FIFA World Cup 2014 – Germany deserved to win

The disappointment of the lacklustre opening ceremony was short lived and, from the opening goal of the tournament to Germany lifting the cup in the finals, it was well compensated in every manner possible with great entertainment and thrilling matches throughout the tournament.

The World Cup could not have begun on a more dramatic note, with Marcelo scoring a first own-goal by a Brazilian in the history of the tournament, watched by over 62,000 Brazilians live. But Neymar also struck twice during the match and as distress turned into ecstasy for Brazilians everywhere, we experienced what it meant to be part of such a huge, global event.

From the first match onwards, there was no looking back. Within 24 hours, airborne Robin Van Persie scored a stunning goal, Arjen Robben made sprints across the field that would make Usain Bolt envious and the world champions of 2010 were reduced to dust by the Dutchmen.

The World Cup was truly underway with a great promise. We were treated with some thrilling matches, a flurry of goals and goalkeeping heroics. And after a tense 120 minute final between Germany and Argentina, Germany was crowned world champions and the FIFA World Cup 2014 came to an end.

Let’s relive the magic of the World Cup once again. Here are the highs and lows of the tournament:

The hosts

The start of the matches were marred by controversies surrounding unfinished stadiums, political tensions, mass protests and corruptions. But all this faded away as soon as the games began. It has been one of the best staged tournaments ever. The 32-day event will not only be remembered for offering some terrific football but also because it went along very smoothly, with no evident logistical disasters taking place for neither the teams nor the thousands of travelling fans.

 

Arena Amazonia under construction. Photo: Reuters

Arena Amazonia under construction. Photo: Reuters

For the hosts, the only disappointment was towards the end of the tournament, when their hearts were broken by the worst ever World Cup performance by their team in a semi-final, as Brazil took a dismal 7-1 thrashing from Germany.

Pakistan’s Brazuca

Pakistan’s participation as a team, at the biggest football tournament, remains a dream. Pakistan did, however, manage to mark its presence in the current FIFA World Cup by providing locally manufactured, durable footballs – called the Brazucas – that were used during the matches.

The official match ball for the 2014 World Cup named ”Brazuca” is presented in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Reuters

The official match ball for the 2014 World Cup named ”Brazuca” is presented in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Reuters

The ball was tested before the start of the tournament by the likes of Lionel Messi, Iker Casillas, Bastian Schwienstiger and even the 1998 World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane, who gave their thumbs up to it. Goalkeepers termed it a reliable ball that didn’t dip or swerve, unlike its predecessor the Jabulani.

Crowds, fans and national anthems

One of the criticisms the 2010 World Cup in South Africa faced were the empty stadiums in many matches. In Brazil, though, it was a completely different story; fans flocked in from all across the world to be part of the action. There were hardly any vacant seats in the matches, showing us just how much love Brazilians have for this beautiful sport. The most heartrending moment of each match, in my opinion, was the national anthem and especially so when thousands of Brazilians sang their national anthem aloud, without any music.

Supporters gather ahead of the Group A football match between Brazil and Croatia at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Photo: AFP

Supporters gather ahead of the Group A football match between Brazil and Croatia at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Photo: AFP

Pioneering moments: Goal line technology, vanishing sprays and water breaks

France’s striker Karim Benzema hit a left-footed hit off the far post that straddled the goal line but the ball never crossed the line until bouncing off Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladres. This was the moment we witnessed the real benefit of goal line technology, introduced for the first time in this tournament. There was not an immediate signal for a goal, and without goal-line technology, France may not have gone up 2-0.

Goal line technology. Photo: Reuters

Goal line technology. Photo: Reuters

Referees used white foam sprays (also known as vanishing sprays) during free kicks to ensure no defenders encroach. Lastly, considering the scorching heat during mid-day games, FIFA introduced water breaks in this tournament to avoid players wilting in the heat.

Vanishing spray. Photo: AFP

Vanishing spray. Photo: AFP

Refereeing

Refereeing, in this tournament, came under fire from various quarters, who thought it to be too lenient throughout the tournament. Over-the-top tackles have gone unpunished and outrageous dives have rarely been questioned. Although the South American flavour of football doesn’t favour too many interruptions, the quarter-final tie between Brazil and Colombia – that saw a staggering 54 fouls and only four yellow cards – needed stricter decisions.

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

The brutal tackle resulting in Neymar’s horrific injury went unpunished. Teams like Mexico and Ivory Coast felt hard done by dubious penalty decisions.

