This article first appeared in the Sep/Oct 2010 issue of World Gaming magazine.
Spain finally has its name etched on the Cup that matters most. The Spanish started the tournaments as favourites – little wonder since the issue wasn't listing their strengths, it was the overwhelming absence of any weakness. Firstly they had depth. They had players warming their bench that would have been captaining other sides in the World Cup. They had a class edge over every other side right across the field. Their defence was rock solid, their mid-field dominated and up front they always looked dangerous. Quite simply the best team in the competition won.
The Dutch team's performance has solidified their place near the top of the table in world football. They were clearly the second best team in this year's World Cup and their effort against the Brazilians was arguably the best in the entire competition. The future for the Germans is also good, whereas the French and the Italians look to be on a downward slide. The South Americans were disappointing, outside of Uruguay, and the days where flashy moments of brilliance won World Cups may have come to an end. Spain had all the class of a great Brazilian side but also had the structure of a great Italian side.
South Africa should be applauded on their job as hosts. It is a hard party to run and for the most part they surpassed their most hopeful expectations. The African continent as a whole can take pride in the fact that they showed the world what they can do. On the field, however, the Africans were disappointing with only Ghana making it through to the round of 16. The Asian sides fared a little better with both Japan and South Korea making it through. The surprise package of the tournament was the New Zealanders, a side from a country where the sport of rugby is a national religion. Their national football team displayed solid skills and they managed to get through the tournament undefeated with impressive draws against the football powerhouses of Italy and Paraguay.
So where to now for the World Game? Well the viewers can take a break from international fixtures for a while and concentrate on club football. The English Premier League (EPL) has really become a global brand. The love for the game has spread to such incredible proportions that these sides are recognized and adored in every corner of the globe. So who has the edge over the rest this year?
Champions Chelsea will again be hard to beat. They have a stable list and no real weakness. Manchester United again will also be there at the top and Wayne Rooney will be looking forward to erasing the memories of a horrible World Cup. Arsenal could be the surprise package this year and will enjoy regaining the services of Dutch striker van Persie. With the confirmation that Fabregas will also be remaining with the Gunners they look to be an outfit that will challenge the very best this year.
As for the rest, Liverpool will be looking to reassert themselves back into the top four of the EPL. They have a new manager, a new look and will be as hungry as ever. That leaves us with the high flying Tottenham and the big spending Manchester City. Both of these clubs have exciting years in front of them. Tottenham have their chance in the Champions League and City should look to press with a playing list that rivals any of the top teams. It's one thing to have a team of great players but the challenge as always to mould them into a great team.
The best of the rest will include Aston Villa and Everton; they should remain easily clear of relegation but will struggle to battle it out with the top teams. The relegation battle will be about as exciting as the race for the Championship with 10 of the 20 teams far from certainties from finishing in the bottom three. The one thing for certain is that the EPL is back and thank goodness for that.
Add to that all the action from the Champions League and the Spanish and Italian League and you have an action-packed season of European football ahead. The Asian Football Championships are creeping up on us as well and World Gaming will keep you up-to-date on what you can expect in Asia.
With the huge range of football action ahead of us, let's hope we can all back plenty of winners.