One of the best World Cup tournaments in recent memory concluded with the Germans triumphantly hoisting the sport’s most coveted trophy aloft inside the Maracana on Sunday, July 13. Here’s my post-view of the latest edition of “The Greatest Show on Earth”. (My sincerest apologies to the folks at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.)
Actual Placing: 1st
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 1st
Germany was many people’s favourite to win the World Cup heading in. They duly obliged with an impressive gun-to-tape display. These youngsters could dominate world football for some time to come.
Actual Placing: 2nd
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 4th
Surprised a few – including me – by making it as far as they did. Could have actually shocked the world if they’d been just a bit more incisive in front of goal in the final. It was good to see Messi finally putting his hand up and stepping up on the World Cup stage.
Actual Placing: 3rd
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 8th
Very heartening to see how well the older brigade gelled with the young bucks. Arjen Robben and Ron Vlaar were outstanding throughout, while Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder were sporadically brilliant. Meanwhile, consistently impressive displays from the likes of Stefan de Vrij, Georginio Wijnaldum, Daley Blind, and Bruno Martins Indi suggest that the Netherlands will be a force to reckon with for years (and World Cups) to come.
Actual Placing: 4th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 2nd
In the end, a 4th place finish was probably a fair reflection of Brazil’s standing relative to the rest of the world’s best. The 7-1 drubbing from Germany and the 3-0 whipping from the Netherlands will sting for some time to come though. Brazil definitely needs to go back to playing with the flair that people the world over have grown to know and love.
Actual Placing: 5th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 15th
Young Los Cafeteros, under the old coaching sage Jose Pekerman, played some of the most attractive football on show in Brazil. Had the quality to beat Brazil in the quarters, but the enormity of the occasion (and possibly Brazil’s best display of the competition) just got the better of them. Superstar James Rodriguez was undoubtedly the best player on show at the tournament.
Actual Placing: 6th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 9th
The young Belgian squad could have progressed even further if the likes of Eden Hazard, who had an underwhelming tournament, had contributed a bit more to the cause. All in all, however, they look set to be a major force on the world stage for some time to come.
Actual Placing: 7th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 7th
Les Bleus did just about as well as I expected them to do prior to the start of the tournament. The continued maturation of the likes of Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, and Raphaël Varane should put them in good stead to make an even stronger push next time round.
Country: Costa Rica
Actual Placing: 8th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 27th
Exceeded the wildest expectations of even their most ardent supporters and totally shocked me. Acrobatic goalie Keylor Navas subsequently cashed in on his outstanding campaign with a big-money move. Very, very well deserved!
Actual Placing: 9th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 10th
Their all-action, all-attack approach to the game was a joy to watch throughout their campaign. They also came within a couple agonizing inches of sending Brazil home in the second round when Mauricio Pinilla’s pile driver crashed off the crossbar. If they can shore up that suspect defense, they’ll be legit title contenders in short order.
Actual Placing: 10th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 21st
Mexico again proved that they are a big tournament team. They came within touching distance of another World Cup quarter-final appearance before having their dreams cruelly dashed by the Dutch.
Actual Placing: 11th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 19th
Doggedness and determination again carried the Swiss further than their talent suggested was possible.
Actual Placing: 12th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 6th
The loss of Luis Suarez, due to his almost unforgivable indiscretion, dented Uruguay’s chances badly. Nonetheless, they soldiered on to finish in the top-half of the table.
Actual Placing: 13th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 22nd
Grit, hard work, and a little bit of luck enabled the Greeks to bring some much-needed joy to the hearts of their embattled countrymen.
Actual Placing: 14th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 31st
Didn’t give them much chance of being more than an also-ran at the tournament, but they pleasantly surprised with some beautiful, free-flowing football that was an absolute joy to behold. They even gave the mighty Germans all they could handle in a tight 2-1 second round loss.
