Messi, Müller, Robben & more: World Cup 2014 is living up to the hype

Barrie White feels the current World Cup is one of the first fit to tie 1990 and 1998's laces after a thrilling group-stage

Argentina talisman Lionel Messi has scored four goals in three games Photo: Back Page Images

In 1990, I was 10. Everything was pretty ace then.

I mean, we were one of the only ones in our street with Sky, and I was going to see my big school. There, while I was being shown around, two lads I remembered from the year above me were there too. They were watching England v Belgium.

Now I think about it, what the hell were we doing there when that game was on? It just seemed to be brilliant that everywhere we went, the World Cup was on, and this was when there were only 24 teams.

Half Man Half Biscuit sung that it was cliched to be cynical, albeit the Four Lads who Shook the Wirral were talking about Christmas. It is very easy to say that World Cups of yesteryear were better, and in the cases of 1990 and 1998, 2002 and 2010 can’t tie their shoelaces.

For many of my generation, that 1990 World Cup is the one we cling to as innocent lovely times of watching football and the best World Cup we’ve ever had.

Now we’re into the last 16 in Brazil, that notion is well and truly blown out of the water.

The 48 games since 12 June have been largely outstanding, with only two games in that bundle not reaching the standards.

We’ve seen some brilliant pieces of skill and the big players have largely stood up and been counted, Cristiano Ronaldo and Steven Gerrard aside.

The Real Madrid man is injured, while Liverpool’s skipper seemed to want to do every he did when he was 28, but forgot he was 34.

However, Thomas Müller, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben have all shown why they are so highly-rated. And then there’s Lionel Messi, who seems to be listening to the one criticism of his game. That he’s not Maradona and won’t win a World Cup on his own.

Well, four goals in three games – including the face-saver against Iran – would show that he’s giving it a good go. Also, Neymar doing for Brazil what his Barcelona mate is doing for their neighbours.

The sheer freedom of Algeria’s attacking play, Robben’s playground approach to attacking (run, Robben, run, run) as well as goals such as van Persie’s and Tim Cahill’s will have a whole generation of early teenage kids falling in love with the World Cup, having pub shouting matches about which Russian keeper threw one in or which Ghanian was responsible for the cross of the competition in 20 years.

Add in the sticker collecting and being allowed to stay up and watch games at 9pm, then it will stay in their memory for ever.

It’s shame that some of the fans have to go home though. The Japanese have been, well frankly mental, and the scanning of the crowd will be weakened for some now that some nations have gone home. That said, Colombia are still here.

There really isn’t anything like a World Cup, proven by this piece being written on the first day off from the game in 15 days. We’re into the real tension now – pray it’s as good as the group stages.

Personally, this could be the first one where we see teams in every game going for the win, including Greece, who showed how much they wanted to be there with the heart-stopping win over Ivory Coast.

It’s a bold statement, but there won’t be penalties in the last 16. The attacking intent of the teams left, as well as some pretty poor defending, means that only extra-time will be needed. Famous last words, eh?

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