It's a plain fact that, despite the buzz and excitement that surrounds the build up to every World Cup, only one nation can come out on top.

Everyone else goes home a loser. Yet our lust for the tournament continues because it's perfectly possible to have a good tournament without actually winning the thing.

Whether it be a classy goal, a close encounter with an old rival, or simply an underdog that takes down a favourite or two along the way, there will be highs and lows for almost each and every team that turns up in South Africa this summer.

2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa for iPhone and iPod touch reflects the topsy-turvy nature of the actual tournament: it too is lifted by moments of grace, and then sullied by a sloppy decision.

Tight at the top

The problem it encounters is one every touch-enabled football sim has to face: despite having a serious bit of kit at its disposal, the touchscreen just isn't well-suited to football.

Like other games, movement is handled via an on-screen thumbstick which holds up as well as any other system, even if it occasionally gets stuck when under pressure.

Two buttons on the right side of the screen enable you to shoot or pass, tackle or slide in, depending on whether you have possession of the ball.

There's even a new skill button that pops up from time to time, unleashing a special move when tapped.

Touch to play

EA has also improved the manner by which you switch between players, with far more intuitive touch controls ensuring that you can tap to change players at any time.

This feels entirely logical, but isn't without its flaws. The problem is you can only take charge of a player when he's on-screen. Should an opposition striker charge towards your box, he's usually long gone by the time you've switched to the nearest defender.

As such, it's only fair to describe the new system as an awkward setup in practice, and one that sadly proves to be more frustrating than enlightening.

But, despite the fact that most games feel like a battle as a result, 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is far from a bad game.

Indeed, most matches run down to the wire, and goals – usually a matter of passing your way through the pack, utilising a skill move to trick your way into the box, before firing it flat past the goalie – tend to be spectacular.

Game of two halves

Played in short bursts, what EA has produced is perfectly acceptable.

Spend a considerable length of time with the game, however, and its shortcomings become clear. The artificial intelligence, for instance, has to be called into question: players stick to a rigid script that prevents dynamic action.

Far too often, computer-controlled players either ignore or shoot straight past the ball rather than picking it up, seemingly because an earlier pass or play by the opposition triggered them into making a set move from which they won't break.

Likewise, your defence is equally susceptible if your opponent merely changes direction during their attack; your ten outfield players running in flat lines and playing predictably rather than matching the moves made by the other team.

Last-minute winner?

Still, having pointed out these failings, it's difficult to find many other football games on iPhone that tackle these issues with any more success.

Indeed, when viewed as part of a longer narrative, it would be easy to conclude that footie games - for the moment, at least - simply don't fit on iPhone.

As things stand, 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is certainly near the top of the table, and as an official World Cup tie-in it does the tournament justice.

Both full qualification and the World Cup itself are playable, while it's also possible to take on other players via Bluetooth or wi-fi.

FIFA's renowned Virtual Pro mode - here branded Captain Your Country - makes an appearance too, ensuring this is a package that will see out the real World Cup and beyond.

But there's no escaping the fact that 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is a mixed bag of highs and lows.

By solving some problems, EA seems to have created whole new ones. Nonetheless, it's hard to find another game of finger-based footie that has tackled the same issues with better results.