We’ll leave it there so-The World Cup 2014

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.

The Champions

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.

 

 

Tournament shocks

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.
Bill1.jpg

Chewsday-July 8th

It’s World Cup semi-final day, so today it’s a fact for each of Germany and Brazil.

Germany, in this World Cup, became the first team to reach 100 World Cup matches, which arrived emphatically when they mangled the Portuguese 4-0. Although one would think, but haven’t Italy won four World Cups and Brazil are better again with five, this does not come into play. This is because Germany have reached a record 12 semi-finals (touting Brazil’s 10). Although not always coming out on top, a place in the semi-final automatically guarantees a further match, which comes in the form of the third place play-off (which in 2010 Germany won). The Germans have only failed to reach the quarters once, back in 1938, but also didn’t participate in 1930 or 1950. Brazil have now reached their 100th match also, but credit to the Germans who were first to get there.

As for Brazil, much of the talk around the World Cup has focused on the extreme poverty of Brazilian cities. That being said, Brazil are actually the most expensive team in the competition, if we run on current market value. Their total player cost cashes in at around 508 million, which narrowly slips in over Spain who are 2 or 3 million lower. So with that it’s the clash of the competition’s most expensive team, versus the team with the most World Cup matches.

We will have to see whether Klose fires home his record beating goal against Ronaldo’s own Brazil tonight.

 

Chewsday-July 1st

This week it’s the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup. In order to do it justice, we’ll give both our facts to the infamous stage where champions emerge and supposed favourites are crushed by the outsiders.

Since the World Cup began in 1930, the competition has seen controversial matches of all shapes and sizes. Back in 1966, Pele was on the losing side of a bloodbath, when a talented Portuguese side, having seen the success the Hungarians (who were a jaded team living in the shadow of a masterful 1950s side) had in dealing with the Brazil No.10, proceeded to violently foul the player for an entire ninety minutes and not even have a player dismissed. Forty years later, things were different when a passionate Zinedine Zidane bowed out of international football on the grandest stage of them all; his end coming in the form of an enigmatic headbutt to the body of Italian defender Marco Materazzi. Fairly shocking. But then what was the most violent match of them all, at least by statistical standards? Enter the Battle of Nuremberg, a round of 16 clash in the 2006 finals, played out surprisingly by the Netherlands and Portugal. Russian referee Valentin Ivanov had his hands full, having to issue a record four red cards and 16 yellow cards, setting a new record for cards shown at any FIFA-administered international tournament.

The match ended 1–0 to Portugal, with Maniche scoring in the 23rd minute. Before the goal, Van Bommell had been booked and in the eighth minute, Dutch defender Boulahrouz was cautioned for a foul which injured Ronaldo and would eventually force the substitution of Portugal’s star winger before half time. Ronaldo left in tears, and proceeded to describe Boulahrouz’s tackle as “clearly an intentional foul to get me injured.”In the meantime, Maniche had been booked for a foul on Van Bommel after 19 minutes.Costinha was sent off just before half time, the culmination of a foul and a handball. After Petit had been cautioned in the 50th minute, Van Bronckhurst and Luis Figo both received yellow cards, with Figo’s coming as a result of a headbutt. Portugal manage Luis Felipe Scolari controversially approved of the foul after Figo had been incited, “Jesus Christ may be able to turn the other cheek but Luís Figo isn’t Jesus Christ. Scolari also escaped punishment.

Boulahrouz was sent off in the 63rd minute with a second caution after fouling Figo, which sparked a melee on the touch line. Portugal’s playmaker Deco roughly fouled Dutch defender Heitinga and was booked; the Netherlands had held onto the ball after Portugal had cleared it into touch to allow a player to receive medical treatment, thus breaking one of football’s unwritten rules. Deco received his second caution and was dismissed in the 78th minute for delaying the restart after a free-kick was awarded. Philip Cocu escaped a caution for wrestling Deco to the ground in his attempt to retrieve the ball. Meanwhile, Van Bronckhurst received his marching orders. Overall, Sepp Blatter quoted on the matter saying “the referee should have gave himself a yellow card”, but later apologised.

Image

For our second fact, we go back to 1990. It’s the second round, Italy is the scene and two nations hold their breath as it becomes clear only one team is going to emerge. And no, this fact is not about the Ireland-Romania match. While Ireland’s heroics in the second round of Italia 90 are applauded to this day, one of the surprisingly lesser known matches came in the form of a Brazil-Argentina clash. At half time, the game was stuck at 0-0, and although Brazil seemed to be controlling the play, no goal was in sight.Aan Argentinian went down injured around this time. During this interruption Branco – later to play in England with Middlesbrough – drank from a bottle supplied by Argentina’s physio Miguel di Lorenzo.Shortly afterwards, against the run of play, Claudio Caniggia scored the only goal of the game from a Diego Maradona pass, putting Argentina into the quarter-finals.

