One goal changed everything. It changed the culture of a nation that had never won a World Cup title. It changed the lives of the fans that had waited so long to be able to run wildly through streets with nothing on their minds but simply celebrating the sweet taste of victory. It changed the life of a coach who had worked so hard to compile a team worthy of winning the Cup while not allowing that team to lose their focus and fall short. But most of all, it changed the lives of 23 soccer players who never gave up in making their dreams a reality. There had to be no better feeling than what those players felt when the final whistle blew in Sunday’s match. That satisfying feeling of knowing they were the best group of soccer players in the world is something every soccer player dreams of but most don’t have the pleasure of experiencing.

The 2010 World Cup ended with a 116th minute goal by Spain’s Andres Iniesta to give his team a 1-0 win and their first ever World Cup title. But there were plenty of exciting moments along the way that are definitely worth remembering. The atmosphere was electric, the goals were memorable, the referring was questionable, but the end result was a tournament full of memories that no soccer fan will soon forget. This tournament had everything, and more.

The most memorable goal of the tournament, for me at least, is sort of a two-fold answer. As a U.S. soccer fan it had to be Landon Donovan’s goal in extra time to give the U.S a 1-0 victory over Algeria and help them advance to the second round. As an overall fan, Giovanni Van Bronckhorst’s goal for the Netherlands against Uruguay in the semifinals was the “nastiest” goal of the tournament. He took one touch toward the goal and it was like his foot morphed into a cannon. He ripped a shot from about 30 yards out that was on a rope and put it in the upper 90 just past the outstretched arms of the Uruguay keeper. Goals like this are why us soccer fans watch.

The most memorable moment of the tournament, again judging from an overall fan’s perspective, was when Uruguay’s Luis Suarez blocked a sure goal with his hand at the goal line against Ghana in the quarterfinals. This moment in itself was very unexpected being that it was in the 121st minute of the game, but the play that followed was just as startling. Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan was already 2-for-2 in penalty shots in the tournament and was picked to take the shot that would put his country into the semfinals. This was a sure thing, right? Wrong. With tired legs and blurry focus, Gyan banged his shot off the crossbar and gave Uruguay new life. Uruguay eventually won the game in penalty kicks, but the real story of the game was the moments leading up to the result.

For U.S soccer fans, this was probably the most exciting group of games they have ever had the pleasure of watching. Obviously it didn’t end the way we all wanted it to, but there was plenty to be proud of and disappointed at along the way. Having to battle back from one- and two-goal deficits wasn’t something we wanted to see, but the way in which it happened was truly exhilarating. Donovan’s extra time goal against Algeria was one of the greatest moments in U.S. men’s soccer history. It put the U.S. through to the second round and gave a nation something to cheer about and come together for, which is really what it’s all about. There’s nothing better than having everyone forget about their daily problems, put aside their differences and just agree on something so simple as putting a ball in the back of a net. And even if it was just for a couple weeks, this simple game of soccer showed us that there is hope for all of us in life, as individuals and as a country.

Submitted by Steve Giles