World Cup 2014: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Jul 15, 2014 by

World Cup 2014: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Now that the World Cup is sadly over there is time to reflect upon the defining moments of this engrossing and compelling sporting event. The story lines are plentiful and for the most part lacking in controversy. As predicted on this site prior to the tournament (sadly not the winner however),  we witnessed two historical powerhouses make the World Cup final. Having watched nearly every match I do believe we witnessed the two most deserving teams reach the final.  Argentina’s path was a harder one having to defeat two very tough and talented squads in the Dutch and Belgium in their final two games leading to the final, while Germany had only one legitimate threat in their bracket in their game against France, although Algeria did put up an honorable fight in the Round of 16 . It was an entertaining and evenly matched final, somewhat reminiscent of the 2010 World Cup final featuring Holland and Spain.  Argentina, like Holland in 2010, had several outstanding chances that could have, (some can argue should have), led to a victory, but in the end Germany, like Spain four years ago, was too much to handle and they scored when it mattered most in extra time and are a deserving champion.  In the end, this tournament will be remembered for numerous things including Germany’s overall dominance, Brazil’s shocking exit and Suarez’ puzzling tendency for biting his opponents. There are a few more things about World Cup 2014 that stood out for this observer and you will find them below:


The Good

The Mighty Germans

The mighty and impressive Germans not only went undefeated, but at times looked astonishingly dominant and unstoppable. Their victories over top teams Portugal (4-0) and Brazil (7-1) highlighted their ability to absolutely crush World Class teams. A well-oiled machine in all areas of the pitch from the Goalkeeper out, they were miles ahead of the majority of their competition. They are a worthy champion and arguably only a couple of teams stood a chance of defeating them, Argentina being one of them. Ultimately, they always appeared in control and poised to win, even in the closest of matches and it was a delight to watch a team execute at such a high level against the World’s best soccer nations.


Aside from a handful of games, the refereeing was outstanding. Croatian supporters can still be heard muttering about a questionable penalty shot given to Brazil on opening day, but that controversial incident was the exception and not the norm this year. The refs kept their whistle in their pockets and were assertive when they needed to be. Ultimately, they let the players play without getting too involved and this was most evident when the stakes were the highest in the knock-out round.   They were, for the most part efficient, and effectively invisible, resulting in seamless free-flowing and physical play. Transparency of what constitutes a foul on the playing field is what players want and it makes for a better brand of soccer for everyone involved. The refs deserve recognition for not imposing their imprint on the World Cup and we are all thankful for a difficult job well done.


The high quality of goalkeepers in this tournament was an absolute pleasure to watch. Only a few dismal goals can be remembered, none of which had any real importance. It’s refreshing not to scapegoat a keeper for any significant results this year. Instead this tournament will be remembered for keepers making outstanding and timely saves in high pressure situations. I can easily think of half a dozen outstanding performances by goalkeepers that gave their teams opportunities to win games when they had no right doing so. Among the standout performers were Costa Rica’s Keylor Nevas (versus Greece), Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa (versus Brazil), and America’s Tim Howard (versus Belgium). Both keepers in the final deserve special mention as well in Manuel Neuer (Germany) and Sergio Romero (Argentina), with the former arguably being the best keeper in the tournament.


A slice of cake few Argentinian supporters will enjoy (tweeted by @sportsnation)

A slice of cake few Argentinian supporters will enjoy (tweeted by @sportsnation)

The Bad

Brazil’s collapse

This was clearly the most disappointing team in the tournament. Playing on home soil added an element of pressure that this team ultimately succumbed to. It’s not so much where they finished in the tournament, but how they finished it. After defeating two top rivals in Chile and Columbia in the knock-out round, the Brazilians appeared to be building momentum and gave hope to the host nation that they could win the World Cup. Instead they fell apart in a way no one could have possibly imagined and all that promise shown earlier in the tournament was wasted in the end. Yes, they were without Silva and Neymar in the semi-final, but they were a bloody mess on the field versus Germany. They looked lost, unstructured and undisciplined and they paid dearly in an embarrassing 7-1 loss. Their 3-0 loss versus Holland in the consolation game wasn’t nearly as humiliating, but this game merely confirmed the gap between their talent and the Worlds very best teams. This team is young and full of promise, but their back-end is far too weak and vulnerable to field a World Cup winner.   Assuredly in four years’ time they will have addressed this glaring weakness, and come back a more determined and mature group, but for now they must live with the most disappointing and embarrassing result in Brazilian soccer history.

