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  • Story of Brazil '14

    By Gabriel Cazotto

        The World Cup preparations in Brazil started as soon as the country was elected by unanimous decision as host of the 2014 tournament in 2007. However, serious delays occurred, especially where the games would be played in São Paulo, only decided in 2010 during the tournament in South Africa. The disbelief of the Brazilian people in the competition and politics of their own country expressed itself in several street manifestations during the Confederations Cup in 2013.

        With that in mind, and some venues having their stadiums only completed a month before the start of the competition, some believed Brazil could have a setback in both economical, footballing and organizational points of view. However, once Thursday 12th July approached, the Brazilian fans became more and more enthusiastic with the tournament, and with the possibility that their team, led by the “penta” head coach Scolari and the wonder boy Neymar, could lead Brazil to home victory, erasing once and for all the “ghost” of 1950’s Maracanazo.

        With that in mind, Group A started with Brazilian fans shouting out loud the Brazilian anthem in the opening game against Croatia in São Paulo, but an own goal by Marcelo put a hold on Brazilian prospects right in the beginning of the game. Brazil, however, fought back. Neymar equalized the game later on, and in a blatant wrong call by referee Nishimura, where Fred dived inside the box, Brazil turned the match around with another goal from Neymar on a penalty kick followed by a late goal from Oscar. One day later, Mexico beat Cameroon 1-0 on a rain-soaked field. The second round in this group saw Ochoa almost single-handedly hold Brazil to a scoreless draw, while Croatia managed to beat Cameroon by 4-0, reaching their biggest victory ever in the competition. In the last round of the group stage, Brazil demolished Cameroon by 4-1, making the first time that the Indomitable Lions lost six games in a row in the history of the competition, while Mexico beat Croatia to maintain their record of advancing from the group stage in every World Cup since 1994.

        Group B started like the World Cup finished in 2010, with Spain against the Netherlands. A fan favourite to the second cup in a row, Spain, who reached Brazil with a lot of questions after the Confederations Cup where they were “destroyed” by Brazil in the final, saw this “fear” of non-accomplishment happen as soon as the Dutch steam rolled La Roja 5-1, with a fantastic display by Arjen Robben. Chile beat Australia later that day and the game in Maracanã fielding both La Rojas would be decisive for Spain and Chile. With the winning formula of “tiki-taka” questioned days before the match, Chile control Spain and with two goals in the first half ensured their win, making what Spain feared since the beginning, as they were the first holders to be eliminated with less than one week of competition with one match still to go. The Dutch beat Australia and qualified together with Chile to the second round. With all decided before the third game, two “friendlies” were disputed with the reserve Dutch team beating a reserve Chilean team, while Spain, also with a reserve team, managed to beat Australia by 3-0, making two World Cups in a row that the holders were eliminated in first round.

        In Group C, surprise seeds Colombia managed to rise the bets on them after crushing the Greeks, Ivory Coast and Japan, managing nine points of nine possible, while scoring an amazing nine goals and conceding just two. Greece qualified for the second round for the first time after drawing with Japan and scoring the winning goal against the Ivorian in the dying minutes of their match with Samaras on a penalty kick. Ivory Coast once again failed to fulfill the expectations and got eliminated in the group round for the third time in a row, leading their best player ever, Drogba retiring as soon as the World Cup ended.

        Group D was seen as the “Group of Death” before of the start of the competition, because this was the first time that three former World Cup Champions (Italy, Uruguay and England) were drawn together in the first round. It managed to prompt the first surprise of the competition when Costa Rica beat both Uruguay and Italy and thus qualified for the second round after drawing with England on the last match day. After Italy and Uruguay beat England both would confront each other in the final match of the Group, a tie would qualify Italy, but after a corner kick, Uruguayan defender Godin scored for La Celeste qualifying the 4th place of 2010 for the second round. Italy once again failed to get out from Group stage, like in 2010, in a match marked by Luis Suarez’ bite in Chiellini, which would make FIFA ban him from the rest of the tournament.

        Group E saw France recovering beautifully from the deception of 2010, beating Honduras and Switzerland by 3-0 and 5-2, before drawing with Ecuador and reaching the second round. The Swiss beat the South Americans in the last minute of the first game and even after being demolished by France, managed to qualify in the second place of the Group with a hat trick from Shaqiri against Honduras (who finally managed to score after 32 years of waiting in a game against Ecuador).

