Looking back at the World Cup

Posted on July 17, 2014

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As the post-World Cup depression takes hold, the realisation sets in that there’s still over a month of monotonous transfer rumours and in the know garbage to endure before the football season starts again. I thought I would take a look back on some of the highlights of the World Cup in Brazil and pick out some of my favourite moments.

The lead up to Brazil 2014 was mired by a backdrop of protests and civil unrest. The Brazilian people questioned the spiralling costs of hosting the tournament and the source of the funding to build the necessary stadia and infrastructure. The main prerogative of the protesters focused on the need for financial investment in more important areas of the country outside of football where the poorest people of Brazil suffered, areas such as healthcare, education and infrastructure.

The build up to the tournament was largely focused on whether Brazil would be ready in time for the opening game on June 12th and if the country could handle the pressures of hosting the World Cup outside of the football itself. However, by the time of the Arena Corinthians opened its doors for Brazil Vs Croatia, largely everyone outside of Brazil had put the underlying issues and pre-tournament anxiety to the back of their minds as football fever took hold.

Shock & awe tactics

The precedent was set instantly as Brazilian left-back, Marcelo bundled to ball past his own goalkeeper to open the scoring, thus claiming Brazils first own goal at the World Cup finals. The tournament snowballed from there, offering up an abundance of goals and edge-of-your-seat, attacking football. Overall, Brazil ‘14 equalled the record set in France ‘98 for the most goals scored at the World Cup finals.

Surprises were one and many. Vicente Del Bosque’s, domineering Spain side and defending champions were dismantled effortlessly by Louis van Gaal’s ruthless men of Oranje in the group stages. The 1-5 annihilation was the first major shock, as the Dutch emphatically exorcised the demons of Johannesburg in a match that marked the passing of arguably the greatest national side in the history of the game. To add Spain’s woes, they were eventually dumped out of the tournament by a physically supreme and highly entertaining Chile team, who themselves were left contemplating what could have been after Mauricio Pinilla’s powerful effort late in extra-time of the first quarter-final cannoned off the Brazilian cross bar.

The flying Dutchman, Robin van Persie

The flying Dutchman, Robin van Persie

Pre-conceived whipping boys, Costa Rica showed the world what it takes to be a true ‘team’ beating Uruguay and Italy to top Group D and eventually advancing to the quarter-finals, the furthest stage in their history. They played the underdogs in the majority of their games and were eventually taken down by the Dutch, but only on penalties.

There were many more moments that stuck in my memory from the tournament; including Xherdan Shaqiri’s hattrick for Switzerland against Honduras, Tim Howard’s heroic goalkeeping against Belgium, Ghana’s 2-2 draw with Germany and a moment of classic Pepe madness as he saw red red for head-butting Thomas Müller to name only a few.

Match of the tournament

The match of the tournament has to be Germany’s 1-7 victory over Brazil. What more is there to say? It was one of the strangest matches I’ve ever seen. The Germans were simply spellbinding, ruthlessly punished every mistake made by the Brazilians. The first half was something of an anomaly as Brazil crumbled under the pressure from their European counterparts. A lack of defensive organisation, positioning and communication was skilfully exploited by Germany who, on several occasions, passed the ball around the Brazilian box effortlessly before finally deciding they should probably put the ball in the net.

Player of the tournament

The player of the tournament has to be Colombia’s James Rodriguez. He was outstanding in every game he played for the Colombians, his creativity and goals were of vital importance and he won the Golden Boot with a total of 6 goals. In my opinion, he deserved to win the Golden Ball award over Lionel Messi. He was consistently better than the Argentinian throughout the tournament and after the kicking he received at the feet of the Brazilians, Rodriguez, and the entire Colombia team for that matter deserved better than their quarter-final exit.

Golden Ball winner, James Rodriguez

Golden Ball winner, James Rodriguez

Goal of the tournament

In my opinion, there are two main contenders for goal of the tournament and I couldn’t really pick one as the overall winner.

1. The first is Tim Cahill’s volley against the Netherlands.

2. The second is James Rodriguez’ chest and volley against Uruguay.

Both players showed amazing composure and technique to dispatch the ball from their relative positions. Cahill’s goal in particular was van Basten-esque. There are also honourable mentions for Robin van Persie’s diving header against Spain, David Luiz’s long-range free-kick against Colombia, Xherdan Shaqiri’s powerful strike against Honduras and Lionel Messi against Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Team of the tournament

It was a difficult but fun task trying to pick the best XI players of the World Cup and below is my team.

Remembering Brazil ‘14

Germany were by far the best and most consistent team at the World Cup and thoroughly deserved to win the trophy. Joachim Loew’s side combined ruthless finishing, tireless work ethic and exceptional, fluid football to put the majority of their opponents to the sword.

Argentina were the antipathy of Germany’s brand of football and arguably didn’t deserve to get past the Swiss in the second round. A half-fit Lionel Messi managed to conjure up several moments of brilliance from his endless repertoire of football genius, but ultimately it wasn’t to be ‘his time’ as many had hoped.

Mario Götze's majestic touch and finish sinks Argentina

Mario Götze’s majestic touch and finish sinks Argentina

Instead, Mario Götze’s sublime chest control and delicate volley in extra-time handed Germany the FIFA World Cup trophy and capped the best tournament in recent memory. A side that has been 14 years in the making reached its zenith, but this could just be the beginning of world domination for Germany, as they look to tread a similar path to their predecessors, Spain.

We can all agree that Brazil ‘14 was a high octane, football feast that was thoroughly enjoyed by fans across the globe. However, the most pertinent factor that will determine the legacy of the tournament will not become apparent until far into the future. Will the memories of Brazil ‘14 be amplified by nostalgia? Will it be whispered in the same breath as Switzerland ’54 or Mexico ’86?

I believe so. When I reminisce to my children about football in my day, I have no doubt I’ll recall the day that Germany beat Brazil 1-7 in the World Cup semi-final or the moment the defending champions Spain were destroyed in their opening game 1-5 by the Dutch. Brazil ‘14 has left a lasting impression on me and it won’t forget it anytime soon that’s for sure.

By Jamie Allen

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Posted in: Football