wc2014

World Cup 2014

Well, the World Cup has been over for some time now, and it’s only now that I’m blogging about it. That shows you how much I really care about the thing (also, work). Despite my love of football, international matches never held any interest for me beyond scouting for the next big stars. Coupled with the late-night nature of matches, I was adamant about not sacrificing sleep to catch the matches.

Throughout this tournament, I found myself watching out for the results of underdogs like Costa Rica, Algeria and Mexico. It’s always fun to root for the underdogs when you are not emotionally invested in any team, and I have to say, well done Costa Rica! They made it to the quarter-finals, and very nearly had a chance at playing Argentina. This shows you that what a football team needs isn’t necessarily a star, but plenty of teamwork, good tactics, and a willingness to fight for each other.

This is most evident in Germany, the team that eventually triumphed over Argentina, the epitome of a one-man team (besides Portugal). Truth be told, Germany does have its fair share of stars, but they never dominate the team like Messi or Ronaldo do. Everyone contributes, and the path to World Cup victory was not just the work of one or two players, but everyone in the team.

Germany’s success only highlights the terrible state of English football. Given that I follow the EPL, it’s inevitable that England team news features prominently for me. Their recruitment of Hodgson after his debacle at Liverpool was mocked by all Liverpool fans who know that he’ll fail at the big jobs. When he brought the team that everyone was hoping to see the World Cup, he was praised for it. Really? That’s all it takes?

1 point from 9 says it all. And even after all that, Hodgson remains in charge. The ‘promising’ displays at the World Cup are somehow enough justification for that miserable exit, when other coaches have quit immediately after losses. Prandelli quit when Italy were dumped out with England; Hodgson defiantly says he’s not quitting. Well, England, prepare for even more mediocrity at Euro 2016 then.

As for other upsets and embarrassing exits, Spain has to qualify as one of the worst. 5-1 to Netherlands was a score no one anticipated, but in truth, it was coming eventually. The Spanish team has been dominating international football for a good 6 years, far longer than any other team has really done before. A good chunk of their players come from Barcelona, who themselves have been at the top for so long, the less amazing days before Guardiola’s rise all but forgotten.

But even the best will age, and the 7-0 drubbing over two legs by Bayern was proof that even the infallible will crumble one day. It’s not like Spanish football won’t rise again; they have a huge crop of highly talented players knocking on the door of the first XI. But it’s the end of an era of wonderful, sublime domination, and all respect for their ability to stay at the top for so long.

But Spain’s collapse was nothing compared to the semi-final horror show that was Brazil vs. Germany. It was a pasting of epic proportions, with records broken everywhere. The best part was that Brazil’s Ronaldo scored his 15th and final World Cup goal against Germany; Klose broke that record when he scored what is probably his final World Cup goal against Brazil. Kudos to Klose, who keeps breaking international records despite indifferent club form. A man for tournaments indeed.

After that 7-1 mauling, it’s clear that Brazil are nothing special indeed. The way they scrapped to the semis is what some call the ‘mark of champions’, but that’s usually about league competitions, not tournaments. The magic was gone for a while now, and in a way, I’m glad they didn’t call up Coutinho, who had a brilliant pre-season game against Brondby. To be at the end of a 7-goal drubbing, at home, in a semi-final of a competition you had every expectation of winning…it’s soul-crushing.

That could well be one reason why Brazil could only limp home to 4th, losing 3-0 to Netherlands. The other reason could be David Luiz, and PSG must really be hoping he’ll be far less adventurous when he starts footballing duty in France. Chelsea must be laughing their way to the bank at that ludicrous sum they got for Luiz, whom most people believe only went to PSG because Thiago Silva demanded for his Brazilian partner there.

With the World Cup over and the most deserving team winning, the footballing world returns fully to the madness of the transfer window. Liverpool have been doing some good business, and in a way, I’m relieved that Suarez is gone.

Finally, I leave this curious little set of coincidences here, to highlight how maybe, it’s fated that Germany win their 4th World Cup this year. After all, Italy and Brazil both had 24-year waits for their 4th titles as well, the same gap that Germany had between their 1990 and 2014 triumphs…

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