FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014: The Greatest World Cup Ever?

Many are hailing Brazil 2014 as the greatest World Cup ever. Can we trust that judgment in an age where hyperbole rules?

As with all footballing opinion, declaring a tournament as the “best ever” is subjective. Having not been around since 1930, I’m not in a position to say that this year’s tournament was the greatest. (I actually know people who think that the boring stick/flag man mascot for Italia ‘90 was a better mascot than Spain’s Naranjito. Ok, then. I know a person who believes this.)

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The World Cup tournaments that I remember most fondly are 1982 and 1986.

Artist Interpretation of Azteca "Star" Shadow

Artist Interpretation of Azteca “Star” Shadow

Bearing in mind my age at those times (seven and eleven), my fondness for those two surely can’t be attributed to the football, but more a mixture of the following: the exuberance of youth, my excitement at the exotica of it all, the memory of breaking my nose thanks to my Espana ‘82 ball and then losing that to the school roof, that beautiful Brazil ‘82 side, the 1986 drama of the “Hand of God” and Maradona’s glorious second, and not forgetting the stunning spider shadow cast across the Azteca stadium.

Perhaps my growing knowledge of the game and dedication to club football following those childhood years has filled me with cynicism, slowly eroding the thin sheen of rosiness that my mind painted? Who knows?

What I can say with certainty is that I haven’t enjoyed a World Cup since the eighties nearly as much as I have enjoyed Brazil 2014.

The tournament was everything we could have hoped for. Entertaining football, goals galore, the best team throughout the competition ended up winning—that will do for me.

Brazil 2014 will be missed.

For those with an innate fear of what they are going to do with themselves now this festival of football has ended, bear this in mind. Just two days after this wonderful tournament, European club sides have already been doing battle in qualifying rounds for the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. Fixture lists and odds for the games are available on BetBright.

The football caravan shows no sign of slowing, but although Brazil 2014 delivered “Eureka!” moments of pure joy (France-Switzerland/USA-Germany/Germany-Algeria to name a few matches, Costa Rica and Colombia’s performances, glorious goals by Tim Cahill, Robin van Persie and James Rodriguez), it still suffered slightly at the hands of the hype machine. At the heart of the matter were two players from the same club side.

 

LEO MESSI

I find myself utterly frustrated and incredibly bored by the Lionel Messi/Diego Maradona debate. The argument that Messi had to triumph with Argentina in this World Cup to truly cement his reputation as a footballing legend is nonsense. As is comparing one player to another in such a manner, particularly when they operated in different eras.

There have been so many footballing greats that have not won World Cup. Alfredo di Stefano, Eusebio, Johan Cruyff, George Best etc. Is their legend dimmed at all by not lifting the trophy? Football is a team sport, isn’t it? When Zinedine Zidane was crowned a world champion, so too was Frank le Boeuf.

Graffito of Diego MaradonaWatching Diego Maradona play at the World Cup highlighted to me at that tender age that some footballers could be very different to those that we witnessed in the First Division. The likes of Peter Reid and Steve Hodge took to the same field as him that fateful day in 1986—they hardly stirred the soul as he could.

Messi might rue that he did not show in this tournament anything like the form he is capable of producing for FC Barcelona, though, despite somehow walking away with the FIFA Golden Ball.

Even so, we are all aware that Messi is better than Brazil 2014 would suggest. World football is ubiquitous. We can watch the likes of Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic etc. on a regular basis and make “informed” judgments on who we think is the greatest. We are blessed with many fine footballers at the moment—and are able to watch almost every minute they play.

It would be great to just enjoy what we have without the desperate need to proclaim a player from our era as the GREATEST player ever.

And it is just as impossible to make comparisons about players as it is with teams. Is the recent Barcelona side really the best ever club side? Better than 90s Milan? 70s Ajax or Bayern Munich, 70s/80s Liverpool?

 

NEYMAR

This same skewed thinking appeared to influence the desperation that was displayed for the famous yellow shirts of the World Cup hosts to feature in the final. Why? Almost all the Brazil squad are now indoctrinated into European footballing methods, yet our need to cling on to the notion of the “beautiful game” blurred our view of the selecao.
1982 Brazil legend Socrates once said:

Beauty comes first. Victory is secondary. What matters is joy.

His 1982 side did not win the World Cup, yet they are revered for the style of play.

It was clear from before tournament even began that this Brazil side were not world-beaters. Unfortunately, their makeup and tactics were also a million miles away from the legendary sides of the past. They were heavily reliant on one player, Neymar, whose reputation can’t even be measured by the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer.

Neymar

By Tânia Rêgo/ABr (Agência Brasil), via Wikimedia Commons

Truly a talent, he had a good tournament up until his injury. It was all too apparent that he needed some help from those around him, yet Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazil seemed so smitten and starstruck by the young man that they appeared to not have a clue what to do once he was not on the pitch with them.

The aura surrounding Neymar still remains. A day after the tournament finished, pundits on Talksport could be heard claiming the the forward was “Out of this world” before his injury, which seems a little at odds with his actual performances.

BACK HOME

So, after the “greatest World Cup ever”, attention returns to the domestic leagues. Why not try a risk free bet offer on Manchester City or Chelsea for the title? Or Louis van Gaal returning Manchester United to winning ways? Can Liverpool cope with the loss of Luis Suarez? Will Arsenal sustain a title tilt?

Sky Sports will now be breathing a sigh of relief as it finally welcomes viewers back from terrestrial tv and it can push synchronised swimming back to its rightful place in the schedule. With it comes more hype.

Welcome back to a world of Super Sundays, where the “race for the title” begins in August and the Liverpool-Manchester United “derby” match finds itself rebranded the “English Classic”.

Who am I kidding? I love it, really.

 

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