        Argentina, led by Messi, conquered Group F with three wins in a row against debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria. Nigeria qualified for the second round after a scoreless draw against Iran and a 1-0 win against Bosnia, who would later win their first game in the history of the competition after the Eastern Europeans former republic of Yugoslavia beat the Persians by 3-1.

        In Group G, Germany destroyed Portugal by 4-0 in the first game of the first round, while the USA finally beat Ghana after two World Cup in a row of eliminations against the Western African Team. Portugal, who was virtually eliminated until the 95 minute against the USA, saw a Ronaldo cross find Varela’s head resulting in a breath-taking goal, putting the Iberians still in contention for the last round; however, they would need to beat Ghana by 4 goals to manage a qualification. Even with more than six clear chances of goal in the last 15 minutes of their game, and with Ronaldo, voted 2013 Golden Ball winner, visible injured, Portugal only managed to beat Ghana by 2-1, thus being eliminated after the Germans beat USA by 1-0.

        The Red Devils, Belgium, another one seem as a surprise seeds for the tournament, were the fourth team to make three wins in three games, thus winning the group after beating Algeria, Russia and Korea. Algeria and Russia reached the final game of the first round with chances to qualify. Algeria with a better goal average (after being the first African to score four goals in a World Cup match, against Korea) managed to draw the game in the second half, qualifying Les Fennecs for the first time in their history. This would mark also the first time that two African teams qualified for the second round of the World Cup ever.

        After the first round, the press became extremely happy with the outcome. The high number of goals, the beautiful display of attacking football, something not seen since 1998 in France, had already praised the Brazilian World Cup at the end of the first round as the best competition for years. The number of goals scored, that hugely surpassed the first round of 2010 in South Africa by miles and the intense participation of the public inside the stadiums already reached a bench-mark in football history.

        When the round of 16 began, the “goal fest” gave place to tough and unpredictable games with a lot of tension for the second round, as a World Cup must have. In the first match, Brazil got Chile, who had a record for being eliminated by Brazil every time they passed the first round. A very tough match controlled by Sanpaoli’s tactics since the beginning of the game saw Chile hold a draw in normal time against Brazil, before Pinilla hit the post in the dying minutes of overtime, which would have qualified the Chileans. In the penalty shoot-out, the emotional Brazilian team collapsed under pressure, but Julio César, one of the main responsible for the elimination against Netherlands in 2010, rise on the occasion, stopping two penalty kicks, while the last one hit the crossbar. Brazil once again eliminated Chile and proceeded to the quarter-finals.

        Later that day, Colombia and Uruguay made a South-American clash in the mythical Maracanã, even more mythical for La Celeste. However, as history is only history, Colombia dominated the game, and beat without any further trouble the Uruguayans in a fantastic display by James Rodriguez, who scored the goal of the tournament in this match. Uruguay who had the birth of their mysticism in Maracanã, buried this same mysticism in the same stadium 64 years after the fatidic Maracanazo.

        In the following Mexico v Netherlands game, Mexico managed to take a lead with a fantastic curved shot by Giovani dos Santos. Nevertheless, as always, the fear to win made Mexico crumble, at midway through the second half, Miguel Herrera took of the forward to hold the result. In two minutes, Sneijder, and Huntelaar, on a penalty kick by a dubious decision on a diving from Robben eliminated the Mexicans once again in Round of 16.

        Later that day, Costa Rica and Greece made a tactical game, with the Greeks finding the draw in the last minute of regular time. In the penalty shoot-out, the outstanding keeper Navas saved Gekas shot and put Los Ticos in an unprecedented quarterfinal for the first time ever.

        France, without any problem, managed to control the match and beat Nigeria with a goal from the best young player of the competition, Juventus’ Paul Pogba, and through an own goal by Yobo on a Griezmann dummy.