Absence of quality from Asia and Africa

When will we finally see the rise of a team from a historically unconventional soccer region? It doesn’t appear that a country from Asia or Africa is anywhere near the precipice of threatening to become a World power in the near future or this lifetime for that matter. Asian participation was noticeably absent in this year’s tournament. Iran was surprisingly competitive but could only muster a tie versus Nigeria for their efforts, while South Korea and Japan offered pathetically little competition. Aside from moderately decent performances from Algeria, Nigeria and Ghana, one has to consider the participation of countries from Africa to be an abysmal failure. One might think that after hosting the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 we might see a positive spillover effect from African nations heading into this World Cup. Instead we witness continued mediocrity with inconsequential signs of progress. Perhaps if Ghana had a more favourable draw they may have had a chance to reach the quarterfinals, but if they represent the height of African soccer we may be generations away from witnessing a World Cup champion coming from Africa. As for Asia one can argue that soccer countries have regressed even further from this region. I still marvel at the fact there is not significant representation out of China, India or Pakistan. They may be non-traditional soccer countries, but the vast population sizes and demographics are ripe for development. Maybe one day we will witness a contender from one of these untapped nations, but for now there is little to cheer for or be positive about when discussing the present state of soccer in Asia.


While the world celebrates the sport of soccer, the governing body continues to be a source of questionable character and corruption. Prior to the tournament The Sunday Times of London, and New York Times published articles claiming the process of awarding Qatar the World Cup in 2022 had been essentially fixed. Additionally, during the tournament Der Spiegel, a German news magazine, alleged the Croatia versus Cameroon match may have been the first World Cup game ever to have been fixed. Lastly, in the final days of the tournament a massive ticket scandal was exposed, involving an executive closely tied to FIFA, providing additional ridicule to soccer’s  governing body. The systemic corruption that appears to have infiltrated FIFA continues to rear its ugly head time and time again. Far too often FIFA’s leadership lacks the internal fortitude and integrity required from such a powerful organization, bringing disrepute to a sport that deserves better from its governance. If only FIFA held its own executive members with the same accountability and bite illustrated in the Suarez suspension we might not be having these continuous shameful discussions.

The Ugly


Robben’s diving

Arjen Robben is a World-Class striker, with wonderful skill, strength and poise. He’s a game breaker who also happens to be a serial diver of the worst kind.  He may be a constant threat on the field and his ability to draw fouls is commendable, but his extravagant dives seem more in line with an actor being shot in a Hollywood action film rather than a person being fouled on the soccer field. A player of his talent should not resort to such embarrassing and ridiculous tactics. If his international career is over his greatness will be missed, his laughable falls will not.

Playful Mexican fans commemorate Robben's antics with this wonderful Pinata as tweeted @102greatgoals

Playful Mexican fans commemorate Robben’s antics with this wonderful Pinata as tweeted @102greatgoals


Suarez Bite

The strangest incident of the tournament goes to Luis Suarez for biting the shoulder of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, resulting in a lengthy suspension and his banishment from the tournament. Suarez is among the top strikers in the World and was having an exceptional tournament prior to the incident. His propensity for biting is strange and an unlikely childish and primitive trait for a player of his talent and skill. His loss immediately ensured Uruguay’s tournament would be a short one; as no team can withstand the loss of such an impact player. I do think the incident has been over blown and however strange his tendency for biting might be, his suspension is equally puzzling considering the relatively harmless nature of his conduct in this instant. It may be childish, unsportsmanlike and stupid to bite an opponent, but I would argue there are worse things that happen on the pitch which are not subject to such a harsh punishment. Nonetheless, he has been suspended in the past for the same type of behavior and should have known better. It’s just a shame that a player of his caliber was removed from play over such a stupendously idiotic act. Hopefully he learns to find a better outlet for his biting, like an apple perhaps?

Delaying tactics

Several games were slowed down to a halt by teams who were clearly playing for a tie or to get to penalties. Common ploys observed this World Cup include feigning or exaggerating injury or for goalkeepers to take their time taking goal kicks. Soccer is a slow strategic game that doesn’t need to be bogged down further by delaying tactics. It does a disservice to the sport and can make the game difficult and frustrating to watch. The only way to weed out this tendency from the game is to stop the clock when there is a foul or when the ball goes out-of-bounds. There is likely very little support for such a drastic change, but after watching Keylor Nevas’ tomfoolery in Costa Rica’s match against Greece while playing with ten men, I’m convinced the sport needs to find a way to crack down on time-wasting. We want to watch the game, not keepers spend 4 minutes tying their laces and trying to find a perfect spot to line up a goal kick.

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