The 2010 World Cup is over, but the monthlong tournament will leave more than a few lasting memories. Senior writer Grant Wahl offers five of his favorites from South Africa
This is an article from the July 19, 2010 issue
The Soweto kickoff watch party
Rather than attending the opening game between South Africa and Mexico at Soccer City, I saw it with my old friend Mxolisi Mahlangu at a public-viewing area in Soweto. When Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the first goal of the World Cup to give South Africa a 1--0 lead, the nearly 1,000 fans around me erupted, and a half-dozen strangers (and Mxo) wrapped me in bear hugs.
The Yanks' celebration
When Landon Donovan scored in stoppage time to defeat Algeria in Pretoria and save the U.S. from elimination, the outpouring of emotion among the Americans was off the charts. "My favorite memory from that goal was turning the corner and looking up and seeing first Stuart Holden's face running toward the corner flag," recalled Donovan, "followed by, like, 30 people, including staff and coaches and everyone, and just meeting at the corner flag to celebrate." U.S. fans in the stands—and around America—won't forget it either.
Any Diego Maradona press conference
The Argentine legend couldn't coach his team to World Cup glory, but he did win the interview-room battle, providing priceless quotes to the world press. When Argentina got off to a rousing start, Maradona asked that journos apologize to his players for having doubted them: "I'm not suggesting you drop your trousers, but it would be honest and great so we all get along better." Asked about his penchant for hugging and kissing his men, Maradona, 49, flashed a look of mock horror and insisted, "I am dating Veronica, who is blonde and 31 years old."
Van Bronckhorst's bomb
Best goal of the World Cup? For me it was the laser by Giovanni van Bronckhorst from outside the box to give the Netherlands a 1--0 lead against Uruguay in the semifinals. The 35-yard blast by the Dutch captain, which came out of nowhere, made millions who were watching shoot up as if they were sitting in ejection seats—one of the great joys for anyone who loves this sport.
The whispers coursed through Johannesburg throughout the day: Nelson Mandela, the 92-year-old icon of South Africa, might attend the final. He had missed the opening match while mourning the death of his great-granddaughter in an auto accident, but there he was on Sunday, being driven around the field on a golf cart, wearing a fur hat and a beatific smile. A genuine goose-bump moment and one of the many great images from a fantastic tournament.