The 2014 World Cup has ended. Here is a somewhat frivolous recap, from Algeria to Zlatan.
Algeria: The Algerians entered the tournament as 1,500-1 underdogs. They gave approximately zero shits. Their exciting, over-the-top attack was unnerving to even the most talented teams. They came painfully close to picking off eventual champions Germany in the Round of 16. Hats off to the French academy system.
Brazil: Reports before the World Cup predicted disorder and infrastructure breakdowns for Brazil. Thankfully, that only plagued the national side. Besides a gate crashing by Chilean fans, things seemed to go relatively smoothly. The only massive crime wave appears to have been orchestrated within FIFA. Were the memories and the empty stadiums collecting bird droppings worth the $13.5 billion price tag? Only time will tell.
Coifs: Hair on the sides of your head? Soo late 2013. Coifs ranged on a continuum from raffish hipster to flamboyant Mr. T. Definite proof that it takes the rest of the world a full 24 months to catch up to David Beckham. The “Dirk Kuyt” has yet to have its moment, but we remain ever hopeful. It will take us a few months to get over what Marouane Fellaini did.
Deutschland: Mario Gotze rose to the occasion (at an opportune time). Germany won its fourth World Cup. While arguing this team is among the greatest ever should tell one to readdress the methodology, the Germans were the most talented and the most cohesive team at the 2014 World Cup. The Lahm/Schweinsteiger/Klose generation deserved a crowning achievement. It’s heartening to see sound player development and playing attractive soccer rewarded. With a core of young talent, this crew may not be finished. So…about that European teams not traveling well narrative…
Enner Valencia: Ecuador needed a figure, emotionally and tactically, to fill the void left by Chucho Benitez. Valencia fit the bill. The 25-year-old carried his torrid form for Pachuca into the World Cup group stage, scoring three goals. He was impressive enough to earn himself a transfer to the EPL with West Ham.
Fred: The poor guy. His nickname is mundane. He looks like Brazil plucked a random dude off the beach and threw a No. 9 shirt on him. He’s neither Ronaldo nor Romario and took much of the blame for Brazil’s exit because of it. If he had scored seven goals, had dropped back to help the midfield hold possession and had plugged the gaps in the back line in the semifinal, Brazil may have won this thing.
Goal Correction: The group stage goal-gasm was too good to last. As a whole, the 2014 World Cup had 171 goals, equaling the 1998 tournament for the most all-time. Though, the knockout rounds turned rather dire. There were just 24 goals scored in the regulation 90 minutes during the 15 knockout matches. Eight of those came in the Brazil-Germany semifinal. Argentina scored one goal in regulation during the knockout rounds and nearly won.
Honey Shots: Attractive women: FIFA cameramen pursued them with a gusto matched only for crying children.
Italy: The Italians had the least “Italian” tournament ever. They entered with momentum, following the Euro 2012 Final appearance. They brought a squad filled with multifaceted attacking options. They then peaked early with a spirited win against England in the rainforest, followed by two dead-legged losses against Costa Rica and Uruguay. This tournament had many things, but it could have used a greater dollop of Pirlo.
James Rodriguez: The “next Cristiano Ronaldo” showed why he cost $60 million, winning the Golden Boot despite Colombia departing in the quarterfinals. He provided some moments of pure brilliance. Every time you say his name with a flourish, Ann Coulter fears for the future of her native land.
Klinsmann: Jurgen Klinsmann navigated the U.S. through the group of death. His team was practical, well-organized and, through dogged effort, came a Chris Wondolowski finish away from the quarterfinal. His roster decisions were justified. His tactical nous, derided before the tournament, was spot on throughout. But, apparently, Americans prefer to go down in a flurry of foolhardy attacking.
Luis Suarez: He was the hero, scoring a brace that all but eliminated England. He was the villain, one match later, after deploying his choppers on Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. The Uruguayan has been suspended from all soccer-related activity for four months. That didn’t stop Barcelona paying $120 million for him.
Miguel Herrera: Herrera saved Mexico from disaster. He also proved the most jovial sideline figure since 2010 Diego Maradona. The tournament died a bit inside, when his team left the field.
Neymar: This was Neymar’s tournament to shine. He did so. The 22-year-old scored four goals, assisted a fifth and proved every bit the talisman, leader and iconic star demanded from him. Neymar was also the unwitting victim of an apparent, tournament-wide dictum to keep the cards at bay, particularly when the home team took the field. He left the 2014 tournament unscathed, which should prove pivotal for Brazil moving forward.
Oppressive: Heat and humidity. Playing matches in locations and at times where Brazilians don’t play to accommodate political and television realities had an impact on certain teams. English FA officials will keep telling themselves that, at least.
Puma: Puma designed its uniforms for aerodynamics, at the cost of nipple comfort. They either shrank in the wash or were issued in sizes ranging from “Robben” to “Smedium.” If you aren’t a footballer, stick to the more forgiving fan cut.
Queue: Rodrigo Palacio had an underwhelming tournament, though his off-center rat tail mystified a new set of googlers with every turn of his head.
Robin van Persie: Arjen Robben had a more consistent 2014 World Cup, but Robin van Persie did scored the goal of this tournament, perhaps of any tournament.
Spain: Continuity is key. Too much continuity can be deadly. Spain’s quest for a fourth major trophy proved a mere footnote as they were firebombed by the Dutch, beaten by Chile and eliminated in the tournament’s first week. It was an unceremonious end to perhaps the greatest run in soccer history. It was amazing the Spanish sustained success for three tournaments.
Tim Howard: The U.S. needed a huge tournament from Tim Howard. He obliged, with one of the greatest World Cup shot-stopping performances ever. American fans grew a little too attached to him.
Vlaar: The Dutch anchoring their defense with Ron Vlaar was a knock against them before the tournament. But the 29-year-old Aston Villa man was one of the 2014 World Cup’s standout performers. Now would be the time to sell him for $20 million to an Italian team.
War Pig: Marc Wilmots did not have an especially notable tournament. Someone whose nicknames as a player were “The War Pig” and “The Bull of Dongelberg” should exhibit a bit more fire.
Xherdan Shaqiri: He scored a hat-trick, got Switzerland to the knockout rounds and became the greatest hero for short, stocky men since George Costanza. Crucially, his name begins with an X.
Yedlin: The 21-year-old American came on for Fabian Johnson against Belgium, was very fast and did not wet his pants. Consequently, he has been penciled in at fullback for the USMNT for the next decade and been linked to Liverpool, Lyon, Roma and Inter Milan among others. The World Cup is great.