Another (men’s) World Cup is now in the history books and we turn our sights back to the usual league action. It is, however, fun to reflect on what just happened down in Brazil and how the next tournament in Russia could develop.
I’ll start with something the last two champions (Spain, Germany) shared: a complete roster from 1 to 23 that played the team concept to its fullest, like a machine. While it’s sexy to talk about Neymar leading Brazil, or Lionel Messi leading Argentina; the fact is it is still eleven against eleven. Both Spain in 2010 and Germany in 2014 were solid all across the field. They didn’t have that one superstar; just plenty of talent in all the positions. That’s what gets it done now.
Speaking of Messi, he blew his chance at greatness. His level of play decreased as the tournament progressed and in the final missed a clear shot on goal. It’s a shame he’s being criticized excessively because he still has had a stellar career regardless, but in the end he didn’t deliver; and worse, he didn’t seem to really want it.
This has been a good World Cup. I disagree though that it has been spectacular. The World Cup has a problem that unfortunately cannot be logistically solved: the knockout rounds. Yet again, the first round games provide excitement and goals, with teams knowing one mistake is not deadly so they go forward and attack with confidence. Once we got to the knockout stages… 1-0, 0-0, 1-0 at extra time… again. The Germans’ annihilation of Brazil in the semifinals was quite an exception. Otherwise we get the same brand of cautious soccer laced with plenty of defense that we have had for the last 24 years. We did have very good scoreless games, but at some point is a 3-2 game too much to ask for?
Fortunately, it seems at least in the U.S. we don’t care anymore… as long as it’s our U.S. team competing against tough competition. This is a sign that soccer is finally and truly establishing itself in the States; we can REALLY appreciate the value of a 1-0 or 0-0 scoreline now.
As for Russia, it’s too early to tell. Germany does have a nucleus of young talent, but they have never won consecutive titles (shortest wait was 16 years between 1974 and 1990) and other countries will reload. Neymar will be in his prime and Brazil will improve after the fiasco this year. Belgium, Colombia, France, maybe
Spain, and other countries also have up and coming talent.
We’ll see. In the meantime, congratulations Germans! Enjoy the four years.