Country: United States
Actual Placing: 15th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 23rd
Another team that relied more on industry than imagination to do very well at the tournament. Tim Howard again proved why he’s one of the game’s very best custodians. The injection of a bit more skill and creativity in the attacking third would do the USA’s chances of truly breaking into the game’s elite a world of good.
Actual Placing: 16th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 24th
The Super Eagles looked as organized and determined as I’ve seen a Sub-Saharan African team look in a very long time. Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was outstanding throughout.
Actual Placing: 17th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 25th
Ecuador again showed that their whole is almost always better than the sum of their parts. Striker Enner Valencia, whose pace and athleticism caused defenders fits throughout, was rightly rewarded with a move to one of Europe’s big leagues. I can already hear the Faustino Asprilla comparisons.
Actual Placing: 18th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 12th
A succession of pre-tournament and early tournament injuries all but put paid to any chances Portugal had of succeeding before their campaign really got underway. Unfortunately, the cupboard looks pretty bare.
Actual Placing: 19th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 13th
Another disappointing campaign for a team that had the talent to finish in the top-half.
Country: Bosnia & Herzegovina
Actual Placing: 20th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 14th
All in all, it wasn’t a bad debut performance from the team which finally made it onto the game’s biggest stage after a succession of tragedies in qualifying.
Country: Ivory Coast
Actual Placing: 21st
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 16th
‘Twas another disappointing World Cup outing for Les Elephants, who really should have had a bit too much class for the likes of Greece. Yaya Toure, who many people rate as the world’s best box-to-box midfielder, was too inconsistent in the engine room. Young right-back Serge Aurier was a revelation though. The potential suitors are queuing up.
Actual Placing: 22nd
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 5th
Italy’s campaign perfectly illustrated the vagaries of being placed in a group where, as it turned out, all four teams had the goods to advance. They didn’t play badly at all.
Actual Placing: 23rd
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 3rd
A few questionable managerial decisions here and there seriously impaired Spain’s prospects of progressing. Still trying to figure out how Diego Costa was ever preferred to David Villa.
Actual Placing: 24th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 20th
Dull. Dour. Boring. These three bland descriptors just about sum up what Russia served up at the just concluded World Cup. The team was managed by Fabio Capello, after all.
Actual Placing: 25th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 17th
Another African team. Another very, very disappointing campaign. I figured they had the talent to get the better of both the United States and Portugal. As things turned out, they lost to both while battling eventual titlist Germany to a pulsating 2-2 stalemate. Alas, infighting and money worries eventually got the better of them.
Actual Placing: 26th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 11th
See my assessment of Italy. (On a personal note, it was good to see Manchester United mainstay Wayne Rooney finally register his first World Cup goal in what might just have been his final World Cup.)
Country: South Korea
Actual Placing: 27th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 28th
The Koreans lacked the energy that we’ve become accustomed to see them exhibit. Apart from a brief second-half spell against Algeria, they never really looked up to the task at hand.
Actual Placing: 28th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 32nd
The Iranian players made themselves and their nation proud by battling manfully in all three games played. They came within seconds of holding eventual finalists Argentina to a draw before an extra-special bit of Messi magic unhinged them.
Actual Placing: 29th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 18th
Had the talent in their squad to do much more than they ultimately did.
Actual Placing: 30th
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 30th
Fought hard as always, but lacked the talent to get better results against three of football’s best teams. Millions around the world will fondly remember Tim Cahill’s wonder strike though.
Actual Placing: 31st
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 29th
Realistically, Los Catrachos did just about as well as anyone could expect. Figured they could have played the Swiss a tad closer though.
Actual Placing: 32nd
My Pre-tournament Ranking: 26th
Well, at least they improved on their 31st place finish at South Africa 2010. At this rate of improvement, they’ll be World Cup champs in about 2134. Should awaken from my half-century long cryogenic sleep at just about the right time to see it. Seriously bad stuff from The (once) Indomitable Lions.
Figure I might just go into hibernation until Russia 2018 rolls around. See you towards the end of the next cycle. Peace!