Now that the 2014 World Cup is in the history books, we take a look at the main players and how they did compared to expectations. There were clearly some winners and losers — including some shockers — in this Brazil tournament that in the end, went off without an apparent hitch.
The host has to be the biggest loser of them all, following the humbling, humiliating 7-1 defeat at the hands of 2014 World Cup champions Germany in the semifinal. It wouldn’t have been that bad had Brazil lost by one or two goals, but seven is not something that anyone does to a football staple like the Verde Amarela.
Up until the semifinal, Brazil had failed to impress and made fans suffer with a close match against Chile in the round 16, which they eventually (barely) won on penalties. Even before Neymar was injured, it was not the Brazil that fans all over the world have grown used to seeing.
A lot of soul searching will go on in the coming years, after the disastrous exit from their own World Cup, which was supposed to be the revenge for the haunting Maracanazo of 1950. Now, Brazil just wants to score a goal and erase that 7-1 memory, something that will take years, if not decades.
With Cristiano Ronaldo at the helm, Portugal came in with certain expectations, but was a big disappointment. From the first match in the “Group of Death”, as their Group G was dubbed, in which they were flattened by Germany 4-0, the Europeans failed to impress.
It didn’t help that Ronaldo was not 100 percent and suffering from tendonitis. The condition didn’t allow him to fully prepare with his teammates in their training camp and forced him to spend his time in physical therapy to try and get him back in shape to compete.
In the end, it didn’t work. Instead of seeing the fireball that La Liga fans enjoy every weekend, we saw a Cristiano Ronaldo that was clearly trying to conserve energy and was more worried about not making his injury worse. There were reports that Portugal doctors advised him to drop out all together or risk a career ending injury.
This is nothing new for English fans — their national team failed at the World Cup. England had an early exit, despite having stars that included Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, and Ashley Cole.
The Brits failed to move past the groups stage, when Costa Rica stunned the entire world by taking first place in a very tough group, which also included former World Cup champions Italy and Uruguay. In the end it was Costa Rica and Uruguay going on to the round of 16 and England went home, finishing a disappointing campaign with two loses (Italy and Uruguay) and a draw with Costa Rica.
The Azzurri were also eliminated in the groups stage after loses to Uruguay, and Costa Rica, and a sole victory against England. Another major disappointment for the legendary Italians, who also ended their 2010 in the groups stage.
With an aging squad, led by legendary goalie Gianluigi Buffon, Italy must do some soul searching and figure out how to return their football team to the glory days of old. Italy, along with Germany, have won four World Cup titles.
Onto a more pleasant topic now. The winners in the 2014 World Cup were many, including those who went home too soon. We saw pleasant surprises and players we won’t soon forget, who will no doubt shine again in 2018. Here are just a few of the highlights.
The newest World Cup champion is the big winner of this tournament. With consistent play and nerves of steel when they needed them most, Germany prevailed and took the much coveted trophy for the first time post-reunification and the fourth time in their history.
Germany also set some individual records. Miroslav Klose became the World Cup top scorer, with 16-goals, after he scored in the now infamous 7-1 match against the host, Brazil. Klose passed Brazilian Ronaldo with his feat. Germany is the only European nation to enter all FIFA World Cups they have been allowed to enter (Germany was denied entry in 1950, following World War II).
Germany became the first nation to score five-goals in 18-minutes in the first half, during the semifinal against Brazil. The incredible feat includes scoring four-goals in 400 seconds.
One of the most exciting teams of the 2014 World Cup, Colombia impressed with incredible poise and a new superstar, James Rodriguez. The 23-year-old was cool, calm, and collected under pressure and showed that he can also have some fun.
Colombia returned to the World Cup after a 16-years and we recon they will be around for a long time, in part thanks to James, and his heroics. They young star, was the World cup’s top scorer and earned the Golden Boot for his accomplishment. The South American country was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the tragic murder of Colombian star Andres Escobar, following his own goal at the 1994 World Cup.
Unfortunately, Colombia showed its inexperience in the quarterfinals against Brazil and simply could not get past the locals, losing a heartbreaking extra time match. However, Colombia can be proud of their accomplishments at the 2014 World Cup, with only one loss.
Along with Colombia, Costa Rica was another Cinderella team at the 2014 World Cup. In a shocking development, the Central American team finished first in its very tough group, which included such football powers as Italy, Uruguay, and England.
Costa Rica became the first CONCACAF representative to advance to the knockout stage of the World Cup. The small confederation has been trying to prove its worth for years, with Mexico and the United States being the teams with more exposure. Nobody gave Costa Rica a fighting chance and they proved everyone wrong.
Even though Team USA qualified to the round of 16 for the fouth time in their history, they failed to move on. However, nobody will soon forget the impressive show put on by goalie Tim Howard during the match against Belgium.
Howard set a new World Cup record with 16-stops and became an internet sensation for his heroic performance. Unfortunately, he was not able to prevail in the extra time, but the Americans put on the performance of their lives.
More interestingly, Team USA captured the attention of their fellow country men back home like never before. Setting broadcasting records and with fans holding viewing parties at such places as Soldier Field in Chicago. Soccer, as it’s called in the U.S., is certainly on the rise.
The 2014 World Cup may be history on this day after the grand final, but this is a tournament will be talked about for days, and years, to come. Some are calling it the best World Cup in history. We don’t know if that’s true, but it was one exciting event and we met many new stars that we will no doubt see four years from now in the 2018 World Cup hosted by Russia.
[Image via FIFA/Twitter]