Heading the ball is seen by many purists as the grubby little cousin of the beautiful game. The delinquent in the family that you’d love to get rid of but can’t because, just occasionally, he does something useful and your nan likes to keep him around.
When Spain were ruling the world with tiki-taka, no one wanted to talk about heading the ball. Well, this year the header has shot back to prominence.
Robin van Persie get everyone purring about his goal against Spain, which was incredible. A quick re-adjustment of his feet to switch from a volley to a diving header which left everyone stunned.
His team mate Leroy Fer was at it as well. Pictures of his header against Chile should be cut out and stuck in every coaching manual around the world. The marking was dreadful, but the leap, execution and placement was unbelievable. At the time I rated it the best header I’d ever seen – conveniently forgetting about RVP’s a few days earlier.
If we forget about David Luiz’s horror show (the play off one, not the semi final), Toni Kroos trying to give the final away and Stevie G eliminating England, most of the heading was top draw and should go some way to bringing it back into the mainstream
7) Let’s Hear It For The Little Guy
Watching the World Cup is partly about seeing the biggest and best players in the world fight it out on the big stage. But it’s also a chance for smaller nations (in footballing terms, not geographical size) to shine.
Before 1990, I couldn’t name you one Cameroon player, after it, they were household names. Colombians in 1994 became stars and in 2002 Senegal became everyone’s second team by beating France. This time round, it seems the USA and Costa Rica captured everyone’s hearts.
Brazil was awash with locals adopting Costa Rica as their second team and trying to buy shirts off fans. The fans, for their part, floated around Brazil in some sort of dream, not quite sure how they’d walked a group containing England, Uruguay and Italy, before losing out on penalties in the quarter final.
America doesn’t often get sympathy from as a country from many people, but their team and fans were loved by everyone who met them. Tim Howard’s beard became a focal point for fans following his heroics and the photo of Captian America in the stands after their defeat is one of my favourites of the tournament.
6) Miguel Herrera
The Mexican manager was undoubtedly the star of the World Cup. Some people like their managers scientific– people like Fabio Cappello or Sven Goran Ericcson – who will lean (moodily) and rub their face while the game goes on. Others like their manager to be a prowler on the touchline – like Joachim Low, looking every inch a 1990s pop star.
My favourite is the crazy man. The manager who the players know will rip them to pieces if they don’t perform, but will defend them to the last if they put in 100% effort. There aren’t many of these at international level – they usually populate Sunday league football – but Miguel Herrera is the archetypal crazy manager.
It’s tough to explain, so I’ll let this Vine clip do it for me.
5) Luis “Dracula” Suarez
I don’t think we need to cover the details again. But Suarez’s bite sent the internet into meltdown, as every joker with Photoshop had a nibble (sorry) at the situation.
The Uruguayan response, echoed by many idiotic Liverpool fans (you know who you are), was hilarious. “It’s the Brits” they screamed. “I’m leaving FIFA in protest” said their manager. “Hahahahahahahahahaha” said the rest of us.
They all look suitably stupid now he’s apologised for actually biting Chiellini. I must have missed their apologies.
4) Argentina Fans
I don’t say many nice things about Argentina. Watching them lose the final was, possibly, the highlight of the tournament for me. Their fans have been celebrating another Word Cup since they beat Belgium in the quarter finals.
While that was a little premature, their fans are, on the whole, a decent bunch that lit up most of the places they were found (that’s pretty much every street corner in Rio). While their song of choice, Brasil, Decime que se siente, didn’t endear them to the locals, it is catchy and a bit of an ear worm.
How a song that pokes fun at Brazil can be sung in Brazil non-stop by their biggest rivals for three weeks without causing a riot is anyone’s guess. But here it is (words below, in Spanish and English.
Spanish (thanks to a chubby guy on Leblon beach who wrote the words out for me, while wearing the most uncomfortably looking pair of Speedos I’ve ever seen)
Brasil, decime que se siente
Tener en casa a tu papa
Seguro que aunque pasen los anos
Nunca lo vamos a olvidar
Que El Diego te gambeteo
El Cani te vacuno
Estas llorando desde Italia hasta hoy
A Messi lo vas a ver
La Copa nos va a traer
Maradona es mas grande que Pele.
And in English (thanks to the Daily Mirror)
Brazil, tell me how it feels
To be bossed about in your own house
It’s sure that even though years go by
We will never forget
That El Diego (Diego Maradona) did you
El Cani (Claudio Caniggia) stuck the needle in
You’ve been crying ever since Italia, up until today
You’re going to see Messi
He’s going to bring us the cup home
Maradona is greater than Pele.
How wrong they were.
3) James Rodriguez
Described by many in the UK as the “find of the World Cup”, the rise of Rodriguez over the last few weeks shows just how little football outside of the Premier League most of us (including me) watch. Rodriguez was sold to from Porto to Monaco for €45 million… hardly a kid breaking out of the academy for those figures!
Whether you’d heard of him or not, his performances to walk away with the Golden Boot award were nothing short of phenomenal. His six goals, including one of the goals of the tournament against Uruguay (below) almost fired Colombia into an unlikely semi final with Germany.
And if his on the pitch actions weren’t enough, every time a commentator pronounced his name, accurately, as “Ham-ez”, it was hilarious to Anglophones everywhere.
We were told in the run up to the tournament this was a competition no one in Brazil wanted. The rioters would sabotage the event, the fans would stay away, the infrastructure wouldn’t cope, the thieves would have a field day and so on. But when it came to it, Brazil put on one hell of a show.
Certainly some things could have been improved for fans but, on the whole, the event was great. The locals were more than happy to help out and seemed genuinely happy to have so many visitors to their country. The police were visible but friendly (if that’s possible with a huge stick and a gun on show) and, from what I saw, hardly called into action. Fans from all countries mingled, exchanging stories and tips while helping create the carnival atmosphere. Even the journalists looked like they were having a good time.
In short, Brazil put on a first class tournament. The action on the field mirror the organisation and Brazil 2014 will go down in my book as the best World Cup ever.
1) Mario Gotze’s Winning Goal
In a tournament of great goals, Gotze made a monkey out of all those who had written their “best goals of the World Cup” pieces before the final. James Rodriguez, RVP, Tim Cahill’s volley v Holland, Andre Schurrle’s Cruyff flick v Algeria, David Luiz’s free kick v Colombia, Lionel Messi’s match winner v Iran, Jermaine Jones’s beast v Portugal… this World Cup has had loads of great goals.
But Gotze’s effort topped them all. In any game, it would be a stunning strike, but deep into injury time to win the biggest final in football? It makes this an absolute classic. Where Schurrle got the energy from to burst down the left flank I don’t know. His cross was great, but Gotze’s technique to chest the ball on the turn, open up some space to volley it past Sergio Romero – who hadn’t conceded a goal throughout the knock out phase – was unbelievable.
If ever there was a goal worthy to win a final, it was this one. Good tekkers, lad!