A goal fest

Goals, goals and goals – the tournament has been full of it, which has made it truly exciting and exhilarating. The World Cup of 1998 in France was the first tournament with an expanded format featuring 32 teams. With 171 goals Brazil 2014 has joined the highest goal scoring tournament rank with France 1998. Moreover, with an average of 2.67 goals per game, this World Cup is second best after the one held in 1970 in Mexico, with average of 2.97 goals per game.

Bosnia’s Sead Kolasinac scores an own goal during the 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match between Argentina and Bosnia at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, June 15, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Bosnia’s Sead Kolasinac scores an own goal during the 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match between Argentina and Bosnia at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, June 15, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Best goal

The World Cup 2014 has strangely been devoid of good free kicks. However, there have been brilliant field goals to compensate those. Colombia’s James Rodriguez scored six goals, all of them being very impressive but the best one was his chest trap, swivel and left-footed dipping volley against Uruguay that looked like it had come straight from a FIFA video game simulation.

Colombia’s James Rodriguez, right in yellow, scoring his second goal of the day against Uruguay. Photo: Reuters

Colombia’s James Rodriguez, right in yellow, scoring his second goal of the day against Uruguay. Photo: Reuters

Other notable mentions include Van Persie launching like a human projectile to head in a goal against Spain. David Luiz’s bullet-like free kick against Colombia from 35 yards was also a memorable goal.

Celebrations

The World Cup produced a dizzying number of goals and a dizzying number of unbridled celebrations at the same time; the celebrations became like a shadow competition among the teams. Ghana’s dance moves were awesome. Van Persie’s jubilant hi five to Louis Van Gaal after the flying goal was an iconic moment. However, Mexico’s coach, Miguel Herrera, was the clear winner; he celebrated Mexican goals with more gusto than his players. The colourful man was the toast of photographers.

Miguel Herrera celebrates the second goal of their team against Croatia during their World Cup Group A match. Photo: Reuters

Miguel Herrera celebrates the second goal of their team against Croatia during their World Cup Group A match. Photo: Reuters

Goalkeeping heroics

We have seen a flurry of goals in the tournament; however, goal keepers have also been equal to the task. Germany’s Michael Neuer has been the best stopper who exhibited great positioning skills to save some very certain goals. He deservedly won the golden glove.

Michael Neuer. Photo: Reuters

Michael Neuer. Photo: Reuters

Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa has been outstanding. Argentina’s Sergio Romero became a national hero when he saved penalties from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder to send his side into their first World Cup final in 24 years.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard of USA saves a shot during their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game against Belgium. Photo: Reuters

Goalkeeper Tim Howard of USA saves a shot during their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game against Belgium. Photo: Reuters

However, the single most impressive goalkeeping display of all may have come from USA’s Tim Howard against Belgium; Howard made 16 saves, a record for any goalkeeper in a World Cup match stretching back to 1966.

Fairy tale of the tournament

Costa Rica. After beating three former champions to top the group of death, the Costa Ricans edged out 2004 Euro winners to enter their first-ever World Cup quarter-final. They dragged the Dutch to the penalty shootout before bowing out. They played really good football throughout the tournament and gave a very tough time to all opponents.

Costa Rica players celebrate their penalty shootout win. Photo: Reuters

Costa Rica players celebrate their penalty shootout win. Photo: Reuters

Worst moment

This was not difficult to select, as it can only be one – Luis Suarez and his bite. The guy is a prolific striker and there is no denial about his goal scoring abilities. But there is one other thing he does on the pitch besides scoring goals and that is biting his fellow players!

Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini (L) showing an apparent bite mark and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez (R) holding his teeth after the incident during the Group D match between Italy and Uruguay. Photo: Reuters

Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini (L) showing an apparent bite mark and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez (R) holding his teeth after the incident during the Group D match between Italy and Uruguay. Photo: Reuters

Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini is his latest victim, after FC PSV’s Otman Bakkal and Chelsea’s Branislov Ivanovic. It was absolutely disgraceful, not only for football but for sports in general.

The worst player

Brazilian striker, Fred, scored just once in six world cup matches and even that goal came in the comfortable 4-1 victory over Cameroon. Fred was the highest goal scorer in the Confederations Cup 2013 Brazil and his transformation to a world cup flop has just been incredible (and incredulous). His performance was so bad that sometimes it managed to jeopardise Neymar’s good work.

Brazilian footballer Fred. Photo: Reuters

Brazilian footballer Fred. Photo: Reuters

Alongside him, Cristiano Ronaldo lacked his magical touch, Diego Costa aggravated Spain’s miseries and Steven Gerrard looked completely out of sorts.

