My Brazil 2014 Top Five’s
Well, this is it then, World Cup Final day. It seems like an age ago when I watched the opening game with some mates in a pub in Sidcup, but a month later, the fútbol de carnaval journey is almost over, and whilst the words ‘best ever’ have been on every fan, journalist and pundit’s lips every day since, the Brazilians may never recover!
Proclaiming anything the ‘best ever’ until it has ended is a little premature, so the world waits to see if today’s final can provide us with a fitting finale to what has been an extraordinary World Cup in more ways than one.
So, as I sit here this morning like a kid on Christmas Eve and wondering what is going to fill my head until August 9th, I have compiled one, actually two, of my Chicago Addick Top 5’s.
The best of Brazil 2014 Top 5:
1) The hosts
Brazil for all of the pre-tournament tensions and overspending has been a glorious host. FIFA can have a finger pointed at them for many number of reasons, but wanting a modern World Cup Finals in this football crazed and passionate home of world football is not one of them.
Games have been more open and attacking than for many a decade, samba-like atmosphere’s in stadiums, that we expected to see half built with riots at the front door, have looked amazing.
The noise, the colour and the excitement that has rained down from the stands has demanded entertainment and that is what we got. Without any hint of trouble and from talking to mates that were in Brazil fans from all over the world have contrived to make this one of the most majestic ever. I wished so much that I went.
Yes, ok, replace the Netherlands with Spain and almost every amateur gambler would have picked the four finalists before the first ball had been kicked.
But, who would have thought that it would be Brazil that got the biggest shellacking, and not one of the minnows?
The fact is, there aren’t any minnows anymore. Every team played their part. Algeria’s win over South Korea was a brilliant display of attacking football. Australia’s match against the Netherlands was one of the best I saw, Ghana were superb when they almost beat the Germans, and Iran were absolutely outstanding against the other finalist’s Argentina.
Mexico and Costa Rica (photo) both inspired the competition and I revelled in watching both the fans and the players that represented beautifully the countries of Colombia and Chile.
And finally the USA played with a pride and a desire that appears to have disappeared from the nation that invented those traits, England.
3) Memorable moments
Age has certainly dimmed memories, but I really do think that Brazil 2014 will live long in the memory for so many reasons. In almost every of the 63 games there has seemingly been at least one moment to treasure. Go on, name the crappy games.
I’ll give you five. Iran v Nigeria, Costa Rica v England, Japan v Greece, Korea v Belgium and most disappointingly of all the Argentina v Netherlands semi-final.
Great players make great games. A successful World Cup requires the best players to turn it on. A world wide audience is watching as are millions of impressionable kids. Many would say a great player is great in only name until they prove that they can do it on the world’s biggest stage and I would agree.
For this reason alone, I would love to see Lionel Messi put in a superstar performance today. He has been a little wishy-washy for me, but there have been many others who have illuminated pitches.
Neymar’s reputation remains intact, and he was excellent before he got a cruel injury. Arjen Robben for all of the amateur dramatics, has worked hard for the Dutch cause and with the ball at his feet, exciting things happen. James Rodriguez showed everyone what a precocious talent he is.
The German’s Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos have had great tournaments from the very beginning. Mats Hummels has snatched the best defender tag cleanly away from Thiago Silva and it is Javier Mascherano and not Messi that the Argentinians should thank for making it to tonight’s final.
Brazil 2014 also gave us some young players’ careers to follow. France’s Paul Pogba, Netherlands’ super sub Memphis Depay, French defender Raphael Varane, and the Belgian on every Charlton fan’s shopping list was Divock Origi.
Liberated of any Alan Rough moments there has been some star goalkeeping. Germany’s Manuel Neuer, Argentina’s Sergio Romero, Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas and Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa have been the best. Tim Krul’s 10 minute cameo will also long stick in the memory.
Great goalkeepers, oustanding defenders is all well and good, but football is about goals, and 170 have been scored so far, one short of the record set in France 1998. One of those goals let us not forget was scored by a player that plays for little old Charlton!
James Rodriguez’s wonder goal against Uruguay was the best, closely followed by Tim Cahill’s, but for me Robin van Persie’s swan like header on a night out with my brother on the evening before his wedding will always stick with me. That incredible night in Salvador when the Dutch put on a devastating attacking display to beat Spain set the tone for this great World Cup.
