Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Brasil World Cup: Post Mortem (or what I've learned from it)

The World Cup is OVER L.  Germany are well deserved champions!  And the vivid images of a very ‘latin’ tournament are beginning to fade.  Copacabana is quiet again.  The Fan Zone, full of hopeful Argentinians just a few days ago is already dismantled.  Life is slowly returning to normal and I’m fighting severe post-partum withdrawal symptoms.  But guess what: machinations for the Euro 2016 are already under way!

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Here’s my typical and rather quick synopsis:

What I knew:
  • That the trophy will eventually go to one of the favorites.  Check.
  • That none the ‘surprise’ teams will not make it to the semifinals (they typically don’t have the squad depth and tactical experience to last that long).  Check (Columbia and Belgium came close this time)
  • That one or two HUGE upsets will undoubtedly happen (meaning elimination in the group stage).  Check for Spain, Italy, England and Portugal
  • That Messi (and it pains me to say this, because I think he’s the greatest of his generation) would not be able to carry his team all the way, like Maradona did (I actually had them lose to Belgium in the QF).  In the end, it was the team that actually carried a lackluster Messi all the way to the final… where he failed to deliver.  Major disappointment, I might add… But one can’t leave a very big mark on the tournament with only moments of brilliance here and there.  I was actually surprised – like many others – to see him win the Golden Ball…
  • That African countries – despite huge talents – are yet to learn that soccer is a team sport.  Check.  Sure, Nigeria and Algeria made it through the groups, but Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Ghana have collectively disappointed
  • That Eastern Europeans never fare that well. Check.  Football in that region has been declining en masse
  • That beautiful football – as much as pleasing to the eye – will never win tournaments. Check.  Although Columbia, France (at least in the group stage) and the Dutch gave it a valiant try.

Where I was wrong:
There's been so many of these after
the Brazil catastrophe... this is my fav!
  • That home support – no matter how strong – will make all the difference.  Right Brazil?
  • That Spain would make it to the final again!  Oh, boy… Still no words…
  • That USA will leave pointless and Klinsmann would depart.  RESPECT, boys!  And apologies again!
  • Spain, Italy, England (partially) and Portugal going beyond the group stages (at least…;-)
  • What I learned:
  • Pragmatism wins matches (and ultimately tournaments)
  • Teams can’t rely on one player, no matter how big of a talent.  Sure, Maradona did single-handedly win it in ’86, but he could not repeat the feat for years later… incidentally, both those finals were a rematch of the one that just ended
  • Defense is more and more the key and games are played on a razor’s edge one elimination is as stake.  Although this was one of the highest scoring tournaments – thanks in part to Germany, Netherlands, Columbia, and [on both ends] Brazil – 12 of the 16 games in the elimination stage were decided by one goal.  If you don’t count the second French goal against Nigeria [92nd minute, when the game was already over] and the two disaster showings by Brazil against Germany and the Dutch, then the only other one that wasn’t close was Columbia – Uruguay [and that one would have been different if Suarez had more common sense than brains]; so practically, all the games past the group stage were VERY close.  Four of them were decided on penalties, three on extra time, and at least a couple in the dying seconds.  Drama indeed.  I’m wondering how many heart attacks this tournament has caused.  Surely that stat is out there somewhere.  That should be a tough one for Google! 
  • This was INDEED a South American ‘home’ tournament.  Aside from Ecuador, all other teams (and even all the Central American ones) have made it through the group stages!
  • Team spirit, drive and HEART are greater than any preparation, tactical know-how, star status or previous achievement.  Just look at Costa Rica (RESPECT to the Ticos), USA (especially against Portugal), Chile (in kicking Spain out of the tournament) or Algeria (for standing up to Germany as much as they did)

Maracanã: Not even Spain could ruin the excitement!
What I experienced:
  • The Maracanã dream come true!  Thank you again Ken, James, Rubens, Felipe, Meaghan… and GOD!
  • The joy of making others' dreams come true.  Again, Ken, James, Felipe, Joaco and Yaron: my pleasure!
  • Football across a continent where people breathe, eat and drink this stuff!  I think for the next world cup – in Russia – I’ll make plans to travel to South America again.  It will definitely be more fun!
  • Rio!  Live and in all its color!
  • Olivia Alves - a great Brazilian and brand new friend!
  • The greatest anomaly in the history of the sport! [yes, Germany absolutely humiliating the hosts].  What was surprising to me, is that Brazil was supporting their destroyers 5 days later.  That’s how great their hate against their neighbors to the south is!
  • Messi playing live and scoring the decider against Bosnia! [last year on Camp Nou when I saw Barcelona-Malaga he didn’t play; was injured]
  • The Fan Zone on Copacabana!
  • Fantastic people across Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and especially Brazil.  

When I grow up I want to get a big screen like this!
(the QF on a 125" projection screen @ Dana & Claudiu)  
One way to look at the final:
Argentinian wine vs. German beer.  The winner: us
Beers with Ken at Bar Vinicius (half time at Brazil-Mexico)
"My" ticket... 
... and the fantastic view from the seat Ken occupied on my behalf ;-)
Two bottles of Cachaça to properly enjoy the final!
...and two bottles of Cachaça later!

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