A Random Thing: Thoughts on the 2014 FIFA World Cup

The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup has just ended, with a victorious U.S.A. team.  As a fan of soccer, my thoughts turned to the recent Fifa World Cup of 2014.  Can you believe that it’s only been a year since it ended?  It feels like ages have passed since the Germans were crowned as the winners in Rio de Janeiro.  I went back and re-watched the important highlights, and I was reminded of a few feelings that I had while watching the Cup while it was still ongoing.  I will take this opportunity to share some of those feelings with you.  These are my thoughts on the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the tournament where the winner was the least important team.

What was this one about?

I believe that every world cup has a phrase.  What do I mean by this?  As I watch all of the games, I can imagine a phrase resonating in everyone’s head, which comes out in their play style.  2002?  “Friggin’ golden goal rule.”  2006?  “Let’s get the goal.”  2010?  “Wait, so South Africa is a country?”  So what was the phrase for 2014?  “Oh boy, we’re in Brazil.  We better play real good.”

The pressure was very, very real, and it showed.  Historically good squads felt double the pressure, as their country’s histories of success were compounded with the equally historic significance of playing in Brazil, which many consider to be the soccer Mecca.  The need to perform was high for teams that had traditionally done well, but the pressure was off on many of the smaller teams, who had little to no expectations beforehand.  Positions often flip-flopped during the game, and as many a commentator said throughout the tournament, “Not all has been going according to plan.”

So really, the phrase wasn’t “We better play real good,” it was “We better not screw this up.”

The Underdogs

Surprises abounded at this tournament, and I love a good underdog.  Rooting for the underdog is inherently satisfying, because even if they defeat the team you actually favor in the tournament (because god knows that an underdog never wins), you feel that much better because you can pat that team on the head and say, “You’ve improved so much”, not adding of course the clause, “From back when you really, really sucked.”

So who were the best surprises?  My picks are U.S.A. and Costa Rica.  While the U.S. didn’t make it quite as far as say Colombia, they impressed me immensely with their strong attacking play and courage behind the ball.  This was a sadly unfamiliar sight to me in this tournament.  The fact that the team was helmed by none other than Jurgen Klinsmann, one of my all time favorite soccer personalities, was just icing in the cake.

As for Costa Rica, they played evenly against a powerful but boring Dutch side in the quarter finals, but sadly lost in penalties.  A fate surely worse than death.

Overall, the performances from the lesser known South American and North American teams was encouraging, and hopefully it will push the established European and other historically football nations to step it up a notch and not take their past successes for granted.  The winner is the one on top surely, but the way some of these teams barely eked out a victory against the courageous underdogs, it makes you wonder who really deserved a place on top.

The Only Surprise of the Group Stage

England and Italy.  Two nations that are synonymous with huge soccer tradition.  Two nations that have put up lackluster performances as of late.  Two nations that repeated this pattern at the 2014 tournament.  Two nations that I pity a great deal.

It’s tough when you have such a huge weight on your back, and it’s even tougher when you can’t choose between transitioning to a younger and more youthful squad, or betting on experience.  Either way, making the wrong bet can cost you the tournament.  These two European has-been’s are great examples of this.  Just take a look at some highlights of the England vs. Italy match.  It’s a little hard to watch at times.  I love Pirlo, but on that pitch he moved more like Puff-lo, the Drowsy Dragon.  He had aged, and it shows.  What makes me pissed is that the team centers so much around him, and apparently on their goalkeeper Buffon.  Both are relics from the 2006 victory (the last great FIFA world cup, in my opinion).  It’s clear that the rest of the members are much less experienced and their play style reflects on reliance on Pirlo and Buffon.  Pirlo controlled all of the meaningful play, but I noticed a lack of will to pick certain passes that he would’ve picked 8 years prior.  Again, a lack of courage, determination, or just sheer physical prowess can be attributed to this.  All in all, Italy’s bet on age was a failure.

England’s bet on youth didn’t work out either.  Although greats like Gerrard and Rooney were part of the lineup, flamboyant players like Sturridge and Sterling lit up the team’s play.  Clearly, they have what it takes to move British football forward.  However, the game that this team is playing was not one that brought out the maximum potential of it’s youth.  Rather, they tried to be patient and make moves, but gave up on winning midfield.  That’s just insane!  You can’t control the pace of the game without fighting it out in midfield.  Unless you have players with the ability to beat out three or four opponents single-handedly, pace can not be controlled.  It’s a combination of shock and awe.  That type of play was appropriate for the first actual golden age of Charlton, Moore and Banks, not for the pirate’s gold age of Terry, Beckham and Rooney.

All in all, the only real surprise of the group stages turned out to be no surprise at all, with the qualifiers of Group D being Costa Rica and Uruguay, leaving England and Italy to pick up the pieces.

Brazil, Brazil

“O, I am fortune’s fool!”      -Romeo

It’s a shame.  A crying shame.  Hosting the world cup was probably the worst thing that could’ve happened to Brazil, both as a country and as a soccer nation.  With a campaign that struggled to pull off more than one or two convincing victories, Brazil somehow managed to make it to the semi-finals, where they were met by a German side that had a similar problem, but who were not as lacking in technical areas and teamwork.  Sadly, Brazil were denied even their dignity as soccer players till the very end, with a margin of six goals to separate the two.  It couldn’t have been more tragic for them.

There’s really nothing more to say.  Brazil ball-watched their way to a 7-1 loss.  Nothing more can be really be said.  Germany took advantage of a Brazilian side that was drunk on their own hype and crumbled under a seemingly inhumane amount of pressure.  While it’s understandable, it’s also rather sad.

Germany at the Finish

Well, Germany won.  I was rooting for them, in my head.  Not in my heart though.  Honestly, the one good thing I took away from the 2010 World Cup was that Germany played really well.  What bothered me about the 2010 World Cup was how Spain played very boring soccer, and still won.  In 2014, Germany emulated this style of Spanish lust for the win.  They played in a manner that would ensure them victory, and that was it.  There was no fun.  There was no joy.  There was barely anything resembling movement and interesting pace.  Just a group of people going through the motions.  Simple control play.

Bleh.  Boring.  To see that kind of play from Germany left a bad taste in my mouth.  I should really check if that milk has expired…

That’s all for this post.  Thanks for humoring my soccer rant, but I wanted to try and add some more variety to the site.  It’s just been music and anime reviews for the most part, so I thought I’d add an extra flavor from my personality portfolio.  Hope you liked it, and thanks for reading.  Have a great day!

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