Referees have mostly allowed games to flourish and rarely did I see a fussy or over zealous official. One small complaint might be that linesmen were a little bit too hasty to stick their flag up for offside, although the current ruling does confuse the issue.
The best thing from a refereeing point of view was the magic spray. How simple yet ingenious is that?
The spray, which costs about 3 quid a can has been used in recent seasons in the Brazilian and Argentine leagues and evaporates after about a minute and alongside goal-line technology has even traditionalists like me crying out for more critical and expeditious technology.
The Premier League I read have ruled it out of happening next season ashamedly.
Now, what can we do about the diving?
The television coverage of the games in Bermuda has been more than fine, but the programmes concentrate on the live game and stats and have lacked pre, post and half-time analysis and when I’ve had the opportunity to watch BBC, ITV or ESPN coverage, I have tended to be in a noisy pub with a beer in my hand.
However accompanying me each step of the way these last 4 weeks has been the fantastic 5 Live World Cup Daily podcast and the analysis, reasoning and opinion on there by people such as Chris Waddle, Mike Ingham, Iain Dennis, Henry Winter, Danny Mills and John Motson as well as a United Nations of experts, has been excellent.
The shows have been presented by either Mark Chapman or Mark Pougatch with the seemingly tireless and eminently listenable Tim Vickery always on hand. The 5 Live podcast has been essential listening and has allowed me to completely immerse myself in the tournament.
And the worst of Brazil 2014 Top 5:
I wrote days before Suarez sharpened his choppers on Giorgio Chiellini that “every time I see that toothy grin, a bit of the game dies for me,” and I for one am glad he won’t be gracing the Premier League again. Liverpool appeared to have acted decisively and with grace and for all of his natural talent they and the Premier League are better off without him.
A World Cup Finals should be when kids all around the planet discover this beautiful and intoxicating game. Sadly amongst the goals and the saves, they also had to witness a grown man bite another.
It literally seems like eons ago that England went out. Our failure wasn’t entirely unexpected but to be knocked out after two games and sent home with just a solitary point in a desperately dull game against Costa Rica was pitiful.
3) Brazil’s humilation
Watching the humilation of the greatest footballing nation in the history of the game was actually quite numbing. Whereas, for example, Netherlands’ thrashing of Spain will long be remembered for its exhilaration, watching the Germans toy with the hosts was something I will remember for the simple embarrassment of the occasion. The shame and scars will run deep for this proud nation.
Some love the excitement and incalculable randomness of a penalty shoot out, but I don’t. It is an awful way for a game of any magnitude to be decided.
As games enter the break at extra time you just know what the outcome is going to be, games become ultra defensive and the thought of penalties does not encourage flair but a line of parked buses as team’s just await the inevitable.
Let us have a different lottery to decide games. Play for a golden goal and then after 30 minutes, start taking players off every 5 minutes until we get that winning goal.
5) The aftermath
Compared to Qatar, choosing Brazil was a masterstroke by FIFA, but was it?
Tomorrow this glorious festival of football will be over but after the television cameras, media and FIFA officials have disappeared, the storybook for Brazil 2014 doesn’t end there. At some point an epilogue will need to be written, and frankly for the host nation it does not read well.
If the Seleção would have lifted the glittering prize, that may well have hidden a myriad of national problems, but they didn’t, and in fact the national team joins the long list of problems for this proud country to now resolve.
The maelstrom that Brazil is left with is quite troubling. Unlike in South Africa when the people widely accepted the costs of supporting a World Cup Finals, Brazilian’s wider population have mostly been against it from the start.
$11 billion was spent on hosting this World Cup, money perhaps better spent on satisfactory health care or quality education. Five cities renovated existing stadiums for the World Cup and seven built brand new ones.
The stadium in Manaus, surrounded by rain forest and Cuiabá, the soybean capital of Brazil, near Bolivia, will now sit empty leaving locals wondering what they’ll be used for. The stadium in Cuiabá (photo) held just four games and cost $300 million!
The stadium in Brasília, the capital, is also expected to become a World Cup white elephant because like Manaus and Cuiabá, there are no football teams that can fill them and no local heritage of watching football. In fact the Brazilian top league last season averaged attendances of less than 10,000 spectators!
FIFA will stuff revenues of $4.5 billion into their suitcases when they leave Brazil tomorrow, but what legacy is left for the country they imposed themselves on?