It's all over. The 2009 Confederations Cup is in the books and Brazil reigns supreme as the greatest team in the world.
Ok, maybe not. Or maybe so ... Hard to tell. What does the Confederations Cup really mean?
One thing the Cup does is serve as a dress rehearsal for the 2010 World Cup. This year's version surely showed the world what to expect come next summer: Raucous crowds, vuvuzelas and exciting play.
What else did we learn?
Here are five things we've learned from the Confederations Cup according to the Guardian's Johnathan Wilson, who was on the ground in South Africa.
#1 and 2 are interesting: Spain can be beaten and it's cold in the winter time in South Africa. Fair enough.
What do you think about #3? The world wide introduction of the vuvuzela?
"Those African trumpets?" Xabi Alonso said with a look of genuine disgust. "They make a terrible noise. I don't think it's a very good idea to have them on sale outside the grounds. Here's a piece of advice for Fifa: they should try to ban those things. It's not distracting but that noise is a bit annoying."
It seems like an innocent enough comment. Why, after all, shouldn't Alonso complain if something irks him? But it prompted fury among South African fans and was, it seems, part of the reason why the home crowd got behind the US in their semi-final victory over Spain. "South Africa is a noisy country," blasted a leader in the Daily Sun. "Foreigners should get used to it." A letter in the same paper, meanwhile, accused Alonso of being a modern-day conquistador.
You may know that the idea they're connected to the myth that baboons are killed by loud noise is farcical. You may know that they've only really been around for four or five years. You may despair of people who tell you that they're part of African football (they're not: I've been to three African Cups of Nations and heard the drumming of the Beninois and the Ivorians, the trumpets and trombones of the Nigerians, even the banjo-playing of Ali, the grinning and omnipresent Tunisian, but I'd never heard a vuvuzela until a fortnight ago). You may be driven slowly insane by them. But it's probably best not to mention it.
As far as I'm concerned, the noise kind of fades into the background once the play starts. I'm ok with them.
Wilson's 4th thing learned is that Brazil is pretty good. Kinda knew that already.
#5 is interesting. South Africa's almost ready. But not quite.
Two stories: a) driving back from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg, we ran out of fuel a couple of miles outside Soweto at 4am in a thick and swirling mist.I can only rely on this journalist's view point and other man-on-the-ground reports I've read, such as this one from the BBC's Simon Austin.
We walked to the nearest toll plaza, and were rescued by a short man with a moustache called November. He had no reason to help us but willingly hotwired his own car (I think), turned his hazard lights on and drove the wrong way up a slip road to get to a petrol station. His was merely an extreme example of the general welcoming attitude on the part of locals, fans and stewards.
b) After an excellent steak at the Melville Grill, I got a lift back to Sandton, where I was staying. I got out of the car, and went through the security gates, only vaguely aware of two vehicles screeching to a halt in the driveway. It was only the next day I found out what had happened next. The first car contained a white couple, in clear distress. The driver of the second car, who was black, leapt out, remonstrated angrily with the driver of the first, and then pulled a gun from a hip holster — at which the friend who had given me a lift sped off.
As he admitted, his first thought was that this was one of the car-jackings for which Johannesburg is notorious. Only later did it dawn on him that a carjacker probably wouldn't bother with a holster, and the likelihood was that the man with the gun was a plain-clothes police officer. But how on earth would you tell?
So? What do you think?