Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Brazil World Cup 2014 - A few thoughts

I haven't written a blog in a while despite my intentions to at the turn of the year. Work kind of got away from me as I had the good fortune to be taken on full time by Onside Analysis in March and I've been kept very busy since then!!

For the past month the World Cup has been pretty much all I've worked on and thought about, this would probably be the same regardless of whether I was employed to do it, I always used to make sure I booked the first 2 weeks of the tournament off work so I could watch 3 games a day and make sure I didn't miss any! So to work on it this year has been an absolute dream! Over the course of the tournament there has been plenty to enjoy, a few things to grumble about and some general observations - I've written them down below so I hope you enjoy reading them!

Positives/Things I enjoyed

The Refereeing

The first couple of games were really dodgy. Fred's penalty, Neymar's none sending off, the disallowed Mexican goals - it looked as though it was gonna be a real 'mare for referees. But after this they settled down and on the whole I thought it was really good. There were some excellent decisions, such as the advantage given to Switzerland late on against Ecuador that allowed them to score a late winner and the general command they seemed to have over most games (Brazil vs Colombia obviously the exception).

The Anthems

Wow, if you didn't get a tingle down your spine watching the South American's belt out their anthems, especially the 2nd verse without the music you're dead inside!! While this obviously had no bearing on the score (Although I'd like the England players to show the same level of pride I don't think it comes from singing our anthem which is soooooo slooooooooooooooow - wish we had something more uptempo and rousing!!) it really got the fans behind them and when they were well backed anyway it really added to the occasion.


The tournament is the most exciting I can remember. The first one I watched was Italia 90 and while they are all enjoyable in their own way the tournaments had gradually been seeing less and less goals per game (from 2.66 goals per game in France 98 to 2.23 in South Africa 2010). The group stages of this World Cup seemed to abandon the shackles of defence and we saw some outstanding games. Spain 1 Netherlands 5. Australia 2 Netherlands 3, Switzerland 2 France 5, South Korea 2 Algeria 4, Nigeria 2 Argentina 3 - and of course Germany's destruction of Brazil in the semi final. While you don't necessarily need goals to make a game enjoyable they do help!!


The USA were far from the most talented team. What they do have in abundance is tactical nous, team spirit and energy. It was almost impossible not to cheer for them, their enthusiasm was infectious and the 2nd half of extra time against Belgium was pretty much the most exciting 15 minutes of football I've watched in years!

Goal of the Tournament

James or Cahill? James or Cahill? (or van Persie?!?)
You can make a case for both. I was out of my seat for both goal they were so good. I love a good volley, they are the most spectacular of goals and I'd go for Cahill as the long ball and volley on your weaker foot is so difficult to get right. James put the ball exactly where he wanted it in order to volley it (which is clear a fantastic skill in itself) and I could not argue with him winning it. Cahill was just my personal preference.

Negatives/Things that annoyed me

ITV's coverage - particularly Clarke Carlise!

I'm not gonna go into a massive grumble about how Sky-->BBC-->Channel 5---------------------->ITV cus it's for a whole other argument but I often found myself shouting at the TV through annoyance at some of the things they did/said. I long for the day when they get genuinely insightful analysts on these kind of programmes - Gary Neville has shown it is possible - and not just wheel out the ex-footballers looking for a job. Especially when it's clear they haven't got a clue what they are talking about. Clarke Carlisle was the worst, he took 24 seconds to annoy me in his first game (Mexico vs Cameroon) by stating the Mexicans would struggle to play a powerful, direct style as they were all small players. Yeah Clarke, that's how Mexico play. Have you done ANY research?!?
My particular favourite was his absolute disgust at Jackson Martinez not being able to get in the Ecuador squad after his season for Porto. That's Jackson Martinez the Colombian.....

The build up and knock down of England

England were never going to do well in this tournament. A relatively poor crop of players, difficult group, conditions in Manaus. This led to a quite refreshing mindset from most people before the tournament of this being a rebuilding year and giving some of the more talented youngsters a chance to experience a World Cup with the hope of carrying this into the next few tournaments. So what happened? England lost to Italy. Very unlucky. Chances were there that on another day go in. Then we lost to Uruguay, again very unlucky. Rooney could hardly have been closer with at least 2 chances and a terrible defensive mistake by Gerrard allows Suarez to score at the death. Had we drawn it would have been tough but we'd have had a chance going into the final game. Again because of scheduling and due to Costa Rica's surprise performances it meant England were going home to derision and a witch hunt from the media about's who's fault it was. But if we weren't expected to do anything why was everybody so disappointed?! On a personal note I thought England's worst performance by far was against Costa Rica in the final game.

