Heroes, villains, upsets, heartbreaks, glories, controversies… Brazil 2014 has seen it all. We look back at the past month of footballing action, and more.
It started with Pitbull, but got better. It had been snowballing into one ‘big fiasco’ and the critics had sharpened their blades as the days grew near, but the moment Neymar pushed the ball forward to get the tournament underway the cynics were forced into retreating. Their swords were returned to the scabbards and nothing but football made headlines.
Moments of glory lay interspersed with those of heartbreak. There were success stories and those of failure. Dishonesty replaced sportsmanship at times and there were times when the ugly face of defeat said a lot more than the glorious shots of victory. There were upsets, giant-killers, heroes and villains. There were favourites expected to go all the way (*cough* Spain *cough*), but whose time was cut short and there were the dark horses , who happily extended their stay with performances that forced the world to sit up and take notice.
Heart-warming tales of humanity co-existed alongside those that stoked thoughts of inconsiderateness and greed pervading and lurking within our imperfect human nature.
There were moments of controversy and shame as well, but, most notably, Football rose above all that was undesirable and thankfully none of it had anything to do with Brazil’s handing of the month long carnival. It is a sport that one of Brazil’s most famous sons Pele fondly dubbed: “the beautiful game” (Jogo Bonito in Portuguese) and the best thing is that it remained that way.
Come Monday, the world will have a new champion, with the bragging rights set to either return to Europe or remain along with the trophy in the hands of the South Americans.
The 2014 World Cup will be remembered for what it was, an absolute smörgåsbord which united the world.
We revisited the past month to bring you the highlights and the best of everything that transpired during the 63 matches played so far and hope you enjoy it just as we have putting it together.
The Crème da la crème:
Messi lit up the World Cup as expected but there were times when his performances appeared below par. The late stunner against Iran, though, would have silenced his critics. Still, Messi being Messi and Argentina relying heavily on their #10 made him one of the highlights of the tournament.
The Golden Boy of Brazil was superb in tournament scoring 4 goals and was left aghast when that injury cost him and Brazil dearly. Neymar fired all cylinders scoring four and delighted the world with his tantalising skills. The bright side, however, is Neymar has age on his side and will definitely be around for more years to come.
Messi, Neymar, CR7, these were the names set to rule the roost at the World Cup, and they did, but the Colombian springing up from nowhere was more than welcome. James added youth and class to the World Cup with his fine play in the Colombian front line and his six goals helped El Café to their first ever World Cup Quarter Final.
The Bayern Munich man was sublime throughout the tournament. His ugly moment came when he dived versus Mexico to earn a penalty and even admitted to do so. Robben proved a match-winner alright for the Dutch, who were on the brink of exiting the tournament at the Quarter-Finals stage at the hands of Mexico. The Bayern Munich winger has been superb all along for club and country and his pacy, captivating dribbling skills and accurate left foot were a treat at every stage of the competition. His best moment was making a mockery of Sergio Ramos and scoring past Casillas with some ease.
He may be lanky, but only Goku can stop Müller from playing his heart out for Germany. Müller started from where he left off, netting a hattrick vs Portugal. If Germany are playing in another World Cup final then much of the credit went to Germany’s #13 who at the tender age of 24 has underlined his status as one of the most revered strikers with five goals in this World Cup, with more to come, surely.
(Fun fact: Maradona thought Müller was a ball boy at the 2010 World Cup and as of today, Müller (10) has more World Cup goals than the legendary Maradona(8))
This World Cup marked the end of many players’ international campaign.
Xabi Alonso: Bowed out with one goal to his name and other dismal performances.An omnipresent player of the Double Euro and World Cup winning side, a loyal servant, his presence will be missed by the Furia Roja in the coming tournamnets.
Gianluigi Buffon: A solid custodian at the back for Italy, he was the 2006 World Cup winner and Euro 2012 Runner-Up. He has been phenomenal in every tournament and has been one of the most consistent keepers of his generation. He bows out, leaving all football fans wondering, what next in goal for Italy?
Miroslav Klose: 16 goals in World Cups, a record holder, Miroslav Klose will play what should be his final game in the Final vs Argentina. He has been splendid through his Germany career and boasts a record of being the only player to appear in 4 consecutive World Cup semi finals.
Steven Gerrard: The captain of Liverpool and England had a tournament to forget under Roy Hodgson, where they crashed out in the group stages. Nobody can deny his quality and character, a true leader on the pitch, this should be his last World Cup. It was would’ve been better if England had done marginally better, but they slipped a few marks off.
Didier Drogba: The Cote D’Ivoire striker bids goodbye to the World Cup. A man worshipped in Africa and at Chelsea, he was a top man at his peak. He failed to make an impact this time out but will down as one of the greats to have graced the game with 104 games and 83 goals.
Andrea Pirlo: The midfield maestro of Italy he was excellent was England, but failed to impress versus the rest. Pirlo is surely not going to be there at Russia in 2018. If you saw the Juventus man play, consider yourselves lucky, because you are very unlikely to see a player who plays with such class and finesse.
THE RISING STARS OF THE WORLD CUP
James Rodriguez: “Hamezz” is the first name that comes to our mind as we talk about rising stars. With 6 goals to his name, he lit up the tournament with some terrific displays. He is a strong contender for the Golden Ball, and might just win the Golden Boot. Don’t be surprised to see his value inflated post Brazil.
Daley Blind: The Netherlands left back surprised us all with some eye catching displays against Spain, Chile and Brazil. He was instrumental to Netherlands’ cause and helped Arjen Robben and van Persie with his efforts.
Keylor Navas: The Costa Rican goalkeeper was superb, conceding only 3 goals and helping his side remain unbeaten through the course of the tournament. His quality was shown in the Netherlands game and Uruguay game, saving almost everything thrown at him. He even saved Los Ticos in the shootout versus Greece, but was unable to repeat that feat vs Holland.
Goals of the Tournament:
We saw some absolute stunners at this tournament, here are some of the best:
Dr. Joe N.H’s views and predictions:
Golden Ball Winner: Lionel Messi
Golden Boot Winner: James Rodriguez
Golden Glove Winner: Manuel Neuer
Surprise Performers: Costa Rica
Surprise Underperformers: Spain
Aaron Johnson’s views and predictions:
Golden Ball Winner: Thomas Müller
Golden Boot Winner: James Rodriguez / Thomas Müller
Golden Glove Winner: Manuel Neuer
Surprise Performers: Costa Rica
Surprise Underperformers: Uruguay