Sport's biggest showpiece was six years in the planning and came to define the national agenda, shaping budget priorities, infrastructure development and daily conversations from townships to vineyards.
Over the past month it has put South Africa at the centre of the sporting world, silencing the critics with its smooth operation and vuvuzela-blowing joie de vivre. It has helped challenge the way Africa is perceived around the world.
But when the final whistle blows at tonight's final between Holland and Spain at Soccer City, and the global gaze shifts elsewhere, it will leave a World Cup-shaped hole in many South Africans' lives. Tomorrow morning they will wake up with one almighty hangover.
South Africans ponder life after the World Cup
July 11, 2010