Argentina, Messi & the Golden Ball.

I covered Argentina for the tournament for Onside Analysis so they were one of the teams I watched more closely than most. They were poor. Struggled against a Bosnia side who were lively. Relied on a Messi wonder goal to win it.
Poor against a defensive Iran side. Relied on a Messi wonder goal to win it.
Open and fragile against Nigeria? Relied on 2 Messi goal's to win.
Switzerland - struggled again, Messi beats 3 men to set up Di Maria for the win (Di Maria had put about 40 shots into the stand so it's a wonder Messi didn't stop his shooting privileges!)
Belgium was slightly better and then against the Dutch neither side wanted to lose, with de Jong doing a superb job of denying Messi any space.
In the Final Germany deserved to win, but Argentina had 3 great chances.
Messi looked like he wanted to be anywhere other than collecting his golden ball and the outcry began about how he had won it. Well, I wouldn't have picked him - however he basically carried a poor team into the final. Other than Mascherano nobody stood out so to get through 7 games and be within 7 minutes of going to the lottery of penalties says a lot about Messi. As for comments about he can't be one of the greats as he hasn't won the World Cup? Look at the players Pele and Maradona had on their sides and compare them to this Argentinian side.


For some reason FIFA chose to basically ignore diving in this tournament! Until Oscar's booking in the 3rd place play off there hadn't been one booking for diving in the whole tournament and to be honest Oscar's was more for persistent diving than anything! I assume the referees had been told to do it this way but it seems odd as you could clearly see occasions when the ref's knew somebody had dived and instead of getting the yellow card out they just waved it away. Then good old Sepp says he wants something done about it. Course you do pal.


Greece are hard to like. They defend very well I'll give them that but they have literally no attacking intent unless they desperately need to, even then it's sporadic. They were awful against Colombia, 2nd best against Japan and got the dodgiest penalty of the tournament against Cote d'Ivoire to go through (yes, even dodgier than Fred's!) Even against Costa Rica they didn't go for it until CR had a man sent off and still couldn't beat them - although Costa Rica took some fantastic penalties in the shootout.

General observations


The schedule before the tournament had a much greater bearing than I imagined. Teams like Croatia, England and Bosnia were really up against it from the start. In such a short tournament if you lose the first game the chances of progressing are slim and when the teams you face first are Brazil, Italy and Argentina it's gonna be tough! In fact of the teams that faced the eventual group winners in the first game (the top seeds in every group other than Groups B, D & E) only Greece, Uruguay and Algeria managed to progress.


Poor Fred. While he hardly had a good tournament he was pretty much hung out to dry by Brazil's tactics and him getting booed at 6-0 down against Germany while David Luiz runs around like an idiot and is wildly applauded is one of the stupidest things I've seen. While his movement around the box was poor he hardly covered any ground as he was supposed to push the defence deep allowing space for the Brazilian attacking midfielders to get on the ball and run at the back line. Had he dropped off to link the play there would have been no space for this to happen and it would have been to Brazil's further detriment. Never mind all that.......BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

Crazy Cameroon!

There always seems to be one team that completely dissolves, usually France or the Netherlands but this year Ghana had there moments but good old Cameroon went completely mental and ended up fighting each other. Assou-Ekotto trying and failing to headbutt Moukandjo seemed to horrifying and surprise everybody, it's not even the first time he's done it this season after trying to headbutt Krajncar against Leicester. That on top of Alex Song's elbow swing.....

It went so fast!

FIFA have said a few times about increasing the number of teams to 40. Do it!!! Make the tournament last longer or every 2 years and increase the number of teams. The World Cup used to be the pinnacle of a players career, I wonder whether some don't prefer the Champions League these days. Can't wait for Russia, only 1,424 days!!

From tomorrow I'm gonna put a few of my own 'teams of the tournament' up. I'm gonna do a best XI, Surprising/underrated XI and a disappointing XI. Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Agree on the diving front. Almost every time a player was tackled they hit the deck! Was very frustrating to watch.
    In terms of ITV coverage, I find Keane very interesting as he doesn't hold back. As for the other's though they just churn out the same old Cliche's, particularly Dixon!
    What rubbed me up the wrong way though was the way in which most people, especially on twitter, jumped of the bandwagon that Fred was responsible for the 7-1 drubbing! Not that David Luiz and Marcelo are still going walkabouts at 3-0 down, after 20 minutes... Maybe it's just his comical name. You could make an argument though, that Fred is the most important player in that Brazil side, tactic's wise! Of course, not many on twitter appeared to appreciate that, though.