It was a great World Cup final in Brazil with the right winners in Germany. Cathal Dervan looks back with his A to Z of the 2014 World Cup.
A is for Algeria and A is for Africa. Algeria did Africa proud with their run to a first ever knock-out stage appearance but the other African nations were a disgrace with cash rows, betting allegations and even a fight on the pitch in the Cameroon squad. Their football is still a far cry from where it should be as Cameroon, Ghana and the Ivory Coast proved while Nigeria were only alright.
B is for Brazil and the team that never raised the bar even close to the expectation level set by the host nation and the world. Boss Big Phil Scolari quit on Monday – before he was pushed – and it was no surprise as his negativity rubbed off on the team that invented the beautiful game but forgot how to play it.
C is for Chile and C is for Colombia, two of the teams that really rocked this World Cup. Chile were just exceptional from start to finish, sent champions Spain packing with a brilliant 2-0 win in their second game and could have beaten Brazil in the last 16. Colombia could have beaten the same Brazil in the last eight, but what a run they had and what a favour they did the world with their win over Uruguay in the second round.
D is for diving, a skill-set on regular display in Brazil and one which the Dutch master himself, Arjen Robben, admitted to in the last 16 game that ended Mexico’s brave run. Robben was one of the standout performers at this World Cup but his willingness to fall over – and cheat – ensures he will never be liked.
E is for England, the team that invented the game itself but can’t remember how to play it effectively in tournaments any more, neither ugly nor beautiful. Roy Hodgson’s team were home before the postcards once again, beaten by Italy and Uruguay, and finished bottom of Group D. At least we got a good laugh at their expense. Again.
F is for Fred, the Brazilian “player” whose World Cup performances typified his team. He was so bad that his own fans turned on him in the third place playoff defeat to Holland. On Sunday, Fred announced his international retirement. My mate Leo reckons he’s going back to the Flintstones!
G is for Gotze and G is for goals. Only one man puts those two together and that was the German substitute Mario Gotze, the 22-year-old whose extra-time goal was worthy of the World Cup winner that it became. Boss Joachim Loew told him to show the world he was better than Messi – he did!
H is for the hands of God, and there were plenty of contenders including Golden Glove winner Manuel Neuer and Costa Rica hero Keylor Navas. Tim Howard, however, gets the vote here for his incredible record breaking performance against Belgium with 16 saves. He is now an all-American hero. And rightly so.
I is for Italy, those wonderful artisans of the game who strolled their way to victory against England – thanks to the wonderful and ageless Pirlo in their midfield – but then followed their Premier League rivals out of the tournament with little aplomb and a lot of headlines in their defeats to Costa Rica and Uruguay.
J is for Jorge as in Jorge Luis Pinto, the 61-year-old Colombian who took charge of Costa Rica at this World Cup finals and took them on a journey beyond their wildest dreams. His tactical genius ensured they played to their strengths, and that was enough to beat England and Italy in the group and Greece on penalties in the last 16 before a cruel spot-kick shoot-out defeat to Holland in the quarters.
K is for Kroos and Kramer, two German stalwarts who will never forget the World Cup final but for very different reasons. Statistically Toni Kroos, about to join Real Madrid, was the best player at the tournament and proved it in the decider. Christoph Kramer got concussed early in that match and can’t remember the first half. He will always remember the result however.
L is for Lionel Messi, who may never reach the immortal heights and who definitely wasn’t the best player at the World Cup despite his dodgy Golden Boot award. One goal against Iran aside, Messi never lit up this tournament like Pele did in 1970 or Maradona did in 1986. That’s why Argentina didn’t win it ultimately. And that’s why the jury is still out on Lionel.
J is for Javier Mascherano, who was more effective for Argentina throughout the tournament than Messi and didn’t deserve to lose it. His best moment, however, came in the semifinal with a last gasp interception as Robben prepared to fire the trigger on the goal that would have won the game for Holland. Brilliant.
N is for Neymar, the one Brazilian of true world class quality who carried his team through to the semifinals with four goals in five games but missed the 7-1 defeat to Germany with a cracked vertebrae sustained against Colombia in the quarters. With him went Brazil’s hopes as those left behind simply failed to rise to the challenge.
O is for Oranje, the color that ripped through Dutch hearts from start to finish in a tournament that proved Louis Van Gaal is the right man for Manchester United. His decision to throw Newcastle ‘keeper Tim Krul on for the penalty shoot-out against Costa Rica was inspired.