FIFA 2014

Brazil 2014: The greatest ever World Cup?

FILE - In this June 21, 2014 file photo, Argentina's Lionel Messi, left, scores during the group F World Cup soccer match between Argentina and Iran at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The Argentina forward used the outside of his foot to scoop the ball to the left, took three quick steps and shot just before Iran forward Reza Ghoochannejad could stretch his leg out to block it. (AP Photo/Jon Super, File)

FILE - In this June 21, 2014 file photo, Argentina's Lionel Messi, left, scores during the group F World Cup soccer match between Argentina and Iran at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The Argentina forward used the outside of his foot to scoop the ball to the left, took three quick steps and shot just before Iran forward Reza Ghoochannejad could stretch his leg out to block it. (AP Photo/Jon Super, File)   | Photo Credit: Jon Super

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Rarely did a World Cup begin with so much promise. Rarely has a World Cup delivered as much.

It could not have begun on a more dramatic note, with Marcelo putting the ball into Brazil’s own net, watched by over 62,000 Brazilians. But, Neymar struck twice as agony turned into ecstasy for Brazil and millions of their supporters around the globe.

Barely 24 hours later, Robin van Persie headed a marvel in and Arjen Robben made a sprint that could make Justin Gatlin envious: in the blink an of eye, Spain was reduced to a pale shadow of the World champion from South Africa, four years ago. The World Cup was truly under way.

Rarely did a World Cup begin with so much promise. Rarely has a World Cup delivered as much.

The final is yet to be played, but there have been suggestions already that this could well be the greatest World Cup ever. That is a tall claim to make for a tournament that is over eight decades old, but there are several compelling evidences to support it, though.

Not many World Cups have produced as much drama and entertainment. Spain’s capitulation against Holland was dramatic enough, but there was more to come, as Germany mauled Portugal 4-0 and Costa Rica topped a group that had three former World champions.

Costa Rica though wasn’t the only underdog. There was Colombia too, and it played some of the most entertaining football in Brazil.

The entertainment quotient has been remarkably high in this World Cup. There were classics in the preliminary league stage itself – Holland v Australia, Germany v Ghaha, Argentina v Nigeria and Italy v England.

Even a goalless match, between Brazil and Mexico, produced thrilling stuff. In that match, Guillermo Ochoa was incredible under the bar, as he raised the bar for goalkeeping at this World Cup. Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas, Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama, Germany’s Manuel Neuer, United States’ Tim Howard and Argentina’s Sergio Romero ensured that this was a World Cup for the goalkeeper as well.

And yes, there was also Holland’s Tim Krul, who was brought in by Louis van Gaal -- a masterstroke -- for the penalty shootout against Costa Rica in the quarterfinals. Not often has in the history of sport has someone become a hero in such a short span of time.

We have also seen a hero taking even less time to turn himself into a villain. Luiz Suarez’s teeth ensured that this World Cup will also have fodder for some biting criticism. His dental – because of something grievously mental, according to some psychologists – adventures came right after he, rather than Uruguay, beat England in the crucial game.

This World Cup has had a tragic hero too, in the form of Neymar, whose, and Brazil’s, dreams ended when his vertebra was broken by a challenge from Juan Camilo Zuniga of Colombia. Neymar had been shaping up beautifully for a dream showdown with Lionel Messi in the final.

Messi has been one of the brightest stars in Brazil. Robben perhaps shone even brighter. Young Colombian star James Rodriguez has been exceptional, too. Thomas Mueller is already threatening to beat the new goal-scoring record set by fellow-German Miroslav Klose.

The marquee players – most of them -- have delivered at this World Cup. Even Wayne Rooney has scored. The likes of Karim Benzema and Xherdan Shaqiri have also played their parts in making this World Cup unforgettable.

The opening half-hour the Germans played against in the semi-final will be remembered ever for the clinical precision of their football, some inept defending by Brazil notwithstanding. This World Cup will also be remembered for Brazil’s worst performance in nearly a century (the 0-6 loss to Uruguay was in 1920).

There have been several goals to remember too in Brazil. Rodriguez (Colombia v Uruguay), van Persie and Robben (Holland v Spain), Tim Cahill (Australia v Holland), Gervinho (Ivory Coast v Colombia), Lionel Messi (Argentina v Bosnia-Herzegovina), David Villa (Spain v Australia)… The list could go on, which is not surprising as 167 goals have been scored – till the semifinals – just four short of the record set by France, 1998.

Goal-line technology, great crowds and best-ever television coverage – shots from helicopter, super slow motion replays and extreme close-ups of fans have been lovely to watch – too have contributed to making this World Cup totally unforgettable.

Thank you, Brazil.

Correction

This article has been corrected on July 13 for a factual error

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 5:26:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/fifa-2014/brazil-2014-the-greatest-ever-world-cup/article6204221.ece

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