Well that’s it, 171 goals in 64 matches over the course of a month and every football-lover east of Europe is wondering how they hell they’ll ever manage to get back to a regular sleeping pattern.
In the wake of civil unrest and financial inequality, many said the big question at the end of the tournament would be “was it worth it?”
Now, I have a decent salary and comfortable living conditions, I don’t experience the extreme social volatility and insecurity that comes from living in a Favela, I don’t have a national government that spent billions on an international event while letting local people suffer – and because of all these things my answer to the above question is “FUCK YEAH IT WAS! BEST WORLD CUP EVER!”.
This is the 6th World Cup I’ve been able to take an active interest in during my life and, while previous tournaments may have had better narratives on and off the pitch, I don’t recall ever seeing a better standard of international football on the field – and let’s face it, that’s where it counts.
Loyal followers of this blog (all 5 of you) will remember that prior to the tournament I gave a (not very) comprehensive run down of all the teams and their prospects heading into the tournament. With that in mind it’s time to ask…
HOW OFF THE MARK WAS I?
In some regards, not very, but in some, WAY OFF. I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to the people of both Costa Rica and Algeria. My preview blatantly suggested that these teams would get nowhere in the face of superior opposition. What I wasn’t banking on was that ‘superior’ opposition playing so woefully both of these teams were able to make it out of the group stage – and in Costa Rica’s case get through to the Quarter-Finals! I suggested that Costa Rica’s “return flights should already be booked” – and it’s a good thing they weren’t as they would have had to cancel and probably lost their deposit.
On the other side of the coin I went on to label teams like Italy serious contenders, when they were sent packing straight after the group.
HOW ON THE MARK WAS I?
The very last paragraph of my entire preview states that “if the likes of Germany and Argentina aren’t in the final four, we’ll see just how wrong I was”. Well, they both made the final, so I sure can’t be that wrong.
While I was wrong about Algeria and Costa Rica, I was far less incorrect about a host of other teams like Korea, Japan, Australia (sensing an Asian theme here) and Honduras, who all met expectations by failing to perform, Portugal (one man team), the US (that they’d do pretty well), the French (quarter finals), Switzerland (knocked out in the second round by Argentina), Iran and Argentina (if Messi scores early they’ll do well). In retrospect I think I did pretty damn well – anyone at ESPN or Fox Sports Australia want to offer me a job?
THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
I knew Australia (country of birth) wouldn’t do too well – but I had hoped that, if they performed against any other team in the group, it wouldn’t be the Dutch (country of heritage). Instead the Australia v Netherlands match turned out to be one of the games of the World Cup, featuring the goal of the World Cup scored by none other than Tim Cahill. I wanted it to be a good game that still ended with a Dutch win – and that’s exactly what I got, even if it was a little too close for comfort at 2-1 down.
When Australia were eliminated after a soft 3-0 hammering by Spain, all hopes reverted to the Dutch. After the 5-1 smashing of the same opponents, (greatest moment in my life) the Dutch were set to do well, and the game against Mexico, where Holland were down 1-0 in the 88th minute and came back to win 2-1 in regular time, was another thrilling experience.
You’d think a team with the likes of van Persie and Robben would have more troubles at the back than the front but the Dutch then went on to play 240 minutes of football without putting one in the back of the net. While some van Gaal psychology got us through the Costa Rica shootout, Argentina proved much stronger. After such a promising start it was certainly disappointing, but that’s the joy of international football. At least I went for the team that came 3rd.
Cahill’s goal vs Holland, van Persie’s ridiculous flying header against the Spanish (and the rest of that entire game), Luis Suarez biting Chiellini (sure it wasn’t the rim job I suspected he may stoop to but it was still about what we expected), David Luiz crying like a girl after Brazil were torn apart like a Kleenex at a snot party by the ruthless Germans, the fairytale narrative surrounding teams like Costa Rica, the brilliance of young Columbian James Rodriguez, the United States falling in love with football like we did in 2006 – there are so many to choose from, so I’ll let you do it.
One of the most unexpected areas of consistency was the quality of goalkeeping from the Central and North American teams. Tim Howard (USA), Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico) and Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) all made names for themselves with brilliant efforts between the sticks. That they all came from the same qualifying region has to be more than a coincidence.
While the tournament was lauded for it’s offensive play, as a fan of defence I have to mention both the final and the Argentina/Netherlands semi, which were master classes in defensive football. In a tournament where goals got all the glory, solid defensive play wasn’t lauded enough.
IN THE END
An absolutely stunning tournament that will be talked about for approximately 4 years. Why the hell they don’t have one of these every year is beyond me. Now we begin the almost insufferable wait for the A-League and EPL to get back into the swing of things, but it seems so far away.
Looks like I’ll be playing a lot of FIFA between now and then. Who am I kidding? I already play far too much…
See you at Wanderland!
It was the tactic that landed a Belgian woman a modelling contract – and don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining, but the constant focus of the camera men on the beautiful women in the audience during any lulls in play was often sitting on the line of sexism. The fact that an uproar never occurred seemed strange to me in these hyper-feminist times.
While what was happening on the pitch was amazing, and what was happening off it was interesting, what was happening in the SBS studios was absolutely disgusting. Pretty much everyone involved needs to go off and get sports media training immediately, or even more preferable would be for them to all FUCK RIGHT OFF.
I love and respect absolutely everything SBS has done for the World Game here in Australia, but Spider, Fozz, they were all horrible – and then there was the fucking SOCIAL HUB, filled with inane chatter from online idiots, presented by someone who can’t even pronounce the player names correctly.
Les Murray has been a stalwart, an icon as the face of Football in this nation, particularly since the passing of Johnny Warren – and now Les is retiring. You’ve earned the break Les, and thankyou for everything, but the thought of televised football punditry being left in the hands of the ‘crew’ that SBS has left fills me with dread and annoyance.
Many have talked about the need to overhaul the Socceroos with new talent, and steps have already been taken – but if SBS stays with it’s current team, that could be dealing engagement with football in this country a bigger blow than any result on the pitch ever could. Maybe I just need to get Foxtel.