The worst team

The world expected another exhibition of the dominant and silken football play, Tiki-Taka, from the reigning European and World Champions, Spain, but they were completely abysmal in Brazil. Spain could not recover from the after effects of the Dutch onslaught in their first match and were eliminated after their loss to Chile in the second match.

Spain’s goalkeeper Iker Casillas reacts after a goal by Netherlands during their 2014 World Cup Group B soccer match. Photo: Reuters

Spain’s goalkeeper Iker Casillas reacts after a goal by Netherlands during their 2014 World Cup Group B soccer match. Photo: Reuters

Many football pundits believe Spain’s aging team was the sole reason behind their dismal performance. If Spain had used the same players, who played in the final group match of the team, from the very beginning, perhaps the results would have been different.

Besides Spain, England was rubbish; although Italy beat England, but it was rubbish too.

The best player

James Rodriguez of Colombia, without a doubt. Although he missed out winning the golden ball – for me, he was the best player. Few would have heard about the pint-sized playmaker before the World Cup. He has become a household name after scoring six goals, including one of the tournament’s best in five matches. The evidence of his abilities was the post-match acknowledgment from Brazilian players in front of the crowd. James Rodriguez is certainly going to be a big star in the future with all the big clubs of the world wanting him.

Colombia’s James Rodriguez celebrates after scoring a penalty against Brazil. Photo: Reuters

Colombia’s James Rodriguez celebrates after scoring a penalty against Brazil. Photo: Reuters

Also, Robben’s dazzling pace and work rate has been simply outstanding. Neymar and Lionel Messi, who won a golden ball each, have carried their respective teams single-handedly, which evidences the mastery of their skill at the game.

The best team

No doubt about it – Germany, the FIFA World Cup 2014 Champions. Germany had the most well-balanced and complete team this World Cup. They could have carved out a team from their substitutes and still have done very well! The team performed just like German made machines – precise, fast and ideal in quality. Strong goalkeeper, rock solid defence, powerhouse midfield and a dominant attacking force – a complete team. They deserved the cup.

Germany’s team poses for pictures before the start of their 2014 World Cup final against Argentina at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro July 13, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Germany’s team poses for pictures before the start of their 2014 World Cup final against Argentina at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro July 13, 2014. Photo: Reuters

After them, Netherlands should also be mentioned. The team had the best attacking line-up, well supported by a good midfield and defence. The tactics of Louis Van Gaal were simply master class. Although Argentina has been more of a one man show with Messi overshadowing every one; nevertheless, they made it to finals with good games.

Germany's players lifts the World Cup trophy as they celebrate their 2014 World Cup final win against Argentina at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro July 13, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

Germany’s players lifts the World Cup trophy as they celebrate their 2014 World Cup final win against Argentina at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro July 13, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

There have been suggestions from various quarters that this could very well have been the greatest World Cup ever. That is a tall claim to make for a tournament that is over eight decades old, but there are several persuasive reasons to base these compliments on. I, for one, enjoyed this tournament thoroughly and anticipate that the next World Cup will be even more electrifying than this one.

 

This blog was published on Express Tribune Blogs.

2014 FIFA World Cup: The good, the bad and the ugly

The Brazilian Carnival is one of the world’s most colourful and exhilarating events – Outdoor parties, colourful performers, magnificent floats, talented musicians. It truly is a fine exhibition of the Brazilian culture.

The World Cup matches have been exhilarating, exciting and delivered up to everyone's expectations so far. PHOTO: AFP [Express Tribune Blogs]

The World Cup matches have been exhilarating, exciting and delivered up to everyone’s expectations so far. PHOTO: AFP [Express Tribune Blogs]

The world was expecting a similarly elating event when the 2014 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony kicked off on June 12, 2014, at Arena Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paulo. Unfortunately, it turned out to be perhaps the worst World Cup opening ceremonies ever. The organisers of the event failed to understand that Brazil is more than just talented football players and colourful costumes. It has a rich culture and tradition, most of which was left out in the event, causing thousands of spectators to feel utterly disappointed.

However, this disappointment was short-lived; football was able to instil its magic once more, as soon as the first match between Brazil and Croatia kicked off. The opening goal of the World Cup was remarkable in itself as it was the first own-goal scored by a Brazilian in the history of the tournament. Then, we witnessed some sizzling football from Brazil. Neymar, the magician, was the star of the show as Brazil secured a hard fought 3-1 victory over Croatia.

