The world cup has come to a close. Congratulations are in order for Germany for winning the final, but this was a great world cup to watch for everyone and here are some thoughts I had about it.
1. 2010 was awful- This world cup was so exciting in the group stage that I whenever I think back to 2010 I just shudder. There were so many more goals, so much more free play and attacking play, this is the way the game should be played. The game is much more exciting when the tempo is high and things are happening, as opposed to the defensive struggle in South Africa four years ago
2. Luis Suarez biting Giorgio Chiellini wasn’t the biggest story line of the world cup- I thought for sure this was going to be the story of the world cup after it happened. Luckily it was overshadowed by the 7-1 annihilation of Brazil and Lionel Messi squandering his opportunity to win a world cup and become the GOAT. Brazil getting blown out of the water was the biggest story of the world cup, without a doubt. Sure the losses of Thiago Silva and Neymar were big losses, but this wasn’t a scrubby roster that depended on two players, they sure played like one though. Without Neymar they didn’t have another legit attacker up front to score goals but I thought their midfielders and defenders were better than what they showed. Hulk and Fred were massive failures this tournament and I constantly questioned why Scolari didn’t play Ramires more. Their are a lot of top flight players on that roster who didn’t show up and that makes you wonder about them going forward. It was disheartening to see some of the best players in the world give up and stop trying, and to allow themselves to be barraged the way they were by Germany, especially as the host nation.
3. Things got tight after the group stage- 24 goals in 14 games in the knockout rounds (not counting the 7-1 drubbing of Brazil and the 3rd place game). That’s just above a goal and a half per game. After the free firing group stage teams played more conservative and disciplined and there were less opportunities for goals. I think the primary reason for this was a sharp decline in the finishing after the group stages. There was great midfield and defensive play in the knockout rounds but there was a clear void in terms of a clinical finisher who made the best of his chances in the knockout rounds. Ultimately that’s why Germany ended up winning the world cup, they finished and scored goals. Messi was scoreless in the knockout rounds and so were a lot of the best players in the world, creating tight defensive battles that were decided by who could finish first.
4. Overtime- There were so many awesome overtime games during the knockout stages. 4 of the final 16 games went to penalty kicks, and another four games were settled in extra time, including the final. That means half the games of the knockout rounds went to overtime! That’s an astounding feat to have happened. In terms of penalty kicks, surprise quarterfinal team Costa Rica participated in two penalty kick shootouts. After Costa Rica lost to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals they passed the penalty kick shootout torch to the Dutch who lost their next game in penalty kicks
5. Was this world cup a failure for Lionel Messi?- FIFA said it wasn’t, as they awarded a devastated Messi the Golden Ball yesterday, but a lot of people feel that this tournament was a failure for him. He scored four goals, which is a solid total, but they were all in the group stage. He assisted the game winning goal against Switzerland in the round of 16 in overtime, but after that his impact was minimal. An early Higuain goal ended up being enough to beat offensively challenged Belgium and they advanced to the final off of penalty kicks after playing a scoreless draw for 120 minutes. I think that Argentina asked too much of Messi and he needed more help up front with players who could actually finish. It’s not fair to ask him to create their entire offense, but at the same time I think his loss in the final, marred by a disappointing performance for him solidifies him as the 3rd greatest player of all time behind Pele and Maradona. So if the goal was for him to surpass those two with a world cup victory and become the GOAT then the world cup was a failure for him, but he will always be the greatest club player of all time, and who knows he might get one last chance in Russia to host that coveted world cup trophy.