Best World Cup Ever? Probably Not.
World Cup 2014
It’s probably been the best World Cup you’ve ever witnessed. If you’re three years of age.
While this tournament promised to rival the best ever, the knockout rounds – with one or two obvious exceptions – have proved anti-climatic after the goals, shocks and drama of the group stage.
While there’s no doubt that Brazil 2014 is a marked improvement on the previous three tournaments, it’ll take something remarkable in the final – a Brazilesque capitulation by Argentina, a seven-goal salvo from Messi or a last-minute re-staging of the match on another planet – to match the likes of the 1970, 1982 or 1986 tournaments.
Even though the group stages account for three-quarters of total matches, a World Cup’s legacy tends to hinge on the business end of the tournament. Until Germany’s 7:1 win over the hosts there was a distinct lack of goals in the knockout rounds, the second lowest ever in fact.
Allied to that, there was a dearth of shocks with each group winner progressing from the second round and the favourites all progressing from the Quarter-Finals.
Holland’s early rout of Spain and the Teutonic tonking of Brazil in the semis will no doubt go down as historic World Cup matches but there hasn’t been a tight, thrilling encounter between two heavyweights that can hold a candle to the likes of the Brazilian’s classic against Italy in 1982.
Tournaments are also defined by great players and they either haven’t turned up in Brazil or, indeed, turned up.
While the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Radamel Falcao and Gareth Bale had to contend with watching from their sofas (or in Zlatan’s case for some matches, from the stands) the world-class stars who did take part haven’t illuminated the tournament in a way that Diego Maradona did in 1986.
Ronaldo was home before Algeria, Greece and Nigeria and, while he’s scored some match-winning goals, Lionel Messi’s been anonymous in periods and didn’t even touch the ball in the Dutch box in the 120 minutes of Wednesday’s semi-final.
Neymar did drag the hosts to the semis almost single-footedly but the lack of quality around him meant it was unlikely he’d ascend to the pantheon of World Cup greats.
In fact, the lack of a great team is one of the biggest disappointments of this tournament. Germany are good, very good in fact, but will they be fondly remembered like Brazil’s 1970 Dream Team:
Their 1982 vintage, the best team never to win the World Cup containing talents like Zico, Falcao and Socrates:
Or even surprise packages like the Danish Dynamite of Mexico 86:
As aforementioned, perhaps Sunday’s final between Argentina and Germany can create something magical, something memorable that can elevate 2014 to take its place amongst the great tournaments.
If so, it’ll have to resemble the former’s five-goal thriller against the Germans in 1986’s fitting finale rather than their dour 1:0 defeat four years later in a climax that epitomised a poor Italia ‘90.