Vibrant, thrilling and passionate, the 2014 World Cup has lived up to the hype. It has been a tournament full of tense encounters, passionate anthems and diversity in participation- 13 European teams, 6 South American teams, 5 African teams, 4 North American teams and 4 Asian teams competing for the greatest prize in the football world. After 4 weeks of keenly contested matches there could be only one winner; and on Sunday the 13th of July 2014 that winner was Germany.
Football is often called the beautiful game and throughout this World Cup it is easy to see why this has been the case. The group stages provided a sense of excitement with the creative free flowing football of the Colombians and the Dutch on their way to topping each of their respective groups. The magic of Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben and James Rodriguez and a certain Luis Suarez- who showed his world class finishing eliminating England but then showed the uglier side of his character when he bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. There were also upsets- Who would have thought that both Nigeria and Algeria would progress to the Round of 16? Or that Costa Rica would top their group which included former world cup winners Italy and England and advance all the way to the quarter finals?
Football is a game that embodies the highs and lows of human emotion such as a performance of incredible spirit and bravery from the USA against Belgium in the Round of 16 that ultimately ended in a gut wrenching defeat. Belgian midfielder, Kevin de Bruyne scored the goal that finally broke USA resistance in the second minute of extra time at Arena Fonte Nova. Substitute Romelu Lukaku then fired in a second 11 minutes later to apparently end the contest.The USA would not go quietly, though. From nowhere they rose up to find hope and with it a goal from substitute Julian Green, who volleyed brilliantly past Thibaut Courtois. Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey both had chances to take the match to penalties but neither was able to take the chance to extend the USA’s dream. That Jurgen Klinsmann’s men survived so long owed everything to an outstanding goalkeeping performance by Tim Howard, who made a record number of saves (16) in a World Cup match.
Goal of the Tournament
Vision, Talent and Audacity; these are three words that encapsulate the goal that I have chosen as the goal of the Tournament from a rising star of world football- James Rodriguez. I saw him look towards the Uruguayan goal just as Juan Cuadrado headed the ball, surely he couldn’t try to volley it from 25 yards out? However that was exactly what James Rodriguez did, as he cushioned the ball on his upper chest, swiveling in the same motion and striking the ball with a winding arc of his left boot. I was in awe as the ball smashed into the net via the underside of the crossbar. Words do not do this goal justice, see for yourself!
Player of the Tournament
James Rodriguez was not named the best player of the World Cup, Lionel Messi was. But I would have to humbly disagree with FIFA on this one; James Rodriguez was simply scintillating in every match in which he played during the World Cup. He was the orchestrator of the fluid attacking Colombian team that demolished other teams in their group and made it to the quarter finals where they lost a tight and scruffy encounter with the hosts, Brazil. James Rodriguez scored in every match he played at Brazil 2014- scoring 6 goals in total and wining the golden boot. He was the most influential player on his team and was in top form, hence he is my player of the tournament.
My Top 3 Games of the Tournament
Game 1) Spain 1-5 Holland
Spain’s six-year domination of world football ended with a whimper in Brazil 2014. Despite possessing an ageing squad, the two-time European champions and reigning World Cup holders were among the main contenders for the trophy in Brazil. Their first group stage game against Holland, a replay of the 2010 final, started in the manner that all had come to expect. Spain took the lead with a penalty from Xabi Alonso but they were pegged back by one of the goals of the tournament from a swan-diving Robin van Persie.
The capitulation that followed was as shocking as it was unexpected, Holland putting another four past Iker Casillas and cantering to a comprehensive victory. The next game against Chile saw Spain dumped out of the tournament. The message was clear- tiki-taka was destroyed.
Game 2) Brazil 1-7 Germany
Brazil’s World Cup dreams ended in humiliating and brutal fashion as Germany inflicted their heaviest defeat in the first semi-final in Belo Horizonte.
A thunderous occasion that began with Brazil riding a tidal wave of emotion was reduced to a nightmare as Germany were 5-0 up inside 29 remarkable minutes in front of a disbelieving Estadio Mineirao crowd.
Brazil’s players mourned the absence of their injured talisman Neymar before the kick-off, but captain Thiago Silva was an even bigger loss to the team. The Brazilian defense was torn to shreds and looked all at sea without his commanding voice. The result was their first competitive home defeat in 39 years, and the end of their hopes of making it to the World Cup final at the iconic Maracana.
3) The Final – Germany 1-0 Argentina
Germany were crowned world champions for the fourth time as Mario Gotze’s extra-time winner beat Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final.
Gotze demonstrated perfect technique to chest down Andre Schurrle’s lobbed pass and stroke in a sublime left-foot finish to decide the match.
Argentina, with skipper Lionel Messi looking subdued despite flashes of his talent, could not respond and Germany claimed their first World Cup since they beat the same opponents in Rome 24 years ago. They were guilty of spurning a number of clear chances to score- the most notable miss from Napoli forward, Gonzalo Higuain who missed from 12 yards.
The success means Joachim Low’s side have become the first European team to win the trophy in South America.
From the first whistle, it was clear how both teams wanted to approach the game. Germany were going to pass their way to the World Cup, Argentina were going to sit back- Mohammed Ali style- contain the German attacks and then launch dangerous counter attacks.
Germany traded blows with Argentina in a sapping contest then, when the opportunity to make history arrived, Mario Goetze seized it.
To summarize the final of the 2014 World Cup in one sentence; Argentina had Messi. Germany had the best team.
This has been a wonderful World Cup, full of goals and upsets, of freshly formed heroes and pantomime villains, a tournament which has lived up to the footballing traditions of its host nation. Brazil 2014 was indeed a World Cup for the ages.
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