World Cup 2014: Eight things we learned
Here are eight lessons we learned from the World Cup after Germany were crowned champions on Sunday
A European nation can win in South America
Perhaps one of the more absurd myths being touted before the World Cup was that a European side could never triumph in North or South America. Admittedly, history was on the side of that claim but it was an outdated notion. There hadn’t been a World Cup held in South America since 1978 or North America since USA 1994. The football landscape is vastly different now, and thankfully, Germany ended that unfavourable record in style. The Netherlands, Belgium and Greece all coped, too. Perhaps if all the games were played in Manaus, the myth would have prevailed.
Spain era is over, but is tiki-taka really dead?
Spain were quite pathetic in their defence of the World Cup. Vicente Del Bosque’s men lost to the Netherlands and Chile in their opening two Group B games to end their hopes of winning a fourth straight major tournament. In particular, a 5-1 loss to Louis van Gaal’s side was heralded as the end of tiki-taka. But Pep Guardiola had seven members of his Bayern Munich squad in the Germany side when the final whistle sounded in the World Cup final on Sunday. Germany’s World Cup triumph success suggests that there may be life in tiki-taka yet.
Brazil just aren’t that good any more
One of the more disappointing aspects of the tournament was the lack of a truly great side, apart from Germany. When you think of the great Brazil teams of the recent past, names likes Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Lucio roll off the tongue. Luiz Felipe Scolari had Fred and Jo. There was no flamboyant football, even though Neymar tried his best to thrill the Brazil supporters. Did the manager get his tactics wrong? Well, some of the names omitted raised eyebrows, like Filipe Luis and Philippe Coutinho.
England still England
Roy Hodgson attempted to disperse the circling media vultures by highlighting England’s approach to their 2-1 loss to Italy in their opening Group D game. The Three Lions boss claimed his squad had given the travelling supporters something to cheer about after the goalless draw with Costa Rica in their final Group D game. But apart from a sleek move which resulted in Daniel Sturridge’s goal against Italy, there were few other highlights. England didn’t look as paralysed by the expectation and pressure as in previous World Cups, but this wasn’t new-age England either.
Age is just a number
There have been calls for 34-year-old England captain Steven Gerrard to retire and Frank Lampard, 36, is yet to announce the end of his international career. But this World Cup proved that age is just a number. Colombia’s canny centre-half Mario Yepes, 38, used all his experience to help his side reach the last eight. Former Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez, 35, and 37-year-old Giorgos Karagounis played important roles as Mexico and Greece moved into the knockout stage. Arjen Robben shows no sign of slowing down as he goes past 30, too. The Netherlands forward’s pace and trickery lit up the World Cup.
We love a good goalkeeper
Rob Green hit the headlines during the South Africa World Cup for his high-profile gaffe in England’s 1-1 draw with USA. In Brazil, the shot-stoppers could do no wrong. Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa and Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas produced outstanding performances to help the unfancied Concacaf sides reach the last 16. Tim Howard delivered the best goalkeeper display of the tournament as he did his utmost to keep Belgium out for the best part of 93 minutes. The Everton man’s heroics prompted Twitter to explode with #ThingsHowardCouldSave. Netherlands number one Jasper Cillessen was a part of another meme campaign after the Ajax man sat down during a one-sided third-place play-off. Of course we can’t forget Golden Glove winner Manuel Neuer, who showed how a ‘sweeper keeper’ can transform a defence.
Mascherano is most effective in midfield, Tevez was missed
Barcelona have been playing Javier Mascherano out of position at centre-half for the best part of two seasons. Whilst the Argentine can do a decent job, this World Cup highlighted his best position (which we all know already). The 30-year-old was hugely influential in the Argentina side, proving the real leader. If Barcelona had been playing Mascherano a little ahead of deep-lying Sergio Busquets last season, would Tata Martino have struggled so much? Speaking of Argentina, Carlos Tevez’s absence was really highlighted in the semi-final and final. Lionel Messi was tiring after his group-stage heroics, Sergio Ageuro lacked sharpness and Gonzalo Higuain was average. If the Juventus forward had made the World Cup, his energy and guile could have proven the difference considering the spurned chances.
Messi and Ronaldo paid price for La Liga heroics
As already mentioned, Messi looked jaded as Argentina went further and further into the tournament. There was an underlying feeling that the 27-year-old’s notable absence in spells last term was a ploy by Messi to remain fresh for the World Cup. However, the Brazil tournament served to underline just how much Messi is physically suffering after such glorious, but long campaigns in recent years. Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo was ineffective, too. The 29-year-old contended with a knee injury which limited his pre-tournament preparations and Ronaldo looked off-colour against Germany and USA.