        Germany confronted Algeria with the ghost of 1982 “Shame of Gijón”, where Germany and Austria made the Anschluss, which would lead to a goal from Hrubesch in the first 10 minutes, with neither team wanting to play football after that, thus qualifying both teams, eliminating Algeria and causing a commotion on football society. This led to the implementation of the last games of the first round to be played at the same time. In search for revenge, Halilhodzic locked Germany fantastic midfield and perhaps the best one in the tournament, until the end of the match. With Schweinsteiger entering as a DM, and Lahm pushed to his right back position, an open pass to Schürrle and a counterattack to Özil made the Germans open up a 2-0 lead during overtime, until Djabou scored the final goal in what would be called “The Pride of Porto Alegre”, erasing once and for all the disgraceful “Shame of Gijón”, 32 years ago.

        In the last matchday of the Round of 16, Argentina had a very difficult game against Switzerland. Very well controlled by Ottmar Hitzfeld's tactics in nullifying Messi, the Rossocrossati managed to hold a scoreless draw at the end of the match. When the game approached the penalty shoot-out, Messi, or the Messiah, made one of his famous runs and put a perfect ball for Di Maria, the Angel, to score 1-0. If the Messiah and the Angel had already put Argentina in quarterfinal with five minutes to go, Switzerland had a last chance, when a header by Dzemaili hit the post, and on rebound, the same Dzemaili hit the post again. That, the Argentine assumed, could‘ve been put on Pope Francis account, a fanatical football fan from Argentina.

        In the last match of the Round of 16, Belgium and the USA hold a 0-0 draw until the beginning of overtime, when Lukaku, taking a physical advantage of a tired American defense scored one and created the second goal for De Bruyne. USA scored with Green, but this was not sufficient. The Americans were out, but not without breaking an all-time record, when Tim Howard, America`s goalkeeper managed to save 16 shots.

        With a fantastic first round and a round of 16, the quarterfinals become a bit in oblivion if compared to the dramatic knockout games of 2006, one of the best ever.

        Germany, without ever forcing anything, beat France with a header from Hummels. While Brazil scored two against Colombia, being one on a fantastic free kick by David Luiz, just after James scored his sixth goal in the competition, and got the Golden Boot. In the dying minutes, Zúñiga injured Neymar’s column, ruling out the Brazilian hope from the rest of the World Cup.

        On the second day, even with the 0-0 result, the Dutch simply steam rolled Costa Rica. However, Los Ticos had one of the best keepers of the competition, who held the draw through the entire match. Lead by Navas defensive status, the game went to penalty shoot-out. Dutch coach Louis van Gaal, with a very courageous plan, brought on Tim Krul, known to be a penalty stopper, minutes before the end of extra time in place of the starter Cillessen, and van Gaal succeeded fantastically. Krul stopped two penalties and put the Dutch in their second semifinal in a row.

        Later, Argentina only needed nine minutes to settle the game. With Messi completely annulled by Kompany, Higuaín made his best game in the competition and settled the game early. The Belgium couldn’t find a way to perceive the good Argentine defense, and for the first time since 1990, La Albiceleste reached the semifinals.

        Semifinals that saw the worst modern era massacre ever, when the Germans destroyed Brazil in merely five minutes, scoring 5-0, and finishing the game in outstanding 7-1, with a complete domination of the midfield. Brazil suffered their worst loss ever, and created a situation in all Brazilian media of a sense that drastic changes must be done to recover Brazilian football once and for all.

        Argentina and the Netherlands played on a rainy day in São Paulo, known for rainy days in July. Moreover, in an utterly dull game, Argentina finally reached the final after 24 years on a penalty shoot-out. This time with Cillessen in the Dutch goal, instead of Krul.

        The third place match saw a very distressful and without-route Brazil being demolished once more by the Dutch.

        In the big final, Germany and Argentina met for a record third time. In the first Maradona gave Argentina for the cup in 1986, four years later, and a Brehme penalty kick gave the third star to Germany. This time, Messi would confront a cohesive and very talented German squad focused on teamwork. After two incredible misses from Higuaín and Palacio, Germany managed to score in the overtime through Mario Götze, the Judas of German football, and give the fourth star to Germany.

        The victory of the Germans resulted from the best attack, the best football displayed, and especially, with the best preparation of a young squad and reconstruction of its own football that began after the fiasco in Euro 2000. After missing three great chances of to win a title at Euro 2008, 2012 and 2010 World Cup, they finally crowned a fantastic and deserved generation with the World Cup win in Brazil (the first time a European team won on South American territory). Messi was controversially voted best player of the competition, but neither he or the audience looked very impressed by the selection.




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