Jul 14, 2014 Sport
WHAT ME AND MARTIN DEVLIN SAID AS THE WORLD CUP – AND THE WORLD CUP DIARY – COMES TO AN END
MARTIN DEVLIN, MANCHESTER UNITED TRAGIC AND HOST OF TV1’S WORLD CUP COVERAGE
Contrary to what some people say, it wasn’t a boring final: Not at all, plenty of chances in the 90. Extra-time the Argies got very cynical but the Germans kept attacking. Just like 2010 with Spain they had the patience to hang on. Great final given the seriousness of the occasion!
STEVE BRAUNIAS, FOOTBALL SAVANT AND METRO STAFF WRITER
So boring: I fell asleep, twice, and by the end of it I couldn’t care less who won. But it was only one game and the rest of the tournament brought so much of that thing Pharrell Williams was singing about in his song played over the PA before this morning’s final: “Happiness.” What a World Cup! There was the lurid melodrama of body parts – Neymar’s back and Zuniga’s knee, Chielini’s shoulder and Suarez’s teeth. There was Pirlo vs England. There was Messi, who played Jesus to the lepers in his team. There was Robben and his single idea – run fast and cut inside. No one could run or turn as fast. There was the 7-1. There were a lot of beautiful girls at every game. And there was a lot of football and much of it wasn’t very good but some of it was fabulous and all of it looked so good in the Brazilian sunshine and the Brazilian rain.
See, even FIFA can get it right sometimes: Forget the much-hyped goal-line technology, the greatest addition to the Brazil World Cup came in the form of a small can of shaving foam! Spraying the field to clearly mark the defensive wall was utter genius. Simple, practical and instantly effective, it was the best decision made by football’s global body since they also decided to ban the vuvuzela from inside the stadiums.
A moment of your time: They lasted a second or not even that, and they were all memorable moments – when James Rodriguez looked behind him at the goal just as the ball came towards his chest, before turning and scoring that million-dollar goal against Uruguay; when Steven Gerrard and David Luiz made an identical response after their teams conceded a goal, by booting a stunning 70-yard pass that went precisely nowhere; when Joachim Loew glanced with massive disinterest at the cheap-looking gift bag presented to him by Scolari on the sideline before the 7-1.
Regrets, I’ve had a few: Disappointment abounded all over this year’s event, beginning with Pepe’s idiotic red card that condemned Portugal to their worst possible start, a 4-0 thrashing by Germany.
Spain’s David Silva should also be forever haunted by his own greed, going for glory vs Holland when a 2-0 half-time lead was but a pass away to an unmarked team-mate. Silva paid the ultimate price for his profligacy when just seconds later the Dutch, against the run of play, emphatically equalised before effectively killing the defending champs’ campaign in 45 quite remarkable minutes of the second half.
However, neither catastrophe compares to the brain explosion that caused Brazilian captain and defensive linchpin Thiago Silva to unnecessarily, stupidly foul Colombia’s keeper in their quarter-final. His subsequent yellow card ruled him out of the semi-final vs Germany, his absence as glaringly obvious as the 7-1 scoreline.
The 7-1: Winning teams are all alike. After the match, they jump up and down with happiness. But losing teams lose in their own way, discover new agonies, share private grief in full view; to watch the Brazilians stagger and collapse and tremble after the Germany game was a rich experience for students of sporting failure.
It brought back memories of the Blues’ dismal 2012 season, when they suffered seven straight losses, and played like men in a thick fog. The coach, Pat Lam, got the sack. I hung around the Blues for three weeks during that amazing run and wrote in Metro, “Lam insisted that he hadn’t lost the dressing room. The problem was that he hadn’t found it.”
That also seemed true of Brazil, not just with Scolari, but his entire management team. Not one of them had the tactical expertise necessary at this level of football, not one of them was remotely in touch with the reality of the World Cup. Plus they all looked like overweight douchebags.
The players, too, were fantasists. I called it after the opening match. “There was something incoherent about Brazil’s performance. They didn’t know what they were doing in defence and they made it up as they went along in midfield. They have the skill to get away with it, but where was the plan? Croatia frightened them; Germany or Argentina could frighten them to death…”
Most unfairly maligned: This one’s easy being none other than New Zealand referee Peter O’Leary. One split-second linecall fractionally wrong led to a flurry of beat-up news stories about how he’d “disgraced the tournament/brought shame upon us/wrecked Bosnia’s WC”, etc.
