From the crumbling empires of Spain and Brazil to Chewy Louis Suarez thinking he’d walked into an all you can eat pasta buffet, here are Back Page Football’s World Cup 2014 Awards.
Team of the tournament
With all the brutal efficiency of a well-oiled Audi Quattro running over a group of free love touting hippies, Germany powered their way to a fourth World Cup triumph in irrepressible fashion, including a 7-1 thumping of hosts Brazil. Vorsprung durch technik indeed.
Manager of the tournament
Jorge Luis Pinto achieved legendary status in Costa Rica by leading the central Americans to a more than creditable quarter-final berth. Along the way his side knocked out Italy, England and Greece and were only beaten by the Netherlands on penalties. A magnificent achievement.
Player of the tournament
Lionel Messi may have won FIFA’s golden ball, but in truth, apart from a few flashes of brilliance in the group stages, the Argentine superstar had a subpar tournament. Arjen Robben was excellent for the Netherlands, while Neymar handled the burden of being the great hope of the host nation with a composure which belied his 22 years.
However, the award has to go to Colombia’s James Rodriguez who sauntered his way to the Golden Boot, scored one of the goals of the competition, and propelled his nation into the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. As Andy Gray would say, “take a bow son, take a bow”. We are allowed to quote misogynistic women haters right?
World Cup starting 11
Manuel Neuer (Germany), Philip Lahm (Germany), Matts Hummels (Germany), Ezequeil Garay (Argentina), Daley Blind (Netherlands), Toni Kroos (Germany), James Rodriguez (Columbia) Javier Mascherano (Argentina), Arjen Robben (Netherlands), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Muller (Germany).
Match of the tournament
The Netherland’s 5-1 thrashing of holder’s Spain really set the tone for an incredible round of group stage matches and went some way in banishing the turgid memories of South Africa 2010.
Goal of the tournament
A fantastic month of football served up some quite delightful goals. Robin Van Persie leaped like a dolphin to score a spectacular header come lob against the Spanish, while compatriot Wesley Sneijder hit a ramrod of a thunderbolt to equalise for the Netherlands against Mexico in the second-round. Lionel Messi struck blinders against Iran and Nigeria and James Rodriguez look up-chest-turn-volley versus Uruguay was a thing of unimaginable beauty. But all of these were trumped by Tim Cahill’s thunderous first time volley against the Dutch – a moment of majesty for the football purists.
Germany’s 7-1 demolition of Brazil in the semi-finals may possibly go down as the most incredible football result in the history of time. Just to put things into perspective, the defeat was Brazil’s first in a competitive match on home soil since they lost to Peru in 1975 – a period of 63 games; until this match Brazil had won every semi-final they had contested after the Second World War; the 7-1 scoreline represented the largest ever margin of defeat in a Word Cup semi-final; Germany scored five goals in the first 29 minutes, the fastest any team has racked up such a score in the tournament’s history; the six-goal margin broke the previous World Cup record of five; and victory meant Germany advanced to their eighth World Cup final surpassing the hapless Brazilians. The match also almost broke Twitter, while the BBC felt compelled to spell out the scoreline for their viewers in case they didn’t know what the numeral ‘7’ was doing loitering about in a football score. Ouch!
To everyone’s delight Russia exited in the first round with perhaps the most dour brand of football ever seen at an international tournament. Never have the words ‘stink the place out’ rang more true. Dishonourable mention must go to England, Italy, Portugal and world champions Spain who were unceremoniously dumped out in the group stages and quickly forgotten by everyone. Oh and there was also a chap by the name of Fred.
Most loveable rogue
The lowest paid coach at the tournament, Mexico’s Miguel Herrera, endeared himself to the world with his at times breathtaking antics on the touchline. His animated celebrations during a 3-1 win over Croatia in particular spawned a thousand memes, tribute videos and image galleries. God knows what he would have done if Mexico had actually won the thing.
Louis Van Gaal – that is all.
