Bishop (Dr) David IbelemeMonday, July 14, 2014
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St. Ann's, Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies




s the curtains fall and the sun sets on the 2014 World Cup I can dare say that this was the best World Cup competition so far in my lifetime.

Outside the football, there were some very memorable sights at this World Cup. One of the most outstanding for me was the picture of the sun setting behind the stature of Christ the redeemer. In this, the stature appeared as if it was holding the world in its hands. It was absolutely a wonderful sight.

My reflections

Brazil seemed to have been the ultimate choice for a completion like this. FIFA having announced that whoever wins this year's competition would get the honour of keeping the trophy, the South American nation that had won the World Cup on five previous occasions seemed the most deserving having lost the last one to thieves.

It seemed like it was a well orchestrated plan to ensure that they were now ultimately honoured for having graced the world with superb entrainment via the beautiful game over the years. It also seemed like it would bring them redemption after losing the competition in 1950 when they first hosted it.

Before I continue I want to correct the notion that many commentators have created that Brazil lost to Uruguay in the final of the 1950 competition. Point of correction there was no final match per se in the 1950 completion. Rather there was actually a group stage competition between the last four teams; Brazil, Uruguay, Sweden and Spain. They all played each other.

Brazil and Uruguay had both won their two previous games (against Sweden and Spain), that's why the match was like the final but it really wasn't a final like we had Germany and Argentina in 2014 or Spain and Holland in 2010. 1950 was the only World Cup that did not have a real final match.

A World Cup Full Of Surprises

Like the 1950 competition, this year's World Cup was filled with surprises which on several counts can be considered as pleasant. In 1950 the USA shocked the world and beat the then mighty England 1-0. This year we saw Holland demolish Spain 5-1, Chile beat Spain 2-0, Costa Rica beat both the mighty Italy 1-0 and Uruguay 3-1, Portugal with the great Ronaldo were cheaply dismissed by Germany 4-0, Germany coming from behind to draw with Ghana.

Who would have guessed that the Spaniards, Portuguese and the Italians would have been knocked out during the group stage? Who would have imagined that Algeria would have given the Germans the scare of their life? Brazil Vs Mexico 0-0 and Brazil requiring penalties to beat Chile.

Brazil losing the third place play off to Holland 3-0. Of course the biggest surprise of all was not Germany beating Brazil but beating them 7-1.

A Bit On The Politics

The numerous riots that preceded the competition and even during the early phase of it. FIFA pushing for the sale of alcoholic beverages against the general laws of the land.

The obvious absence of a high number of "black" people in the stands, in a country where about 2/3 of the population is black. I can't understand how FIFA were able to technically keep out black people from the stands, while touting war against racism. How come the colored people of Brazil were hardly showcased in the World Cup? It beats me.

The Government of Brazil definitely have more debts than they budgeted for and still have no World Cup winners' trophy to show for it. I do hope that the nation which was already boiling before the competition would not "go up in flames" after the competition.

The Rise Of The "Underdogs"

With two African nations; Nigeria and Algeria and three CONCACAF nations Mexico, USA and Costa Rica making the last 16. Costa Rica went on to make the last 8 losing on penalties to Holland. Even the African teams Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, that didn't make it to the last 16, gave a very good account of themselves. There were certainly no push overs in this competition.

The New Age of Respecting The Coaches

Unlike other World Cup competitions where that focus had been on the great players, this was indeed the coaches' World Cup. It was won and lost by tactical decisions from the bench.

Brazil's Scolari was unable to make the tactical adjustment following the loss of Neymar and Thiago Silva. This led to their loss against the Germans. They continued to start with despite his poor form and lack of productivity for the team, another tactical blunder. They definitely should have played two "pure" central defenders against Germany and allowed David Luiz to roam freely. Rather they left him to roam without making the defensive adjustments and this left them open in the back. The result 7-1 against Germany and then 3-0 against Holland.

The teams with the three top coaches ended up in the top three positions in the World Cup. You can hardly take anything away from these guys. Any of those three team could have deservedly won the World Cup. They ordered their teams with tactical precision.

Holland went far in this competition not because of their quality players (though they had Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie and Wesley Sniejder) but because of the quality of coaching from Louis Van Gaal. The master tactician showed time and time again the significance of the bench.

Germany won the World Cup because of the tactical coordination of their coach, Loew Joachim, in putting together what was clearly the best team in the competition. They always took advantage of their opponents weakness as was seen against Brazil and they patiently waited for Argentina to lose concentration in the final match. As they went ahead 1-0 they brought on a central defender seeing Argentina only had players who went through the middle and definitely had no player to trouble them from the flanks.

Clear coaching errors defined the demise of the teams that lost. Replacing Higuain with Aguero was a tactical error by the Argentines against Germany. In all departments Higuain was a menace for the German defense, being able to contest for aerial balls and strong enough to hold his own against the big German central defenders. Though Aguero was faster, Higuain gave Argentina a more dangerous presence.

Germany winning the World Cup shows that having a great team is always better than having a great player. Great players mean nothing unless one translates them into a great team. The German team had no player in the class of Messi, Robben, Ronaldo, Neymar, Suarez, Pirlo, or even England's Rooney, but they unquestionable had a team that was second to none in this year's World Cup.

My hats off to the coaches and I believe this will indeed start a revolution of greater investments in the quality of the men that guide the teams from the bench.

FIFA, Please Think About This

You give awards literally for the best goal keeper and the best striker, how about coming up with a award that will honour the best defenders and midfielders. Goals indeed win matches but that includes keeping them out like great defenders do and creating them like great midfielders do.

I would pick Germany's Hummels and Argentina's Mascherano as my top defenders for this competition with the edge going to the Argentine. I'd also pick Germany's Schweinsteiger as the most dominant midfielder in this competition.

It never ceases to amaze me how FIFA comes up with the winners of some of its awards. How can a team like Colombia, whose constant dirty rough play against Brazil ended Neymar's World Cup, win the FairPlay award and Luis Suarez get four months suspension from any soccer related event and 10 match suspension from International football? If the referees had handled the Brazil Vs Colombia match well, Colombia should have ended that game with at least two red cards. I cannot see how one can give Colombia that award after watching that game in retrospect.

Please, don't misunderstand me, I don't support Suarez' action and I do believe he deserved to be suspended but I sincerely believe that the sentence is generally too harsh. I also believe that FIFA's approach to discipline is generally unfair. They really need to look into it and make some adjustments.

I also believe that many people will wonder how Messi won the golden ball award over players like Thomas Muller? Even Holland's Arjen Robben, I believe is more deserving of the award. Could this be a case of sentiments?

FIFA actually picked Mario Gotze, the goal scorer as the man of the match for the final game. How can you give someone who played 32 out of 120minutes, the man of the match simply because he scored the winning goal? Scoring the winning goal shouldn't be the main criteria for being man of the match. That award should have gone to Schweinsteiger or on a general note to Argentina's Mascherano.

This was really an interesting World Cup by all counts. Despite my criticisms of FIFA, I must congratulate the organization for handling the competition very well.

Yes, I can indeed say that this is "The Best World Cup Ever".