FIFA World Cup 2014: All’s well in Brazil
Sao Paulo: Brazil are only three wins away from heaven, according to their coach. Lionel Messi is on course to realise his dream with Argentina and Costa Rica are living theirs. Belgium and Colombia are flying the flag for the dark horses. Reclaiming lost glory is the mission for Germany and France. The Dutch are keen to shed their tag of underachievers in a country that has achieved a truckload at the World Cup.
The World Cup in Brazil has delivered even before the start of the business end. Drama, excitement, brilliant goals and jaw-dropping saves have marked the tournament in football’s spiritual home. The beautiful game has cast its magic spell on fans across the world. An unforgettable thriller between Belgium and USA was a fitting end to the first knockout phase. The eight best teams have a couple of days’ rest to catch their breath.
Above all, the World Cup has been fair to all. For the first time since eight groups of four teams each became the norm, all pool winners have advanced from the round of 16. With the exception of Chile, no team can say they were unlucky to have crashed out. Countries that performed in group matches are still here while those that tried to live off past glory have been packed off.
If the group stage form book has held firm in the round of 16, the geographic balance has also been maintained ahead of the quarter-finals. Four teams each from Europe and Latin America, two traditional power centres, are still in the battle for the biggest prize in international football. Predicting the winners on July 13 isn’t easy as there have been no cast-iron signs to indicate which side the wind is blowing. Only an adventurous punter can hazard a guess.
The Netherlands set the tone for a vibrant World Cup with the 5-1 demolition of defending champions Spain. A Dutch team without the burden of expectations have married the individual brilliance of Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben to the collective work of foot soldiers under the shrewd guidance of Louis van Gaal. The coach, who failed to secure the Netherlands’ qualification for the World Cup in 2002, is closing in on an unprecedented achievement for his country.
The early exit of Spain has elicited obituaries of the tiki-taka, even though one gets a feeling that judgement after Euro 2016 will be proper and considered. An infusion of fresh blood and a new coach would get Spain up and running because a great football philosophy doesn’t die overnight. Maybe the Spanish need to reinvent the tiki-taka with positive elements from other styles.
A final between Argentina and Brazil would be a match made in heaven, even though the two haven’t set the grass on fire here. Without a shadow of doubt, Colombia and Costa Rica have been the teams of the tournament so far. Both have already recorded their best World Cup results and neutrals would be hoping that these two wonderful teams remain hungry.