Most obvious pun
Plays on the name ‘Krul’ abounded everywhere after super sub goalkeeper Tim Krul, who had been introduced just for the penalty shoot out, helped his side advance to the semi-finals with two saves against Costa Rica as the Netherlands triumphed 4-3.
Somebody forgot to tell the Honduras that they weren’t in Brazil to compete in an ultimate fighting competition. Portugal’s Pepe probably already knew that but didn’t care either way as he kung fu’d himself to a red card in the opening match of Group G.
Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon became he oldest player to play in a FIFA World Cup game at the age of 43 and three days when he came on as a substitute in Colombia’s group match with Italy. However, it was 36-year-old and relative spring chicken in comparison, Miroslav Klose, who cemented his place in the pantheon of World Cup greats by breaking Ronaldo’s all time goalscoring record at the World Cup finals. Just no one mention he’s actually Polish.
David Villa could not hold back the tears as he left the international field of play for the final time in Spain’s group match versus Australia. At least Villa departed on the pitch, Xavi, the heart and soul of this great Spanish team ended his international career as an unused sub – a once great hero unable to change the course of events for a last time.
Vanishing spray. Simple, effective and an excellent tool to help referees. Now if it only it would make Adrian Chiles disappear.
Cooling breaks. No, just no. This isn’t basketball.
Colombia had some of the most loud, exuberant and stylish fans at the World Cup, but the award has to go to the Chilean supporters who were particularly magnificent in the match against Spain. The song Chi, Chi, Chi, Le, Le, Le became one of the soundtracks of the tournament.
Most unlikely supporter
Wrestling legend Hulk Hogan tweeted the USA football team some words of encouragement before their group match with Germany. If he’d added a comma or two they might have even understood what he was saying.
Watcha gonna do Germany when the USA runs wild all over YOU!!! Brother,USA Soccer,Lets Do It!!!!! HH
— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) June 25, 2014
— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) June 25, 2014
The Duke of Edinburgh ‘it looks as if it was put in by an Indian’ award for most cringeworthy gaffe
ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley picked on the fact that the player’s of the Islamic Republic of Iran were displaying their ‘Christian names’ on the backs of their shirts. Don’t you know they are Hindus, Clive?
The ’Tutankhamen’s Tomb’ award for most pesky curse
British rock star Mick Jagger became something of a pariah in Brazil as he acquired a reputation for cursing whichever team he leant his support to. Italy, Portugal and England all made early exits after receiving messages of encouragement from the wide-mouthed bearer of bad luck.
Hosts Brazil, however, were the team to feel the worst effects of Jagger’s maledictions when the crooner turned up to their semi-final clash in Belo Horizonte to cheer them on against Germany. Brazil were pounded 7-1 and disgruntled fans blamed him for their side’s capitulation.
Unhappy at being labeled the ‘biggest jinx in history’ Jagger was left to lament, ‘I can take responsibility for the first German goal but not the other six!’ Whatever you say Mick – just stay away from us yeah.
The David Icke ‘it’s all a Mossad led Palestinian plot to bring down the local fishmonger’ award for implausible conspiracy theory
After chewing off a chunk out of Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder, Luis Suarez was defended by the Uruguayan FA who claimed that images of the bite marks had been photoshopped as part of a conspiracy against the world’s most infamous vampire. Funnily enough FIFA saw things a little differently and banned the Barcelona bound forward from all football related activity for four months. Not really a case for Mulder and Scully this.
The most tempting invitation to perform a heist
After Ghana’s players threatened to forfeit their final group match against Portugal unless they were paid their appearance fees in ‘physical cash’ before the match took place, the president of the country, John Dramani Mahama, was forced to intervene to quell the simmering tensions.
Eventually the Ghanian government chartered a flight to Brazil to transport over $3 million owed to the players. Incredibly, the plane carrying the cash was not hijacked by D. B. Cooperesque figures and also survived being escorted through the streets of Brasilia in a convoy-like operation.
