It’s time for that end of holiday feeling. Your bags are packed, the hotel room is clean, the taxi is outside and only now you realise it is all over. Nobody ever expects a holiday to end, and it’s fair to say it really felt like this World Cup was going to live on forever. Perhaps it will. After the disappointment in South Africa four years ago, these finals firmly put football back on the map as a beautiful game. All it took was a few big game shocks, a whole host of goals, and a healthy dollop of vanishing spray, and we had our World Cup 2014.
No football fan could deny the World Cup deserved to go the Germans. Having smashed group rivals Portugal 4-0, they went on to play out a 2-2 draw against a feisty Ghanaian side in what was easily one of the games of the tournament. They rounded off their table topping performance with a tough win over the US, who at this point were standing out among their two other opponents who were touted to dump them out at the group stages. Next up for Germany was Algeria, who smashed former hosts South Korea in a 4-2 thriller nobody saw coming. It took extra time in a pulsating clash but Germany won through; Andre Schurrle grabbing the first before Ozil added the second in the dying moments. Germany had then perhaps the toughest quarter final draw for those teams that made it through to the semis, as they took on a French side who had eased through the group matches and then braved a Nigerian storm to come through 2-0 winners. Hummels proved the difference on this occasion, but all round the Germans had the beating of their neighbours.
Then came the moment to remember from a memorable World Cup. Hosts Brazil were missing poster boy Neymar, and had stumbled and staggered past Chile and Columbia to reach the semi final stage. Without their talisman, and also missing Thiago Silva through suspension, the Germans came in as the pundits pick. The atmosphere was lauded as a possible deal breaker, with a enigmatic David Luiz also being tipped by some to lead the Brazilians on to their destiny. What happened next shook the footballing world. In just over ninety minutes, the Europeans rushed seven past a helpless Julio Cesar, and with their forward line tearing open Luiz’s rag-tag defence time and time again, it could have been more. In a first half that saw five goals in a mere twenty-nine minutes, or four in roughly seven minutes, Brazil’s World Cup dream, and their world as a whole, crashed to the ground. The Germans then were set for Argentina, so a repeat of the 1986 or 1990 final was on the cards. Now destiny turned its gaze to Lionel Messi, who was in the position of Diego Maradonna not thirty years before. But fortune favours the brave, and so out came Germany in full force.
In what was in my opinion easily the best final of the modern era, Germany and Argentina traded blow after blow in a heart-stopping first period, with Argentina’s tricky maestros looking to sneak in behind a high German defensive line. Meanwhile the Germans ran a passing game through Phillip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, so that Klose, Muller and substitute Schurrle were free to parade into the South American box. Germany hit the post in the closing minute of the half, with the game’s golden chance before that falling to hit and miss Higuain, who spurned his opportunity to become the hero by drawing wide of the mark. Messi also found the the corner elusive with his effort. In the second half it was much the same. After a brief Argentinian shock and awe display, the Germans settled in to their football, eating up the possession stats like nobodies business. Chance after chance flew by, with Kroos not seeming to recover from his early mishaps as he wasted two good looks at goal. Neuer raced from the goal line two or three times to deny Higuain and the introduced Ageuro.
In fact, having gone to extra time it was this feature of the golden glove winner’s game that denied Palacio, who shot in ahead of the defence only to see his effort fly harmlessly wide. Gotze had come as a substitute late on, and now took up an advanced position with supply coming through Schurrle and quick passing from midfield. Sixty years ago, a relatively young Helmut Rahn stepped out of the shadow of his near omission from the squad to score the winning goal against Hungary. In 2014, Gotze skipped between starter, sub and ‘can’t fit in the team’ again and again. In the second half of extra time, the game still tied, Germany needed a Helmut Rahn. Step forward Mario Gotze.
Luckily the 2014 World Cup was swimming in these, whether it was Italy’s untimely demise or Brazil suffering a thumping by the future champions. Here are a couple hardly any of us saw coming.
Game of the Tournament
Undoubtedly this one goes to Belgium and the US, who played out an 120 minute thriller that nearly saw the US crush hopes of the dark horse of Rio.
Belgium and USA MNT fight it out
In close second I’d say Ghana and Germany played a great tie, with games like Germany vs Argentina and France vs Switzerland also deserved of a mention.
The best goals
James Rodriguez surely deserves top marks, but we had other spectacles as well. The flying Dutchman Robin Van Persie gave us something world class against defending champions Spain, Messi gave us a wonder against Nigeria, and even World Cup flop David Luiz smashed home a world beater vs Columbia. Here are ten selections
You bet on what?
Last night dreams came true. That’s right, one lucky SkyBet customer won 83,000 pounds as he finally saw his bet come off that had Manchester city winning the league, Madrid the champions league, Wolves in League One Placing first, QPR promoted and at last Germany lifting the World Cup. This comes after last week we heard a lucky man claimed 49,000 grand on a single bet which had Sami Khedira to score anytime and Germany to win 7-1 over Brazil.
Happier again are those smug 167 betting customers who successfully predicted Luis Suarez was going to bite somebody at this year’s finals. That’s a creative one, but not as crazy as what one Lincoln Bookmakers man wanted in on. The staff at the Lincoln branch had to ring the Stan James office to confirm the odds, after the customer insisted on the following scenario:
“The man entered the Lincoln branch to stake £5 on a scenario where Germany lead at half-time, and in the second half Argentina’s Javier Mascherano fouls and injures Muller in the box, leaving him unable to take the resulting penalty – which is then missed by Klose!”
But of course not all betters can win. This was a fact highlighted by Singapore government officials before the game, when they made their ad programme against betting use the following image
Not like they could have picked a less likely team than Germany, who previous to the games had featured in the last three semi-finals at least. But the Singaporean government aren’t so easily defeated, as they then updated the ad to this.
Saying goodbye to Rio 2014
It won’t be easy to wait another four years for a World Cup. Despite all the controversy around Brazilian preparation and match officials, Rio has been a phenomenal success for the sport. Out of the ashes have risen Germany, the now super power of both European club and World football (if we are honest about what the club situation is). In the fallout, Louis Van Gaal says his goodbyes to a wonderful World Cup for Holland, with Arjen Robben theatrically playing himself into history, and Robin Van Persie keeping the doubters quiet for another year. Columbia, Chile, Belgium, USA and Costa Rica will all hope to push on from here for a big display in 2018 in Russia. As for Italy, Portugal, Spain and England, it’s back to the drawing board for Europe’s elite. Portugal are waiting for a couple of top class players to take the heat off Ronaldo. Italy will look at their midfield and wonder where the spark will come from now. Spain have seen their passing game eliminated as fast it came, and with the squad aging it might be a sign Del Bosque needs a new vision. And England? Another disappointing tournament in their eyes. To everybody else, Roy Keane especially, it was something we saw coming. Too much of the English game contradicts the norm of International football, with the percentage of World Cup finalists playing in the EPL shockingly low. Whereas Italy are the ghost of a 2006 victory, England might yet have at least a spring on the horizon.
It was not be Brazil’s destiny after all, with Neymar carried off into the night to wait for his calling. Messi may have seen his last chance slip by, and with it, the possible glory of immortality among the greats. He will go back to Barcelona now, and set the golden ball somewhere quiet, an ill-begotten title on a lonely night for the Argentinian. Rio gave us goals, all record equaling 171 of them. It gave us tears, joy, shocks and wonder. It gave us fresh faces and infamous acts. It gave us good football and a changing world for the players of our time. Most of all, it gave a fitting farewell to Bill O’Herlihy; one of the great sports broadcasters of his time. May we make it to 2018.