope it gets even better in the course of the next few days.

Alan Hansen was talking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan in Cape Town.

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see also
Alan Hansen's column
26 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Van Marwijk 'so proud' of Dutch
06 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
Cup chiefs rule out vuvuzela ban
14 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Team tracker and Predictor
27 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup venues
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010

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