Alas, just when everyone thought good sense and morality had prevailed the Ghanian players were quick to shed all decency by being pictured kissing the wads of cash. Oh dear!
The ‘have you not heard of Kleenex?’ award for most brazen act of nose picking
It can be tough for managers in the dugout as they watch their players try to implement their tactics and strategy on the football field. Sir Alex Ferguson used to release his restless energy by manically chewing on a stick of gum, while Johan Cruyff usually coped with the pressure with a cigarette or two. Germany’s Joachim Loew alleviates his the tension by constantly picking his nose.
This World Cup was no different as the man from Schonau spent most of the tournament digging into his nostril like a frantic mole. After one particularly cavernous excavation, audiences were treated to the sight of him shaking Ronaldo’s hand with his snot covered paws. Is he looking for gold up there or something?
The Peter Andre ‘I really am a reggae singer’ award for grand delusion
Speaking after his side’s 2-1 loss to Uruguay, Roy Hodgson showed that perhaps he had enjoyed one too many of Brazil’s famous psychedelic brews, when he claimed that England had contained Luis Suarez quite well despite the fact that the diminutive biter had bagged a brace to virtually send the Three Lions out of the tournament. Next he’ll be telling us the referee was a pink elephant dressed in one of Rio Ferdinand’s double-breasted suits.
Most unfortunately named footballers
Mexico’s Miguel Angel Ponce and Russia’s Oleg Shatov should count their lucky stars they didn’t grow up in a Hackney council estate.
The Winston Churchill ‘I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly’ award for most scathing put-down
Former Arsenal and Barcelona legend Thierry Henry brilliantly swatted aside Robbie Savage when the latter tried to explain the importance of making life difficult for superior opponents by denying them time and space.
“When we used to go out there, playing for Leicester against Arsenal,” Savage said. “We were like wasps, on him (Henry) all the time, not giving him a minute to settle and you hate playing against that kind of team, don’t you Thierry?”
“We managed” replied the Frenchman with the coolness and insouciance of a cucumber being gently tossed in a summer salad.
Don’t worry Robbo, at least no one can make fun of your hair.
Most pertinent questions
When did Holland become the Netherlands?
Will Mario Balotteli get a kiss from the Queen?
Will Cristiano Ronaldo come out with a new haircut after half-time?
How is Fabio Capello the best paid manager in international football?
Terrace chant you won’t be hearing for a while
“It’s just like watching Brazil”, unless you’re watching a Sam Allardyce side that is.
It was a crazy game. We could have scored five… Oh right, we did score five, but we could have scored six, seven or eight.
Dutch star Robin Van Persie shows that those counting classes are making a real difference – almost.
The FIFA sanction is shameful, they have no sensitivity towards the fans, they might as well handcuff him and throw him in Guantánamo.
Argentine legend Diego Maradonna loses a little perspective while discussing the Luis Suarez ban. Meanwhile…
Pressure, you know, it is worse if you have a child who’s ill and in hospital. That’s pressure. Here there is no pressure.
…Belgium manager Marc Wilmots gains a little too much as he discusses his country’s status as the tournaments dark horses.
We shall wonder if one day our game is played on another planet? Why not? Then we will have not only a World Cup we will have inter-planetary competitions. Why not?
Sepp Blatter forgets to take his meds again.
As amazing as it sounds, the ball hit my moustache, it was a moustache goal.
Brazilian footballer impersonator Fred reveals that the one goal he did score was actually netted by his 1970s tache.
I taught Romero how to save penalties, so yes – it hurts.
Not one for false modesty shows Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal tries to take credit for his own team’s semi-final defeat at the hands of Argentina.
The pain is immense. We gave what we could and we are sorry for ourselves and the people. The sadness is for life.
Javier Mascherano after Argentina lost the World Cup Final.
It’s an unbelievable feeling. I don’t know how to describe it.
Mario Gotze on winning the World Cup for Germany.
Go out and show the world you are better than Messi.
German coach Joachim Loew to substitute Mario Gotze.