Will Robson, in London: What a difference four years makes. In 2006 the world watched in stunned silence as Zinedine Zidane delivered the most infamous head-butt of all time whilst Italy won the World Cup in an all-European final.
Four years later and both sides have failed to make it through their groups – with the Italians finishing behind lowly New Zealand. With all Europe’s big names struggling to find their form, the chances of another all-European final look almost non-existent.
The question is, how did the reigning world champions and their beaten finalists come to crash out so embarrassingly? The French, of course, blame England for instilling a ‘money grabbing’ culture in their key players. The Italians don’t seem to know who to blame - it seems to be more a reaction of shock than anger amongst their press.
However, the problems in both squads do seem to be fairly obvious. The French, whether it is down to the English influence or not, appear to suffer from severely inflated egos and unprofessional behaviour. This has been endemic right through the squad from Nicolas Anelka’s rant, to the boycott of training and Raymond Domenech refusing to shake Carlos Parreira’s hand.
The Italian squad were doubted before the competition due to their age and the critics appear to have been proved right. Against Slovakia the old legs that made up most of the team seemed to have lost the will to fight, will the few young legs, Quagliarella in particular, struggled on alone.
Intense rebuilding is clearly needed in both camps. Two of the titans of European football have fallen and the remainder are stuttering in the competition. The South Americans are clearly taking advantage and dominating their groups. Argentina have looked scintillating. Brazil will be there or there abouts, while Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Mexico have played exciting, expansive football.
This World Cup has also brought African football to the very forefront of the world game and while South Africa, Cameroon and the Ivory Coast in particular will be disappointed they have not gone beyond the group stages - Ghana's progress represents the strength of African football.
Latin America’s dominance, combined with the lacklustre European effort and the progress of African and Asian sides, shows how the 2010 World Cup could represent a turning point in the global game.