Suspicion of foul play was first raised two days later by Branco, who said he had felt dizzy and ill after drinking the water. Maradona later admitted on public TV that after he offered the water to the Brazilians, Branco was ‘falling over’ after taking free kicks. The coach Bilardo has also said “I’m not denying it happened”. So although the incident has never been proved, the suspicion remains.

Image

 

Chewsday-June 24th

The world cup is well underway now, with most teams fighting out their last group games for pride or progress. Portugal are finding their return to their former colony isn’t as triumphant as when they first came conquering. In fact, Portugal are used to victory in the field. The Portuguese have etched out the tenth largest empire in known world history. This came in 1815, when Portugal controlled over 4 million square miles, or to put it roughly, about one fifteenth of the earth’s land belonged to Portugal. So what empire was the biggest?

It seems the obvious answer to this would be the roman empire, right? I mean,Veni, vidi, vici; I came, I saw, I conquered. The truth is rather shocking. Rome actually only represents the seventeenth greatest empire, much smaller than the Portuguese,but respectable given their methods of transport. The largest was actually that of the British Empire, which at its height in the aftermath of the Great War in 1922 was over 12 million square miles, which is over a fifth of the world’s land. A part of me likes to think we Irish were behind the great collapse, given the year in it (note this part represents no known historical basis, but hey, give us this one). Behind that, the Mongols and the Russians make up spots two and three. 

British-Empire

Much of this World Cup is centering as usual around controversial refereeing decisions. Some of the greatest moments in World Cup history have come down to referees, such as allowing the England goal to stand in ’66, or dismissing Zidane after he went headbutting in 2006. Only moments ago, Suarez put his own meaning to “Chewsday”, though I’m sure he only reads my blog from time to time. John Langenus refereed the first world cup final in Uruguay in 1930. Langenus first undertook his refereeing exam only to fail it when he wrongly answered a question posed by examiners. The question asked of him was: “What is the correct procedure if the ball strikes a low-flying plane?”. Langenus did not answer and failed the exam. One of the major talking points under his officiating was an incident involving one of the US medical staff, after Langenus had given a foul against one of the American players; “the team’s medical attendant raced, bellicose, on to the field, to berate Langenus. Having had his say, he flung his box of medicines to the ground, the box burst open, various bottles smashed, including one full of chloroform, and its fumes rose to overpower the American. He was helped from the field.”

Having been selected to watch over the final, which was played between the host nation and the ever-passionate Argentinians, he demanded a quick escape route to his ship after the final occurred, in case any controversy surrounded him. So though we may whinge still over the wrong decisions that have swung the pendulum in some of the most hotly-contested games, we re safe in the knowledge that refereeing has gone to great lengths before for the game, and should do again.

250px-John_Langenus_The_football_arbitrator_a_judging_first_final_of_the_World_championships_1930_year

 

Chewsday-June 17th

One year today since the blog went live!This week it’s another two rather obscure facts; one on ship disasters and a second on World Cup football, which now features two weeks in a row in the spirit of the games.

The most popularised ship disaster of all time is that of the RMS Titanic; the supposed unsinkable ship, which went down in 1912 after striking an iceberg on its maiden voyage. The rest, rather like a cliché, is history. With a death toll of over fifteen hundred, and with the majority of its male and lower class passengers (or if very unlucky-both male and lower class) going down with the ship (a cliché again I’m afraid), the story of the Titanic has won its place in history rightfully. The Titanic sunk during peacetime, with it’s massive hull striking the Atlantic floor some time before Europe imploded into war. But in war, even civilian ships become targets. Such was the case with the Lusitania, a ship sunk by German naval power leaving nearly 1200 people dead. And so comes our first fact: what exactly is the worst wartime maritime disaster?

One of the least known multi-ship disasters is that of the English armada (yes, not the Spanish). Coming some time after the Spanish calamity, the renowned Sir Francis Drake helped lead the English into a 15,000 man blood bath. Course we never hear that story, do we? What is regarded as possibly the worst single ship disaster in history is that of the Wilhelm Gustloff. This German evacuation ship (carrying some Nazi officials and troops, but majorly acting as a civilian transport) sailed into the Baltic Sea and met its end by three torpedo shots. Coming at the start of 1945 when the war was all but lost for Hitler, over nine thousand people are estimated to have been killed during the sinking, some seven or eight times the amount that were lost during the Lusitania attack.

