Some more thoughts on some of the highlights and lowlights from the just ended World Cup.
Gonzalo Higuain celebrates
Most strikers are well versed in the art of goal celebrations. As you wheel away in delight, you start to raise your arms in celebration but as you do so you give a sneaky look across to the assistant referee to check for a raised flag. Not so Gonzalo Higuain in the World Cup final though. He celebrated like he’d won the lottery.
It’s been a frustrating year for the Bayern Munich player. Gotze has exceptional talent and his combination with his German counterpart Marco Reus during their time together at Borussia Dortmund was a joy to behold. The two players were the fulcrum of the exciting attacking football under Jurgen Klopp and he could have developed into one of the best playmakers at Dortmund. Bayern Munich had other ideas and swooped in to
weaken their opposition strengthen their team – as if they needed another central/attacking midfielder.
His first season with the German giants was disrupted by injuries and he was unable to nail down a regular first team position – part of the problem was Pep Guardiola seemed unsure of (a) his ideal formation and (b) how best to utilise Gotze in particular. As a result, Gotze was a false nine, a winger or a central midfield depending on what he was asked to do. Fast forward to the World Cup and things did not improve – he was a starter in the group stages but was then demoted to the bench from the quarters. His performances were erratic and underwhelming. Gotze’s World Cup ended in the best way possible – with not only a goal, but a spectacularly well-taken goal. All of the great things about Gotze were captured in that goal – a lung-bursting run from midefield, instant chest control and a wonderfully struck volley into the net. There are few players who could successfully convert such an opportunity and fewer still that could do so deep into extra time of a World Cup final. Here’s hoping that this achievement will bring out the best that Gotze has to offer and that he gets back to showing what he can do on a regular basis for Bayern Munich.
There are plenty of questions about the players’ safety during this World Cup with regard to concussion. You don’t have to be a medical expert to realise the dangers for players continuing to play when they have been concussed.
Argentina players Javier Mascherano and Pablo Zabaleta also played on in their team’s semi final against the Netherlands after hard knocks to the head. Mascherano appeared to be completely disoriented and fell to the ground after a clash of heads with a Dutch player. Both Mascherano and Zabaleta started in the final.
The last incident involved German player Christoph Kramer who was was allowed to play on after a blow to the head, before being replaced. Kramer was injured in a collision with Argentina’s Ezequiel Garay in the 19th minute of Germany’s 1-0 win. The midfielder continued until the 30th minute before being taken off when he appeared unsteady on his feet.
“I can’t remember that much from the game. I don’t know anything from the first half. I thought later that I went straight off after the incident. How I got to the changing rooms I do not know. I don’t know anything else. The game, in my head, starts only in the second half.”
The Colombian national team gets the award for the best goal celebrations of the tournament with their choreographed moves.
Special mention to David Luiz and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for their “kick the flag” celebrations.
One of the best surprise pundits of the entire tournament was pop singer Rihanna.
The singer, from Barbados, live Tweeted a storm during the World Cup and managed to enrage certain segments of the American population who were not happy with her anything-but-USA stance during the tournament. The fact that she is based in the US and earns a living there seemed to make some people think she should automatically support team USA. Anele Mdoda summed it up rather well:
LMAO Americans catching feelings cause Rihanna is not rooting for USA in the World Cup. She is an island girl mos, no time for your flag.
Her music may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but she had some insightful observations to make.
And of course she managed to take selfies with a number of the victorious German national team following their win against Argentina. This one with Miroslav Klose is a favourite because Klose looks so bemused by it all.
In the team category Spain and Italy are my biggest tournament disappointments. I guess we all knew that the tiki taka era couldn’t last forever but the indignity of not making it out of the group stage and being on the wrong end of a 1 – 5 defeat was just horrible. Italy looked reasonably impressive in their victory against England, but then again it was “just” England who failed to register a win in their three games at the tournament. Mario Balotelli seemed to be the scapegoat according to the Italian press and public, but the Italians have deeper problems than just strikers – over reliance on midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo is one of the issues that hampered the Italian team along with a lack of any coherent attacking strategy or style of play. I have purposefully excluded Brazil and England from the disappointments category as I felt both teams played as expected – Brazil actually flattered to deceive in reaching the semi finals and Germany and Holland both showed how average that team was. England was England – Groundhog Day as some things never change.
Among the individuals Cristiano Ronaldo is the easy target. However, I feel that both he and Diego Costa were rushed back prematurely from injury and this hampered their performances during the tournament. Ronaldo was simply a shadow of the all-conquering Ballon d’Or winner who spearheaded Real Madrid’s long awaited decima Champions League win as well as the Copa del Ray trophy. He had a fantastic assist in the game against USA but that was pretty much the highlight of a forgettable tournament.
Diego Costa was not ready for the World Cup after a long season with former club Atletico Madrid – he was completely ineffective during his time on the pitch.
Fred was apparently in the team for his striking prowess, but he was like Costa above in that he simply appeared lost during all the games he played in. He was the focal point for the anger of the Brazilian crowd who booed him every time he was substituted.
Chelsea teammates Eden Hazard and Oscar also had poor tournaments. Hazard was touted as one of the creative lights of the tournament but perhaps the pressure and weight of expectation was too much for him? Oscar had a great opening game against Croatia but then failed to turn up for the remainder of Brazil’s games – the young forward tried hard but his passing and decision-making were often poor.