Taking the tournament under African skies was FIFA's greatest adventure yet. South Africa's people opened their doors with open arms and, though there were some steep prices being paid for accommodation, the hospitality was usually warm. "This time for Africa," bellowed Shakira's World Cup anthem "Waka Waka" from every available speaker over a calendar month.
The football took off eventually after a slow start in the opening group matches. The opening match, between the hosts and Mexico, ended in a 1-1 draw at Soccer City, and the host's second match saw them destroyed by Uruguay in Pretoria to end realistic hopes of making the round of 16. France's campaign began amid a team revolution and ended with a meek exit from the group stages. Italy, the defending champions, were embarrassed and exited with a whimper, failing to win any of their group matches.
Once into the knockout round, Spain made short work of the Portuguese while Chile's thrills were swiftly ended by Brazil. Paraguay beat Japan while the American dream was ended by the power of Ghana. Argentina's beat Mexico 3-1, to set up a quarterfinal clash against Germany. Coach Diego Maradona's queer ideas backfired heavily as the Germans ran riot with a 4-0 victory.
A greater shock was felt in Port Elizabeth, where the Netherlands dumped Brazil out. Robinho's goal looked to have set up a procession but, from there, Dunga's team stalled badly as Wesley Sneijder's brace goals ended their journey.
Luis Suarez's handball from the goal line gave Uruguay a lifeline in quarterfinal against Ghana, before his side went on to win in shootout. Penalties proved the key moments in Spain's victory over the troublesome Paraguayans at Ellis Park too.
A repeat of Euro 2008's final took place in the semis in Durban, and for the Germans it was very much a similar story to that in Vienna. Spain were now beating a beguiling rhythm with their tiki-taka, and Carles Puyol scored the header that took them to their first ever final.
There, they would join the Dutch, who won out in a thriller with Uruguay in Cape Town. It ended in a 3-2 win for the Dutch, but Diego Forlan scored the type of goal that landed him the award of the tournament's best player from journalists.
The final was an ugly and cagey affair. Any flowing football was abandoned for a Dutch cynicism that was probably borne of an attempt to throw off Spain's passing game. The Dutch continued their brutality, and the Spanish acted up. Robben's break on the hour took him past the Spanish defence, before Casillas' leg outstretched stopped an unconvincing shot. Extra time came, and eventually Spain's dominance of possession finally paid off when Andres Iniesta dispatched the ball past Maarten Stekelenburg for the decider.
Spain, who had won every knockout game 1-0, had been much the superior team in the tournament after surviving that early blow against the Swiss. La Roja's possession game had the effect of dizzying opponents, so that no more than a singular goal was ever required. World Cup winners for the first time, they were now both continental and global champions.
FACTS & FIGURES
Runners-up: The Netherlands
Leading Scorers: Diego Forlan(URU),Thomas Mueller (GER),Wesley Sneijder (NED),
David Villa (SPA) -- 5