The 2010 World Cup finals have drawn to a close. Unlike Richard, I can’t say I’ve particularly enjoyed it. Maybe I’m getting old, maybe I just didn’t see enough live games but this tournament failed to generate the excitement I’ve felt with previous years. There were moments though; Ghana did Africa proud, Germany entertained, Spain were incredible and Forlan worked his magic for Uruguay. Spain deserve to be champions and have reminded the world how football ought to be played.
Fulham had a record high of five representatives (six if you count Senderos) and this got me thinking about the top five Fulham players to have appeared in the World Cup finals whilst still at the club.
1. George Cohen (England, 1966) – It wasn’t a hard decision to pick the number one slot. George played in all six games and was a vital member of England’s only World Cup winning slot. If only Zamora hadn’t needed surgery on his achilles perhaps Fabio would have come back a happier man. Cohen was a mainstay in a defence that didn’t concede a goal until Eusebio scored for Portugal in the 82nd minute of the semi-final. One of the enduring images of the competition is Alf Ramsey stopping George from swapping shirts with one of the Argentineans after what had been a very physical contest. Cohen was left with a shirt with a four foot long sleeve. Cohen would almost certainly have featured in the England side that went to Mexico in 1970 had injury not cut his career short.
Apps = 6 Goals = 0 Furthest round = Winner
2. John Paintsil (Ghana, 2010) – Ghana’s progress was one of the undoubted highlights of 2010. Deservedly progressing to the knockout stages from a tough group in which they only lost to a vibrant Germany. They went on to win a closely fought game with the USA, before the heartbreak of a penalty defeat to Uruguay after one of the great World Cup injustices. In reaching the quarter-finals they’d gone one stage further than in 2006 but came oh so close to becoming the first ever African semi-finalists. Paintsil was present for all 5 matches and was a focal point of the team spirit. His post match lap of honour, flying the Ghanaian flag high brought a smile to the face. He also created a new set of trivia questions for future sports quizzes everywhere, adding a new misspelling of his name (Panstil) during the Serbia win and choosing to play in a shirt with one long sleeve and one short sleeve.
Apps = 5 Goals = 0 Furthest round = Quarter Final
3. Johnny Haynes (England, 1958 & 1962) – Our greatest ever player was also our representative to make most World Cup appearances. Haynes played in both the 1958 and 1962 World Cups though neither proved to be successful. In Sweden, Haynes featured in all four games, drawing with the Soviet Union, Brazil (the only team Brazil failed to beat that year) and Austria (Haynes scoring England’s first goal) before losing to the Soviet Union in a playoff. Four years later Haynes was Captain and led England to qualify from the group stages before losing 3-1 to Brazil in the quarter-finals. This was to be Haynes last ever England cap, after a bike crash later the same year kept him out of the game for almost a year. The fall out from the ’62 World Cup resulted in some major changes to the way the national side was run. Alf Ramsey was appointed in 1963 and became the first English coach to have complete control over team selection.
Apps = 8 Goals = 1 Furthest round = Quarter Final
4. Steve Finnan (Republic of Ireland, 2002) – Stevie Finnan was one of my favourite Fulham players and it had been his cross that had allowed Jason McAteer to score the goal that qualified the Republic for these finals. Despite this he started their opening fixture, against Cameroon, on the bench. Coming on at half time to replace McAteer when the Republic were a goal down. They drew that match and Finnan remained in the team from then on as they drew with Germany and beat Saudi Arabia 3-0. They met Spain in the last 16 and had to fight back from conceding a goal in the 8th minute. Ian Harte missed a penalty before Robbie Keane stepped up to pull the scores level, also from the spot, in the final minute of normal time. A fraught penalty shoot out saw Ireland miss three consecutive efforts, but Finnan successfully despatched his effort to bring the scores level at 2-2. Relief was short lived though, as Gaizka Mendieta slotted his shot away and Spain went through to the next round.
Apps = 4 Goals = 1 pen Furthest round = Last 16
5. Brian McBride (USA, 2006) – 2006 was McBride’s third World Cup and probably not one he’ll remember fondly. The USA struggled in a very tough group, failing to qualify for the knockout stage and finishing bottom of their group. Brian makes it into my top five (ahead of Clint Dempsey, who with 4 appearances and a goal in 2010 has a good claim to this spot) due to a display of tenacity and determination against Italy. The US could not afford to lose after an opening game horror show that saw them lose 3-0 to the Czech Republic. Italy took the lead but a sliced clearance from Cristian Zaccardo ended in his own net and brought USA level. Seconds later a shocking elbow from De Rossi left McBride with blood streaming down his face and saw the Italians down to ten men. A poor challenge from Mastroeni earned another straight red, and then a second yellow for Eddie Pope left the States with nine men. They fought on regardless and, thanks to some fabulous goal keeping from Kasey Keller, held on for the point.
Apps = 3 Goals = 0 Furthest round = Group
Fulham’s other World Cup representatives were; Luis Boa Morte (1 sub app Portugal, 2006), Carlos Bocanegra (3 apps for USA, 2006), Clint Dempsey (4 apps and a goal for USA, 2010), Mark Schwarzer (3 apps for Australia, 2010), KG (3 apps for South Africa, 2010), Dickson Etuhu (3 apps for Nigeria, 2010)