Brazil 2014 promised to take this big world event to a country which really is the heartbeat of the World Cup and though it was fairly disastrous for England (and Japan) the tournament was much better than four years ago in South Africa. With Russia and Qatar both controversially hosting the respective 2018 and 2022 World Cup’s things are sure to change!
Though still huge, there’s personally been a law of diminishing returns regarding the last couple of tournaments which is due to a mix of me getting older, international football losing a bit of its spark (whilst the Premier League and Champions League continue to flourish), the continued decline of the England team and the fact that this time I’ve had to juggle a couple of jobs with watching the games through the night! Before it all kicked off I watched YouTube highlights and my dvd’s of all the World Cup’s in my experience (Mexico 86 onwards) in order to whet my appetite and my excitement continued through the group stages as a record breaking amount of goals were scored. It did slow down a bit after that in the knock-out games but a run of late goals kept things ticking over.
The game of the tournament was undoubtedly Germany’s 7-1 mauling of the Neymar-free hosts in the first semi final and in years to come it will probably be this match which people will remember as the game where they won the World Cup! Having had all their group games up in the intense and ridiculous heat of the north followed by a match in the cold south, they did amazingly well to rise above these challenges and were deserved champions in the end. It was a rather lacklustre final (as always) at times with some below-par shooting before a fantastically well-taken goal from substitute Mario Götze won it in the 23rd minute of extra time. The way he chested it down and fired it in from such an angle was a goal worthy of winning the big prize.
It’s just a shame that the night before that semi I had an 11th hour change of heart and set my alarm for half time rather than kick off as I was tired and thought nothing much would happen in the first half! I well and truly got that one wrong but even the second half was way, way better than what was served up 24 hours later in the Holland v Argentina game. Even the penalty shoot out was pretty dull and anti-climactic unlike the previous Dutch game against surprise package Costa Rica where coach Louis van Gaal got highly praised for his goalkeeper change just seconds before the end of extra time with a penalty shoot out just around the corner. It worked out well for the Dutch but wasn’t exactly original as Martin O’Neill did the same for Leicester back in 1996 in the Play Off Final. It was a masterstroke on that glorious day too as the switch affected the oppositions concentration and Steve Claridge hit a last minute winner but I digress!
So back to the World Cup and it’s probably fair to say that expectations were fairly low for us England supporters as the event kicked off in June. I thought we showed a bit of promise in the first match against Italy and were a little unlucky to not come away with a point. You could say likewise for the Uruguay game too but Suarez is a predator (in more ways than one!) and punished us by showing how to finish when he got his chances. Of course his World Cup ended in shame as he was banned from all football activity for four months following yet another biting incident. However, this hasn’t managed to deter him from signing for Barcelona!
It was the earliest exit England have ever made although previous holders Spain’s hopes of a fourth consecutive triumph (two European Championships and one World Cup) ended before that although that was due to the fixture list and was certainly no consolation. Neither was it when fellow European giants Italy and Portugal also failed to make it beyond the group stages.
Japan didn’t fare much better and their exit was a huge disappointment given the expectations by many that they could maybe reach the quarter finals for the first time ever. They started well enough with Honda putting them 1-0 up against the Ivory Coast but no sooner had Didier Drogba been introduced and the tide turned as the Africans netted two similar goals one after another to take the points.
Their next match showed Japan’s inability to turn possession into goalscoring opportunities against a phenomenally tough defence as they failed to break down a 10 men Greek team. Though there was a glimmer of hope at half time against Colombia that faded away as soon as play resumed and a team, with one of the stars of the World Cup in Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez, ran out easy winners in the end.
As well as following the (mis)fortunes of England and Japan I also had a keen eye on Algeria as they possessed the only representative Leicester had at the World Cup. He started against Belgium in their opener but sadly was an un-used substitute for the games after that but watching the Desert Foxes was quite joyful and the tournament was successful for them as they pushed the Germans all the way in their second round game. Of the so-called lesser-sides though it was Costa Rica who were the biggest triumph reaching the quarter finals following victories in the group stage over both Uruguay and Italy. Maybe England managing to draw with them and keep a clean sheet was actually a good result for us! Oh how far we’ve fallen!
Now, I didn’t see every game but probably managed to watch over half of them live and the teams that were the most entertaining to watch were Chile, Colombia, Germany and as much as it pains me to say it, the USA were quite a delight to watch and though they had no star names among their ranks they showed, as did champions Germany, what a good solid bit of teamwork can do. It’s not always the case that the best team wins the tournament but thankfully on this occasion, Germany were the outstanding team and rightful winners.
You can read my previous World Cup overviews by clicking on the links below:
Tokyo Fox World Cup 2010 Overview (Click here)
Tokyo Fox World Cup 20o6 Overview (Click here)