There has been no stopping since the first match. We have been treated to some really exciting and thrilling football so far in the World Cup. There have hardly been any dull or boring matches. It has been a fiesta of goals as the games have gone with an average of three goals per game.

Before the start of the knockout stages of the tournament, let’s have a look into the highs and lows of the group stage matches.

The worst team

It has to be Spain, without a doubt. The world expected another exhibition of the dominant and silken football play, Tiki-Taka, from the reigning European and World Champions but they were simply abysmal in Brazil. Spain could not recover from the after effects of the Dutch onslaught in their first match and were eliminated after their loss to Chile in second match. The Spanish team consisted of almost the same players who led them to the World Cup win in 2010, and that was perhaps the sole reason for their disappointing performance.

Spain’s goalkeeper Iker Casillas reacts after a goal by Netherlands during their 2014 World Cup Group B soccer match. PHOTO: Reuters [Express Tribune Blogs]

Spain’s goalkeeper Iker Casillas reacts after a goal by Netherlands during their 2014 World Cup Group B soccer match. PHOTO: Reuters [Express Tribune Blogs]

Perhaps they forgot that those players have grown old by four more years and lacked the magic and skills they possessed in the previous World Cup. If Spain had used the same players, who played in final group match of the team, from the very beginning, perhaps the results would have been different.

The worst player

The first name that came to my mind was Diego Costa, but an overall flop Spanish team covers that. The second name would be of the current holder of Ballon d’Or, Cristiano Ronaldo, who failed to live up to the expectations in this World Cup. He has not been able to create an impact, which the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar have been able to create for Argentina and Brazil respectively. He virtually remained anonymous in the first two games and, being the captain, failed to put any sparkle in the Portuguese team. He probably had more haircuts than he scored goals during this World Cup so far.

Cristiano Ronaldo. PHOTO: Reuters [Express Tribune Blogs]

Cristiano Ronaldo. PHOTO: Reuters [Express Tribune Blogs]

Perhaps his light injury had a role in it; nevertheless, it has been a miserable outing for Ronaldo.

The worst moment

This was not difficult to select, as it can only be one – Luis Suarez and his bite. The guy is a prolific striker and there is no denial about his goal scoring abilities. But there is one other thing he does on the pitch besides scoring goals, and that’s biting his fellow players. Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini is the latest victim on his biting list, after FC PSV’s Otman Bakkal and Chelsea’s Branislov Ivanovic.

Luis Suarez (L) and Giorgio Chiellini (R) react after the two collided, and Suarez appeared to bite Chiellini. PHOTO: Reuters [Express Tribune Blogs]

Luis Suarez (L) and Giorgio Chiellini (R) react after the two collided, and Suarez appeared to bite Chiellini. PHOTO: Reuters [Express Tribune Blogs]

It was absolutely disgraceful, not only for football but for sports in general.

The best goal

The Spanish team was just starting to come in its element after scoring a penalty in the 27th minute through Xabi Alonso. It looked like the Netherlands were in for the same fate as they had in the World Cup finale of 2010. However, during the first half, in the 44th minute, a bird, an aeroplane, Superman or a five star footballer, say whatever you like, emerged in the form of an airborne Robin Van Persie. Daley Blind played a long ball over the top of the Spanish defenders and Van Persie launched like a human projectile to head in the goal. It has to be one of the best goals of the history of the World Cup ever!

Robin van Persie of the Netherlands heads to score against Spain during their 2014 World Cup Group B soccer match. PHOTO: Reuters [Express Tribune Blogs]

Robin van Persie of the Netherlands heads to score against Spain during their 2014 World Cup Group B soccer match. PHOTO: Reuters [Express Tribune Blogs]

The best player

This man is carrying the hopes of an entire nation single-handedly on his shoulders and he is one of the most gifted players on the planet. His name is Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior. Neymar has been the lone warrior of the Brazilian team so far, especially as many of the other Brazilian players have faltered consistently throughout the tournament. Although Messi and Robben have exhibited some startling game-play, Neymar has just been outstanding – with four goals, a shooting accuracy of 89% and a passing accuracy of 82% in three matches.

Brazil’s forward Neymar celebrates after scoring a penalty during the Group A football match between Brazil and Croatia. PHOTO: AFP [Express Tribune Blogs]

Brazil’s forward Neymar celebrates after scoring a penalty during the Group A football match between Brazil and Croatia. PHOTO: AFP [Express Tribune Blogs]

The best celebration

After earning four points from its first two group games, Mexico needed a draw or a win against Croatia to make it to the knockout stages. Mexico booked their place to the next phase with a comprehensive 3-1 victory. Goals scored by Mexicans were exciting, yes, but they were no match to the post-goal celebrations of their manager Miguel Herrera. He tackled defender Paul Aguilar to the ground in celebration and then motioned goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa to jump into his arms in a fit of joy.

