After keeping global interest alive for over one month, the FIFA World Cup came to an end last week. Millions of people immediately suffered from a bit of vacuum in their lives after a daily dose of intriguing football action. They now have to wait four years until the 21st edition could unfold in Russia in 2018. Despite internal squabbles, Brazil hosted the event with aplomb and why not? From the time Brazil was chosen as host by FIFA some years ago, the event was destined to be a special World Cup as the country epitomized football in its culture. Having distinguished itself as having won the event 5 times, Brazil had come to represent the very best of football. No one was disappointed at the end, except the Brazilians, who wanted their team to win the trophy on its soil. That would have made it 6 times for them but that didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. However, 2014 Brazil World Cup turned out to be extraordinary in many ways with jam-packed stadiums, thrilling finishes and a record number of goals scored. Here are some highlights.
Unexpected Early Exits: The World Cup saw some promising nations making early exits. The most surprising ouster was reserved for Spain, who ruled football for four years during 2008-2012. Spain not only won the 2010 World Cup, but two other major tournaments in this golden period. The league phase elimination was dictated by defeats by Netherlands and Chile. For all the hoop-la before the tournament, England, Italy and Portugal also went out of the World Cup before play-off stage. For Spain, it was a huge come down from years of football glory.
Show of the Underdogs: Africa was represented by Algeria and Nigeria and these nations played spirited football. In the round-of-16, Algeria scared Germany by complete dominance in the first half and though the second half was evenly matched, the game remained goalless in regular time. In the extra time, Germany barely scraped through to the utter disappointment of the confident Algerians. African champions Nigeria gave a similar scare to France, who somehow managed to beat them to enter the quarterfinals. Costa Rica was another team that distinguished itself despite beginning as tournament underdogs. They topped the Group table ahead of past champions England, Italy and Uruguay. The virtuous Central Americans finally went down on penalties to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. Similarly, very high standard of football was exhibited by Colombia and Chile but both teams lost to Brazil in play-offs. While Chile lost in the penalty shoot-out in the round of 16, Colombia lost in a fiercely fought quarterfinal.
Goalkeeping and Victory Prediction: Standard of goalkeeping was very high despite the high scoring World Cup. There were miraculous saves by goalkeepers from Mexico, USA, Argentina, Germany, Colombia, Uruguay and Chile. A German victory was predicted by football pundits months ago and the team excelled itself, true to the expectations. It was Germany’s fourth World Cup victory but first in the American continent. Substituted late into the match, Mario Goetze became an instant hero in the same way as Spaniard Andres Iniesta had become in 2010 South Africa World Cup. In an amazing similarity, Iniesta won the final for Spain by scoring the only goal of the match against the Netherlands in the second half of the extra time at Johannesburg. Mario Goetze did exactly the same for Germany last week against Argentina at Rio de Janeiro. Incidentally, it was the third World Cup final in a row that required extra time.
Many Stars and a Villain: Two highly promising World Cup football stars had to leave the tournament midway under different circumstances. Neymar, on whom Brazil depended heavily, fell down and broke his third vertebrata and that caused Brazil’s later matches turn into nightmares. On the other side, Uruguay was propped up by superb performance from Luiz Suarez, until the striker showed his dark side in the match against Italy. Suarez sunk his teeth on Giorgio Chiellini’s left shoulder and he was promptly banned for four months. In his absence, Uruguay fell to Colombia in their next encounter. But this match brought another star to limelight. James Rodriquez was simply brilliant against Uruguay and scored both goals in a scintillating fashion. Germany’s Miroslav Klose became World Cup’s all time lead scorer with 16 goals. Muller had a great tournament too and so did Argentina’s Lionel Messi, who was inconsolable after his team lost the final.
Disgrace to the Hosts: For Brazil, a whopping 7-1 semifinal loss became a matter of instant national shame with everyone gunning for Scolari and his boys. It was their heaviest defeat in a lop-sided semifinal against Germany, who scored 4 goals in 6 minutes before the half-hour mark. Two days later, Brazil also lost to the Netherlands 3-0 in the third-place play-off game.
Opening and Closing Ceremonies: Two days before the event got underway; Jennifer Lopez refused to sing the World Cup theme song in the opening ceremony. Fortunately, she relented and sang to the great relief to the organizers. The closing ceremony had the glamorous Shakira giving a fiery performance before the World Cup final match between Germany and Argentina. It was the Colombian singer’s third World Cup appearance and she was lustily cheered by the Maracana crowd.