But the fact is that the ref, in those circumstances, relies entirely on the linesman being his eyes. The moment the bloke on the sideline called Dzeko offside, O’Leary had no choice but to disallow his strike (which may’ve turned a loss to Nigeria into a draw).
Quite frankly the penalty awarded to Brazil against Croatia in the very first match was a much worse decision, though that one seemed to go unnoticed by the same New Zealand newsrooms that treated O’Leary like he’d offended in a similar way to Suarez.
A nice man: When TV announced the team line-ups at the start of each game, it had the players turning around to cross their arms and face the camera. Everyone did their best to look staunch – except for one man, Holland’s black defender Bruno Martins Indi, who turned to face the camera with the happiest smile you ever saw in your life. I always liked seeing that face and although it would be a strange thing to happen I wouldn’t mind if I thought about that face on my deathbed.
Advertising toss-offs: The two most offensive were Puma’s desperately clever and over-thought idea to have their players wear different coloured boots. Did not even one brave soul tell the creative dick-whackers responsible that it just looks naff?
That only just pipped the promotional blurb for Italy’s new-fangled jerseys that were made from “a high-tech tape that provides micro-massages for the wearer leading to maximised muscle power”. How do you say in Italian, “Get your fucking hand off it”?
Favourite player: Joel Campbell of Costa Rica. I’d never heard of him before the World Cup. Research shows that the only person in the world who’d heard of him before the World Cup was Listener columnist and Arsenal tragic Toby Manhire, who has dossiers on everyone associated with his team – even Campbell, who signed in 2011, but has yet to play a game in England due to problems with his work permit.
Arsenal really ought to sort out the paperwork. Campbell went into the tournament as a nobody, but he was world class in Brazil. He scored with a cracking shot in Costa Rica’s first game, the 3-1 win over Uruguay. In all their games, he never stopped moving, and defenders never stopped kicking him – as the target man, he played with his back to goal, and always held the ball up. He could barely walk by the end of the Holland game but managed to get up and score his penalty with cool aplomb. His incredible courage, and his awesome shooting and intelligent play off the ball, were wonders to behold.
TMI: Argentinian defensive colossus Javier Mascherano revealing to the world that his last-gasp tackle on Robben in their semi-final left him suffering from “a torn anus”.
Ugh: America were so easy to love. They played with heart, with courage, with Tom Howard in goal. But Americans always ruin everything the second they open their mouth, and there was Clint Dempsey, their striker, saying that he described scoring goals as “bangin’ Gs”.
We coulda been contenders: Aah, no we couldn’t. If ever any reminder was needed as to how far behind New Zealand are, and how much further we need to go, then Mexico’s efforts provided every bit of evidence. Remember how they beat us 9-3 on aggregate in the play-off? Unbeaten in the group stage (including wins over Croatia and Cameroon, and a draw with Brazil), the Mexicans were then just two minutes away from a quarter-final vs Costa Rica until Schneider equalised for the Dutch.
Three battling draws for our boys four years ago in South Africa could not have felt further away…
No sleep till Moscow: I suppose Russia is a slightly better destination than Qatar but not a lot. The 2018 World Cup, like South Africa 2010, might be played in a vacuum – football has never been much of a preoccupation in Russia. The national team were flops in Brazil, inevitably, given that Fabio Capello was the manager.
But New Zealand might qualify. Messi, Neymar, Rodriguez, and – ye gods – Suarez are likely to star. Costa Rica could be even stronger, so long as they’re still managed by Jorge Luis Pinto, who never played football but is a superb tactician and master strategist. England might qualify.
Farewell, then, to Brazil 2014. It was a madly entertaining four weeks. Basically I watched a lot of TV. I also wrote a lot – 24,500 words in 21 diaries, and interviews with 73 “experts”. Cheers to them for their time, and to Martin Devlin for his excellent contribution in today’s finale. He’s leaving planet football and is about to take his family for a holiday in Nelson. I’m leaving planet football with my fiance and our daughter to go to Rotorua. I want to sit and soak in a hot pool. I need to immerse myself back into the New Zealand way of life – the one that doesn’t have football in it.