 

Miguel Herrera celebrates after Mexico wins a match. PHOTO: AFP [Express Tribune Blogs]

Miguel Herrera celebrates after Mexico wins a match. PHOTO: AFP [Express Tribune Blogs]

Source: worldsoccertalk.com

The dark horse

Can Belgium win the World Cup? Ask anyone and this question will be dismissed with a vehement “no”. Belgium has no history or culture of success at the World Cup or any other major international tournament. The furthest they have ever reached at the FIFA World Cup is in the semi-finals in 1986. But this time around, they could very well surprise all of us.

Belgium football team. PHOTO: AFP [Express Tribune Blogs]

Belgium football team. PHOTO: AFP [Express Tribune Blogs]

They currently have, what you can call, a golden generation of players: Nacer Chadli, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lakaku, Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Janujaz. They may not have faced bigger teams in the group stages so far but they have the capability to challenge any strong team that comes there way and hence, they are the real dark horses of this tournament.

The favourites

Brazil and Argentina have the South American home advantages, Germany is the most well-balanced team, France has a very talented pool of players but no team has as dangerous an attacking line up as that of the Netherlands. It has been an exhibition of magical football by the three forwards, Wesley Sneijder, Van Persie and Arjen Robben, so far in this tournament. Van Perise has been on target and Robben has dazzled the opposition with his super pace. The midfield and defending line up has been up to the mark in their support to the three forwards.

The Netherlands football team. PHOTO: Reuters [Express Tribune Blogs]

The Netherlands football team. PHOTO: Reuters [Express Tribune Blogs]

For me, Netherlands are the predictable winners of this World Cup.

The World Cup matches have been exhilarating, exciting and have lived up to everyone’s expectations so far. I can’t wait to watch the knockout rounds and see who else scores an amazing goal, celebrates a prolific victory or falls prey to a biting injury.


This blog was published on Express Tribune Blogs.


 

 

Read review of full World Cup 2014 here.

Instant Celebrity: Cristiano Ronaldo

This post has been written in response to Daily Prompt by The Daily Post – Instant Celebrity


One of the foremost attributes that usually cognates to sports is Passion. It’s a passion that acts as a common thread which unites fans, families and even nations. Ever since my childhood I had great passion for sports, cricket and football in particular. Although I regularly played sports during my school days but I could not continue it when I pursued professional education after college. But this in no way diminished my passion and love for sports.

So when it comes to the question as to which famous person I would like to be for day, it has to be one great sportsman. A sportsman who is talented, ambitious, strong, hard-working, successful and a legend. Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro aka Cristiano Ronaldo is the one whom I admire the most.

The history of the football game is packed with some phenomenal talents, from the post war era phenomenon’s of Matthews, Finney, Puskas and Di Stefano to the likes of Pele, Best, Beckenbauer and Cryuff and modern greats such as Zico, Platini, Maradona, Van Basten, Zidane, Ronaldo (from Brazil), Ronaldinho, Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. The game has changed a lot over the years. It has now become fast paced and demanding requiring a machine like efficiency. Cristiano Ronaldo is one great goal scoring football machine.

Manchester United FC and Real Madrid FC, the guy has played for the two best football clubs of the world. PFA Young Player of the Year, Barclays Player of the Year,Ballon d’Or, UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, FIFA World Player of Year, Golden Boots – name it and he has won all of these prestigious awards.

He is a complete attacking forward player with attributes: pace, finishing, dribbling, positioning, crossing, free kick taking – a football player dreams of. I still remember his debut game for Manchester United against Bolton Wanderers in 2002-03 season. He came as substitute in 60th minute and mesmerised the crowd with his magical display. His breath-taking style of play gave me goose bumps.

Apart from being a great footballer, he is a great human being. Ronaldo once met a 9-year-old boy with cancer after a Real Madrid’s home game. The boy’s parents could not afford to do anything more for their child and decided to make his dream come true by taking him to see Los Blancos. Upon meeting the boy, Ronaldo offered to bear the bill so that the boy could get a consultation at one of Madrid’s top medical facilities, and receive personalised medication from the USA.

Talent, skill, passion, wealth, fame, humility and philanthropy , he is an epitome of these traits. AND Hot girl friend, Irina Shayk, is just an icing on the cake !!

Yes, I want to be ‘Cristiano Ronaldo’ as a famous person for a day !