Football

Brazil 2014: The good, the bad and ugly

The World Cup which started on Thursday,12th  June  finally ended on Sunday, 13th July. It has been a month of entertainment, excitement, tears and, above all, a symbol of unity because sports took the centre stage, and  politics, issues with governance and the economy, were relegated to the background. The world spoke one language – sports.

While the mundial accorded us  all the fun and the platform for the big names that have been excelling in football in their clubs to prove a point, it was sad  that some of those big names  failed to propel their respective teams onto the next stage. All in all, we still enjoyed what Brazil 2014 had to offer the world.

In all, 32 countries were represented at the world football gala: In addition to Brazil, there were five from Africa, three from Asia, 13 from Europe and  10 from America and Australia. Each country presented its best  players to prove their mettle to the world. From the likes of Schweinstiger of Germany, Messi of Argentina, Pogba of France, Neymar of Brazil, Eto'o of Cameroon, Drogba of Ivory Coast, Bryan Ruiz of Costa Rica and James Rodriguez of Colombia, all had something great to offer, and what a dazzling display of football they entertained us with!

The mundial could not have entertained  us  without leaving behind surprises and eventualities to go down in the history book of Brazil 2014.

To begin with, teams like Colombia and Costa Rica pulled a surprise when Colombia made it to the second round of 16 and Costa Rica to the quarterfinals after beating Uruguay and  Italy and  drawing with England, proving that there are now no underdogs in football.

From the group stages, two brothers (Kevin and Jerome Boateng) played for two opposing teams for the second  time at the world stage. Kevin played for Ghana while Jerome played for Germany. The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon were humbled of 0-4 by Croatia  in a match that produced serious casualties  along with a red card.

Still in the group stages, defending champions  Spain were thrashed  1-5  by Netherlands. Germany also handed Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal a 4-0 defeat on their way to becoming world champions. On more surprises in relation to goals, Greece beat the Elephants of Ivory Coast  2-1. Chile that many might consider as the underdogs, held the host nation Brazil to a pulsating 1-1 draw, till Brazil eventually won 3-2 on penalties in the quarter final. This achievement made Brazilian Coach Luis Felipe Scolari admit in an interview that "we were lucky this time." Indeed, they were lucky as  they did not fare well in subsequent games.

The  mundial also witnessed the highest goals ever scored  in  semifinal  history of Brazil 2014.Germany beat host nation Brazil  7-1. These goals added up to the total of 171  scored at this year's World Cup  compared to 145 goals in South Africa in 2010.

These interesting twists and turns in the game of the survival of the fittest saw Germany that scored 18 goals in all, take the coveted trophy home.

New records set

Brazil 2014 saw people set new records to make history. From the likes of Khedira scoring a first for Germany to the likes of Ghana's John Boye scoring an own goal, these records make Brazil 2014, a mundial to remember.

Ghanaian Captain Asamoah Gyan broke Roger Miller's five goals record  at the World Cup, and set his own. Asamoah Gyan is only African to have scored a total of six World Cup goals.

 Miroslav Klose, the experienced striker for Germany,  broke Ronaldo's World Cup record with his 16th goal against Brazil in the semi-finals,  giving him  reason to say goodbye to his football career at age 36.

Germany's Thomas Muller  took home the silver boot for coming second with five goals and the silver ball for his overall performance at the World Cup.

James Rodriguez of Colombia took home the golden boot as the highest scorer with 6 goals, with his team receiving the FIFA fair play team award, making this a first and new record for Colombia at Brazil 2014.

Colombia's second goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon ended his football career at age 43, a year older than Africa' Roger Miller who retired at age 42. Faryd was the oldest player at Brazil 2014.

Interesting twists and turns

The Black Stars of Ghana who are known to have beaten the USA 2-1 on two occasions, this time succumbed to the USA, who beat them 2-1. Now that's some record huh! The irony of this is that on the two occasions that Ghana beat the USA, it was under a local Coach Bradley, and now Ghana lost to the USA under Coach Kwasi Appiah, also a local coach. Some interesting twist there.

Algeria became the only African team to score 4 goals in a match against South Korea. Greece  gave up their bonuses promised them by their government after they progressed to the round of 16. The players rather  asked that their bonuses be used to build a football training centre in Greece to train young  people in football. A generous gesture indeed!

Predictions

Observations about the World Cup cannot  be complete without a comment on the usual predictions of who the new world champions will be, especially after the death of Octopus Paul. An illusionist llan  Smith will forever go into the historical records as the man who predicted the scoreline for the Germany-Argentina match. He did not only predict the scoreline but also  the name of the goal scorer and the minute in which the goal would be scored. How he did it, your guess might be as good as mine.

Lastly, Brazil lost their host-and-win dream to Germany, making Germany the first European team to take the trophy on South American soil.

Untoward developments

Perhaps some of the untoward developments in Brazil 2014 could have been avoided if a little patience and decorum had been applied. Let's start with Ghana which has of late become popular in the international media for the wrong reasons. Airlifting of $3 million on a chartered flight to Brazil as payment for appearance fee for the Black Stars after they threatened to boycott the match against  Portugal!

Sulley Muntari and Kevin Prince Boateng were sacked from camp  before the match with Portugal over reports of insults and violence, a development that had various versions of what actually transpired. Just when the world had had enough of the bad publicity for Ghana, some Ghanaian fans, who were flown to Brazil, refused to return home and sought asylum in Brazil on the pretext that they were escaping 'religious conflict.'  Now, what conflict would that be?

Nigeria was in the news too when the players  boycotted training over unpaid appearance fees, a situation that was  well handled by the coach and the Nigerian Federation. Then Alex Song of Cameroon elbowed his  Croatian counterpart, Mario Mandzukic  in the 40th minute of play, resulting in a red card for him. After his exit,  left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto repeated Frenchman  Zidane's headbutting incident against his teammate Benjamin  Moukanjo on the pitch and both started a fight that was stopped by Cameroonian teammate Pierre Webo. Their indiscipline caused them a 0-4 defeat. It was later learnt that their acts of indiscipline on the pitch stemmed from  unpaid allowances. Now, that is something.

Uruguay's Suarez  ‘scored’  a hat-trick when he bit his Italian counterpart Giorgio Chiellani in the group stages of the World Cup. Fifa sanctioned him with a four-month suspension from football activities and a nine-game  international ban, a decision some describe  as harsh.

Brazil lost their star player Neymar to a vertebrae injury from Colombian counterpart Juan Zuniga in the quarter-finals. The injury ruled him out of the Germany/ Brazil match in the semi-finals.

On a rather sad note, Ivorian brothers Yaya and Kolo Toure lost their brother Ibrahim Toure to cancer, a day before their match in the group stages of the tournament and Serey Die lost his father hours before their match.

Some lessons

Brazil 2014 brought many lessons to the fore. For starters, patriotism and national pride were  the foundation that many who represented their  countries exhibited. Second lesson; all teams proved to the world that football is no longer about the big names and also that there are no underdogs in football.

Of all the many lessons learnt, unity, determination, dedication,  commitment, discipline and zero tolerance for complacency to reap success – all  stand tall at Brazil 2014. For a fact, these qualities were what the Germans uniquely exhibited at the world stage.

While Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, France, Portugal, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, the USA, England, Spain and Ghana built their teams around Messi, Neymar, Suarez, Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mikel Obi, Drogba, Eto'o, Clint Dempsey, Rooney, Iniesta and Asamoah Gyan respectively, Germany ruled out the fact that they had stars; they considered themselves as a team and that did the trick at Brazil 2014.

A big lesson for all  indeed! Teamwork pays, absolutely.

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