Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A look back at the noughties

Soon after the start of the new decade Nigeria hosted the African Cup of Nations where they were to be beaten by Cameroon on penalties in the final resulting in a massive 55 place leap for the Cameroonians who ended the year 15th in the world rankings.
Brazil had begun the millennium in top spot but lost 3-0 to Chile in a World Cup qualifier and lost out to France who were crowned champions of Europe after a golden goal decided the final against Italy in Rotterdam. Japan were the biggest movers of the year finishing 14th in the world after becoming Asian champions with a 1-0 final win against Saudi Arabia in Lebanon.
2001 saw Australia score 53 goals in 2 days, hammering Tonga 22-0 and then smashing their own world record by demolishing American Samoa 31-0 two days later in another World Cup qualifier. Brazil had a disastrous year and ended up in 20th place after losing to Ecuador, France, Australia, Uruguay, Mexico, Honduras, Argentina and Bolivia. France won the Confederations Cup in Japan with a 1-0 win over their hosts while Colombia lifted the Copa America in front of their home crowd with a single goal in the final against Mexico. In ayear of ups and downs Portugal ended the year on top.
2002 was the year of the first World Cup to be played in Asia hosted jointly by Japan and South Korea which Brazil won with a 2-0 victory over Germany in the final putting their recent disappointments behind them and regain world superiority. Earlier Cameroon had beaten Senegal on penalties to claim the African crown in Mali.
2003 will be remembered for the tragic death of Cameroon player Marc-Vivien FoƩ, who died of heart failure in his side's semi-final match against Colombia in France. The French retained the cup with a golden goal scored by Thierry Henry in the final against Cameroon. The Czech Republic and Greece did exceptionally well to qualify directly for Euro 2004 by topping their groups ahead of The Netherlands and Spain respectively.
2004 started with Tunisia celebrating on home soil after defeating Morocco 2-1 in the final of the African Cup of Nations, but in the European equivalent Greece shocked the world by reaching the final and upsetting hosts Portugal 1-0 to win the coveted European title. Defending champions Japan retained their Asian crown beating hosts China 3-1 in the final.
2005 was about qualifying for the 2006 World Cup and getting a taste of things to come with the Confederations Cup also being held in Germany in which Brazil triumphed with the 4-1 humiliation of Argentina in the final.
2006 may have started off well for African hosts Egypt who won a penalty shootout against Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations final, but World Cup hosts Germany who were going through a transformation and surprisingly not favourites to do well, reached the semi finals where they fell to eventual winners Italy who defeated France on penalties in the final which will be remembered for the late dismissal of Zinedine Zidane for ramming into Materazzi just before bowing out of the game.
2007 reaffirmed Brazil’s dominance in South America when they convincingly brushed aside the much fancied Argentina 3-0 in the Copa America final hosted by Venezuela. Haiti lifted the Caribbean Cup early in the year beating hosts Trinidad & Tobago 2-1 in the final, and in Asia Iraq stunned the world of football by lifting the Asian Cup with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia in the final in Jakarta. In Europe the qualifying round for Euro 2008 reached its conclusion with England failing to reach the finals under Steve McClaren, and the attack of a Danish fan on the match referee in Copenhagen costing the Danes dearly as UEFA subsequently awarded the match 3-0 to Sweden.
2008 was the year that Spain finally got its hand on a major trophy when Fernando Torres broke the deadlock against Germany in the final of Euro 2008 hosted by Austria/Switzerland. Egypt had earlier added another African cup to their name with a 1-0 victory over Cameroon in Ghana, and towards the end of the year Jamaica won the Caribbean Cup with a 2-0 win over Grenada on home soil.
2009 Introduced South Africa to the world as they prepared for the World Cup by hosting the Confederations Cup which saw the USA miraculously reach the final and take a 2 goal lead before losing 3-2 to Brazil. The Americans also reached the final of the Gold Cup where they were hammered 5-0 by the visiting Mexicans. Among World Cup qualifiers arguably the most outstanding result of the year was Bolivia’s historic 6-1 humiliation of Diego Maradona’s Argentina.
The decade ends with a new era on the horizon as the world looks to Africa with the African Cup of Nations in January and more importantly the 2010 World Cup to be held in South Africa.