Despite a strong challenge from Morocco, that was how it turned out.
Unfortunately for them, the national team had declined since its late 1990s heyday, and South Africa became the first host nation ever to be eliminated in the group stage.
The two sides who had contested the final four years earlier also went out in the first round, as Italy and France both finished bottom of their groups without winning a match. Sympathy for the French plight was not great in Ireland, following Thierry Henry’s infamous handball in the play offs.
After the way they had won the European Championship two years earlier, 2010 was seen as the best chance for Spain to finally deliver on the biggest stage of all. They lost their opening match to Switzerland, but still went on to top their group, and successive 1-0 wins over Portugal, Paraguay and Germany took them into their first ever World Cup final.
Spain’s hopes were also enhanced by the surprise elimination of Brazil in the quarter finals, as the Netherlands came from behind to beat them 2-1. The Dutch then secured their place in the final with a 3-2 win over Uruguay, who had reached the last four in controversial circumstances.
With the scores tied at 1-1 against Ghana, Luis Suarez used his hand to prevent a certain goal at the end of extra time. Suarez was sent off, but Asamoah Gyan hit the bar with the resulting penalty, denying Ghana the chance to become the first African side ever to reach the semi finals, and Uruguay went on to win on penalties.
The final between Spain and Netherlands guaranteed a first-time winner. The Dutch took an extremely physical approach from the start, and had Johnny Heitinga sent off, with several of his team mates fortunate not to be dismissed as well.
With four minutes to go in extra time and a penalty shoot out looming, Andres Iniesta scored the only goal of the match, leaving the Dutch as runners up for a third time, and making Spain only the eighth country ever to win the World Cup.