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2014 World Cup Recap

July 15, 2014

Germany's players pose for pictures as they celebrate with their World Cup trophy after winning their 2014 World Cup final against Argentina at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro

Were you as enthralled by the World Cup these past 30 days as I was? I couldn’t get enough as the scoring was up, the diving was down and the parity made so many games come down to a thrilling finish. I was so ecstatic about soccer that I couldn’t let it go and watched the first half of the Seattle Sounders/Portland Timbers last night. Even with Dempsey I got bored after awhile and might be finally hitting my soccer wall but I will have to say that this was the best World Cup since 2002 and really re-energized me as a soccer fan. So without further ado are a few snippets I took from the World Cup.

Group Play All-Star Team
While most lists are tournament teams I decided to only make a Group Play Team since it seemed more fair with games played being equal. It will have some surprise names on it (Fabian Johnson likely being the biggest) yet I went with what I saw and didn’t just copy and paste names in from other peoples’ lists.
Goalkeeper:
Winner-Tim Howard (USA)
Runner Up-Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)
Defenders:
Winners-Philipp Lahm (Germany), Gary Cahill (England), Thiago Silva (Brazil), Fabian Johnson (USA)
Runner Up- Marcelo Vieira (Brazil)
Midfielders:
Winners-James Rodriguez (Columbia), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Columbia)
Runner Up-Angel di Maria (Argentina)
Forwards:
Winners-Thomas Muller (Germany), Neymar (Brazil)
Runner Up-Arjen Robben (Netherlands)

South America vs. Europe
For decades the difference in style was obvious. South American’s played a free flowing style that accentuated technical skill, passing and movement. Its best example was Brazil, home of “the beautiful game” which they took such great pride in while also inferior competition. For Europe they loved to muddy “the beautiful game” as they were taller and stronger which was their lone advantage over the smaller, faster and more skilled South Americans. Now you watch the World Cup and it is hard to tell which side plays what style. To me the five most free flowing teams were Columbia, France, Costa Rica, Ghana and Germany. The fact that only one South American country, and Argentina and Brazil to both not be that country, made that list shows how times have changed. Germany won the World Cup because they were the best team. They didn’t bludgeon their opponent like they did in the old days when they made it to the Finals in 5 of the 7 World Cups from 1966-1990 but instead played an exciting, high scoring style that actually won a lot of fans. The Germans scored the most goals (18), gave up the fewest goals (4) of any team that made it to the semifinals or farther, had the biggest goal differential (+14), had the most amazing win (7-1 win vs. Brazil) and they had the best player in the tournament in Thomas Muller. It was ironic that they ended up winning the tournament against Argentina as it completed the transformation for Germany. Argentina played a defense first, close to the vest style that was very Italian, English or dare I say German looking while Germany played it open and aggressive like one of the great South American teams of years past. At times Argentina outplayed Germany in the title game but considering Germany scored 9 goals in its last 3 matches compared to Argentina’s 1 I think it’s hard to argue that the wrong team won the tournament. The two most well known South American teams, Brazil and Argentina, both seemed like mediocre teams with one great player (Neymar and Messi). Rarely are teams with one great player able to win a World Cup and until South America regains its depth of talent and re-commits to playing an open and aggressive style I think Europe’s dominance will continue. Europe has won 4 of the last 5 World Cups and I think Columbia will be the only team with any chance of keeping it from becoming 5 of the last 6.

Best Player
3) Lionel Messi-
His stats were good (4 goals-tied for 3rd and 1 assist-tied for 10th with dozens of players) but his real impact came from how much space he created just by being on the pitch. It is too bad that Argentina didn’t play a more open style or that no one except Di Maria in the first 5 games and Higuain in the final 2 games helped him in any real way. Messi had a very good World Cup yet will surely hear from the critics after an invisible final and a close loss. In 2018 he will be 31 years old and likely on the decline so it is disappointing that one of the best players in soccer history will probably end his career without a World Cup trophy but is that really his fault? I would say no.
2) James Rodriguez-He won the Golden Boot with 6 goals and tied with 6 people for 4th with 2 assists. Considering ESPN didn’t even have him ranked as one of the Top 50 most impactful players at this World Cup shows just how far he’s come. At 23 years old he likely has 2 more World Cups in him and Columbia has the youth and flair to possibly be one of the favorites in Russia. He is an emerging superstar after the performance he put in.
1) Thomas Muller-To me he was far and away the best player. So many people focused on his scoring and it’s easy to see why as he had 5 goals (2nd), and was eerily close to garnering his second consecutive Golden Boot, yet the reason why he’s #1 to me is the completeness of his game. He makes the best runs of anyone in the world as his instincts and timing are impeccable. He has enough height to be a legit threat in the box on crosses. He is a very underrated passer (3 assists-3rd in the World Cup) and his talent in setting up his teammates while holding the ball makes him far more dangerous than your traditional poucher type. In my opinion he is the most in shape football player in the world as Muller was still racing around the field at the 118th minute when the goal scored. Finally I think his defense is also an underrated aspect of his game as his long legs and elite endurance allow him to help out right backer, Philipp Lahm, which gives Lahm more freedom to race up the side and play the advantage at times. I’ve been a German fan since the 2006 World Cup so it is fair to say that I’m biased but to me Muller was the best player at the 2014 World Cup.

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