Lazarettschiff  "Wilhelm Gustloff" in Danzig

On a brighter and more relevant note, we look at another World Cup fact. Giuseppe Meazza is widely regarded by football experts to be one of the greatest players in World Cup history. Playing for Italy in the 1930s, his goals helped lead Italy to two trophies in 1934 (in which he won the golden boot) and 1938. He scored 33 times for Italy. One of the most memorable (but least known) World Cup goals came in the 1938 semi-finals, where Italy played host to Brazil. Italy were awarded a penalty after Silvio Piola, the team’s new center forward, was chopped down in the box by “the Divine Master”, Domingos da Guia. The Brazilian goalkeeper Walter, who was famous for hypnotizing his opponents and for saving penalties back in Brazil, arrogantly claimed he was certain he would save the shot. Meazza confidently stepped up, but having been the target of Brazilian tackles throughout the match, saw his shorts fall down during his run up due to the elastic having suffered damage. Still with his eyes fixed on goal, the prolific scorer held up his shorts by one hand and continued his run to place the ball into the net, with the Brazilian keeper still busy laughing at the situation in front of him.The goal stood, and Italy went on to win the 1938 World cup, much to Meazza’s relief of course, who was left a telegram by Mussolini reading “Win or die!” before the tournament.

Giuseppe_Meazza_(Derby_d'Italia)

Chewsday-June 10th

What better day than Tuesday to have two facts to chew on for a week or so? None! That’s why starting this week I’m gonna give ye two facts to sit back and think about. Not bad for a Tuesday.

1. The scale of the Rwandan genocide.

Not an optimistic one to start on, but it comes in to my head from time to time. Of course, most of western culture would be somewhat familiar with the film ‘Hotel Rwanda’, a true story of Tutsis saved during the Rwandan genocide. Although the movie does touch on the massacre elsewhere, the overall result if looked at is terrifying. At 8:30 p.m. on April 6, 1994, President Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda was returning from a summit in Tanzania when a surface-to-air missile shot his plane out of the sky over Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali. All on board were killed in the crash. Although it has never been determined who was truly responsible for the assassination, Hutu extremists profited the most from Habyarimana’s death. Within 24 hours after the crash, Hutu extremists had taken over the government, blamed the Tutsis for the assassination, and begun the slaughter.

In short, over a hundred day period roughly 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus (who sympathized/helped the Tutsis) were slaughtered. This does not even begin to take into account the countless rapes and other war crimes that occurred. So we reach our fact : using simple maths we can take from these figures that nearly 6 Tutsis were killed every minute…consistently…for one hundred days. This dwarfs the killing rate of the Black Death easily and towers even over Hitler at the height of his ‘final solution’. Just a scary thought when we consider this was happening in our lifetime.

Image

2. Just Fontaine

Given the World Cup is finally about to hit our screens, I thought a good fact about this would be appreciated. One of the ongoing talking points in the build up to Brazil is the inclusion of Miroslav Klose in Germany’s squad. The rather aged striker (36 years) is now setting off to his fourth World Cup, an accomplishment that has seen him net fourteen times and remain only one shy of Brazil’s own Ronaldo as the player with the highest tally of World Cup goals. Of course Gerd Muller, also a German, is tied with Klose on fourteen goals too, and rather impressively he did this in only 13 world cup games (Ronaldo and Klose are 19 a-piece). With a goal/ game average of 1.08 over two games, Muller is king right? Not exactly.

First off Sandor Kocsis has the highest goal/game average having slammed home 11 goals in the ’54 finals, a feat he achieved with the then unbeaten Hungarian national side. But who needs averages when we have more goals? At least that what France’s Just Fontaine would say. He appeared in the 1958 finals (remembered fondly as the games that announced Pele to the world stage) and managed to score THIRTEEN goals in just six matches.

Unfortunately for the french it was to be Pele’s day, as his hat-trick in their semi-final tie saw them pummel the French 5-2. Just Fontaine did net another three impressively in the third place play-off against defending champions West Germany, but then it was curtains. Forced to retire early at twenty-eight due to recurring injuries, his name faded out of history pretty quickly as the Brazil side of the sixties dominated the headlines. Yet to this day, nobody has ever managed to out-do his 1958 legacy. it’s over to Brazil to see will it hold for another four years….

Image

Come back next week for two more facts to chew on