Where has the time gone? Excuse me while I continue to sulk in this first week of productivity since the World Cup has come to a grinding halt. We bid farewell to the most entertaining World Cup in recent memory with many memorable moments. Some of these will be remembered in an illuminating light while other instances certain nations would hope to buried, never heard from again. Let's revisit the glorious, poor, and awful hours of the 2014 FIFA World Cup,
Former Champions Stunned
Three moments when three champions of the past were absolutely bewildered in this tournament. Spain, Italy, and Brazil. All three of these heavyweights were expecting to be swinging punches in (at the very least) the last eight. These moments could have been listed as "nasty" moments for the outfits on the receiving end, but I am choosing to portray them in a positive light instead. These results were massive for the victors and made for some splendid drama. Salvador, Recife, and Belo Horizonte witnessed the three incredible jaw-dropping moments of the tourney.
First up, the reigning champions, Spain crashed and burned in what was one of the most shocking scorelines of the group stage, losing to the Netherlands 5-1 to open the campaign. It was not just the fact that they lost, it was the manner in which it unfolded. Clinical counterattacking paved the way for a Dutch drubbing, setting the tone for a dismal tournament for the Spanish who looked out-matched in every tactical aspect. The "tiki-taka" had been figured out and the results were affected, all thanks to "the Flying Dutchmen." Robin Van Persie's gorgeous diving header highlighted this match. Adios, Espana!
Next came a team I had losing to Argentina in the semifinals, the Azzurri of Italia. This team showed well in the 2013 Confederations Cup, playing an attacking brand of football with some of its' newest attacking forces on the world's largest stage. It did not materialize for the Italians. They were unable to get into the flow of the match against one of the surprise teams of this tournament, Los Ticos of Costa Rica, resulting in a shocking result that sent the Ticos through to the next round in the most unlikeliest of circumstances. It was a brilliant result for Costa Rica (and CONCACAF) especially given the fact that nobody gave the Ticos a fighting chance to get through the group (let alone win it). That loss set forth a winner takes all match between Italy and Uruguay. We all know how that ended. Ciao, Italia!
Finally, the moment that sent many fans of the home team into shock and depression. Deutschland disintegrated the hopes and dreams of the Brazilian fans with absolutely no mercy. Sometimes, the scorelines do not tell the entire story. In this match, it certainly did as Germany defeated, the favorites, Brazil 7-1 in Belo Horizonte. The looks on the faces in the crowd said it all. Tears, shock, pain and plain awe at the dismantlement that took place in one of the most shocking World Cup scorelines in recent memory. Allow me to toot my own horn a bit as I had Germany facing Argentina in the final, but nobody expected THAT to happen. It was brilliant, the way it unfolded, the way an entire nation had its heart crushed, and the way a machine-like group of German players seemed destined for the first European title on American soil. This might be the moment in history that will be the most recalled from this World Cup. Again, drama at its finest. We bid farewell to the Brazilian World Cup dream. Tchau, Brasilia!
Summer of CONCACAF
Goalkeeper heroics, heartfelt efforts, and heartbreaking endings. That is the "Summer of CONCACAF" in a nutshell. Honduras was the only CONCACAF team that failed to qualify for the knockout rounds from their group (in arguably the easiest group of the four, too) in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Mexico defeated Cameroon, Croatia, and the world fell in love with Ochoa and Miguel Herrera. The United States of America exacted revenge on Ghana, heartbreakingly drew Portugal, and minimized damage against the (eventual World Champions) Germans before bowing out to the Belgians in 120 minutes of pure adrenaline. Costa Rica had the furthest run of the three, defeating Uruguay, Italy, and Greece on their way to the last eight, only to be eliminated cruelly by Krul and the Dutch in penalty kicks. CONCACAF showed up to this tournament and held the regional banner high, suggesting to the rest of the world that these nations should no longer be considered a cakewalk on the international stage (except Honduras, let's not go there). Brilliance by the CONCACAF teams. Each one of them won our hearts over and had us rooting for them. Nobody expected much, but the USA, Mexico, and Costa Rica delivered results giving the region a refreshingly glowing view in the international community. Splendid work by these three nations.
The Just Nasty
There are moments in every sport when fans holds their hands to their faces and sincerely hope that an athlete is okay after a collision. Unfortunately for FIFA, these moments were amplified with multitudes of head injuries during the 2014 World Cup. Say what you want to say about Taylor Twellman, but he was one of the best strikers in MLS before he had to have his career cut short by repeated concussions. FIFA has done absolutely nothing to protect players who needed to have the proper treatment time for possible concussions. Specifically, team doctors (and the players themselves) allowed the athletes to continue playing after being dizzied by a blow to the skull. FIFA needs to move forward to eliminate this from the game. Coaches and players want to win, but should not be allowed to do so at the expense of the long-term health of these star athletes. After all, there is life after football. You cannot play for your entire life. One of the topics that left a nasty taste in one's mouth after this World Cup was the issue of how FIFA will deal with concussions going forward. I hope they consult the right people and take the right steps necessary to make sure soccer continues to be a sport that is played worldwide safely. Otherwise, we could see a decrease in parents willing to let their children play soccer (see: American football's problems). We all want this phenomenon of soccer to keep expanding in the United States. Fixing the protocols is a must if that is ever going to materialize.
Nom Nom Nom
No place for this in any sport. That's just downright nasty.
What moments stuck out for YOU in this World Cup? What are your splendid and nasty memories? Share with me and we can be depressed together at the thought of waiting four years for the best tournament in the world.