1. Parking the bus.
Yes, no matter what else happened, 'parking the bus' scored a wonderful victory in South Africa. Take a look at North Korea's experience in the tournament: park the bus against Brazil, shut out the mighty five-time champions for half a match, get plenty of plaudits; don't park the bus against Portugal, get crucified. What's the lesson? Exactly. Park the bus. When in doubt, park the bus. Defend, defend, defend. Block, block, block. Now I'm not saying there isn't an art of defending and it shouldn't be lost entirely, and I don't want football to be like basketball - the tension comes from the few scoring opportunities and the rarity of goals - but come on. Even more adventurous teams like Japan ended up parking the bus. Spain did things a little differently, and parked the bus in midfield. But they still parked the bus.
2. "Don't write off the Germans"
Some football cliches died at this World Cup - happily, the "perennial underachievers" tag has been taken away from Spain and handed to, well, England maybe; but "Don't write off the Germans" has come good. Don't write off the Germans! Why not? Well, their league produces great players and helps the national side, as opposed to the best league in the world (tm). They were great to watch on the counter attack, but nervy against Spain, and deserved to go down in that semi-final. Shame. That performance against Argentina was terrific.
3. That octopus.
If Pulpo Paul had fucked up the very first World Cup prediction, we'd have moved on to some other animal somewhere doing some predicting - a porcupine catching ping-pong balls on his spines, perhaps; maybe a tiger in a cage with a couple of scared deer painted in national colours. What would be wrong with that? Anyway, the 'psychic' (pick the one on the right and keep your tentacles crossed) sea-dweller got things perfectly correct. What are the chances? Well, not astronomical, actually, but that's beside the point.
4. Footballers looking like old men on a day out at the bandstand in October.
Look at the saps, covering their chilly legs with blankets to stop them getting all cold. Awwwww! For fuck's sake! What kind of international athletes are these, scared of a bit of cold? I'll show you proper cold weather, freezing in horizontal sleet in the middle of winter! And they wear gloves nowadays! Would you like a Werthers Original? All my friends have died. I'm lonely now!
5. "This is poor"
Alan Green needn't attend the next World Cup. He should simply record "This is poor" and sprinkle some corn over a play button on a tape recorder, then bring in a couple of chickens. "This is poor... this is poor... this is poor..."
I know Greeny had a point at times during the tournament, but as Woody Allen said about bad orgasms "My worst one was right on the money". It's the ruddy World Cup, you jammy bastards! At least rouse a bit of cheeriness! Chin up!
6. New Zealand.
The only team to remain undefeated throughout the entire competition, they win the "Scotland 1974 award for being undefeated but not especially good either". Switzerland also win a special award for having beaten the world champions, thereby having a legitimate yet paper-thin claim to be the best team in the world, despite all other results hinting otherwise.
7. Sven-Goran Eriksson.
There he was again, not doing a tremendous amount, but not doing a tremendous amount wrong either. His mysteriously high football stock will have mysteriously risen yet further, and he'll get yet another plum job in the very near future. Wouldn't have been 4-1 to Germany with Sven at the helm! It would have been 2-1, with no attacks whatsoever, Owen Hargreaves brought on as a sub when England needed goals. What's that you say, Heskey? Oh, fair point.
Technically not winners, in that they were stunningly shite, they did, however, give all other teams and nations a wonderful laugh at their expense during the rather ponderous group phase. It's usually the Dutch you can rely on to slip into infighting and split camps before they've even got off the plane, but this year France were determined to take on the mantle. Unlike Eriksson, Raymond Domenech's stock has fallen; while the French players kept up the national stereotype by going on strike for a day. What more could you want, apart from a dodgy handball to see them go out?
9. Juan Sebastian Veron.
Argentina might have been undone by Germany, but Veron managed a rather interesting feat in the game against Greece, completing more passes than the entire Greek team managed between them in the same game. He and Diego Forlan were among the players who proved that you can be a flop in the best league in the world (tm), even in the best team in the best league in the world (tm), and still be a rather good footballer.
Not a victory for beautiful silky football, as the cliche will have us believe, but they just about edged it over the entire tournament, I think. I'd have liked to have seen the Germans win, but Spain deserved to beat them in the semi-final. And now 'perennial achievers' at last.