Sunday, July 20, 2014

World Cup hang over - looking back at Brazil 2014

It has been a week since Germany was crowned as World Cup champions, adding a fourth star to their kit. Since that game we have had a overwhelming number of pieces about the World Cup, so it was time for the Frog to chime in as well.

The all tournament team using a 4-2-3-1 formation:
  • Goalkeeper - Neuer Germany. I can hear it now, "what about Howard!" from my USMNT fans. Yes Howard gave us a super human performance against Belgium. But he didn't win the game. Neuer on the other hand gave a superb performance versus Algeria as well as against France and Argentina. And he won the title. He should have
    A better sweeper than Luiz
    won the golden ball as well, more on that later.
  • Left Back - Vertonghen Belgium. I can just feel the Gooner cringing right now. But looking at what the Tottenham defender did for Belgium during this World Cup elevates him to this position. He was a constant threat for the Red Devils bombing down the left flank. He also chipped in the winning goal against South Korea. Without his efforts on the left side for Belgium, the shocking performance by Hazard on that side would have been even more glaring. 
  • Right Back - Lahm Germany. Shocking that Low stubbornly insisted on playing the Bayern man in the midfield. Were it not for some line up juggling in the beginning of the knock outs, we may never have seen Lahm back at his best position. Playing down the right side, Lahm gave Germany pace and width down the right side. He was constantly offering dangerous crosses from the flank. This also freed up some space for Ozil. Again, shocking that Low was forced to line him up in his natural position.
  • Center Back - Hummels Germany.  The powerful central defender was a rock for the German back line. Chipping in vital goals as well. With Low asking his defense to play a very high line also forced the Hummels to be solid with his organization of the defense.
  • Center Back - Vlaar Holland. The powerful Dutch center back was a rock playing for the Van Gaal's back 3. Playing with two wing backs, much of the defensive pressure fell on the shoulders of the back three defenders. In the middle of that was Vlaar. The Dutch defense were worthy of their 3rd place finish, giving up only one goal in the knock out stage. Their central defender has a lot to do with that result.
  • Holding Midfielder - Mascherano Argentina. The Argentine pitbull lived up to his reputation. He was the rock that protected the Argentina back 4. His work rate constitently sat at a 10. His ability to act as a midfield destroyer coupled with his efficient linkage with the attack made him the most valuable Argentine player (yup more than a player wearing the 10 jersey).
  • Holding Midfielder - Schweinsteiger Germany. Not to be repetitive...but what was Low doing the first half of the tournament? Once he lined up Lahm on the right with Schweiny and Kedira as his two holding midfielders, the Mannschaft took off. What took so long? Schweiny was the engine for the German team. His work rate, like Mascherano's, was off the chart. Seeing what he went through against Ghana or Argentina epitomizes his tournament. The man was spent in both matches, but he left everything on the pitch. Without his work effort I am not sure Germany adds that 4th star.
  • Left Winger - Robben Holland. Yes I know he is a diver, could probably medal for the Dutch in the Olympics.  The sad part is, he does not need to dive! When you watch
    The grass got me this time...darn it
    him take on defenders 1v1 you realize he can get past most defenders and when he fights through the contact he tends to find himself in great goal scoring opportunities. He just seems to focus more on getting fouls called for him rather than get through the contact and get himself goal chances. Even with his diving, he had a fabulous tournament. At times he appeared to be the only player in orange to carry the attack.
  • Right Winger - Neymar Jr Brazil - A bit of a surprise here, for a player that missed his last two games. That might be one of the reasons to build a case for Neymar. Until the semi-finals, Neymar was the one player that gave the Brazilians any hope. He carried the offense for the host nation. To be blunt, without Neymar, Brazil might not have made it past the group stages.
  • Central Midfielder - James Colombia - The new darling of world football, earned his new found fame by having a monster tournament. Winning the golden boot with 6 goals and carrying his nation to a first ever 1/4 final, trusted the Monaco player into the lime light. His creativity and bag of tricks turned Colombia into a real dark horse this tournament. Just think how scary Colombia might have been had Falcao been on the pitch. The future is bright for this 23 year old.
  • Striker - Messi Argentina - Shocking, but this is made by default. I am putting Messi here mainly on his performances early in the tournament (more on this later as well). He is also here because I do not consider Muller as a striker - I would have him as a second team left winger behind Robben. Messi saved his side in the group stages and had some decent spurts in the knock out rounds, but left much to be desired. His inclusion is indicative of the lack of world class strikers playing up to par this tournament.
  • Other players - Navas Costa Rica GK, Zabeleta Argentina D, Boateng Germany D, Muller Germany MF, Pogba France MF, De Bruyne Belgium MF, Kroos Germany MF, Sanchez Chile F.
No surprise that this team is loaded with players from the German side. Of course there are always flops as well. Here are the top three flops - these players had to be on teams that made it to the knock out stages, otherwise I would just slot 3 players from Spain on this list!
  • Fred Brazil - Wasn't he the leading scorer during the Confederations' Cup? What happened in the year between tournaments...oh right....teams actually try during the World Cup. He was a complete waste during the World Cup. Other than his atrocious flop against Croatia, he did nothing. What a waste.
  • Bradley USA - Has been called Caillou by Boston based sports radio 98.5, isn't far from a good comparison. The best US player heading into the tournament was close to a disaster for the red white and blue. Too often Bradley was a negative for the US rather than his usual positive impact on the team. I place some of the blame on
    Caillou! You can't give up the ball that easily
    Klinsmann who played him out of position, but still his performance was awful.
  • Oscar Brazil - Wasn't he suppose to be the creative lynchpin for Brazil? Creating space and opportunities for the likes of Neymar et al? So where was he? Like Fred, he was completely invisible. Yes he scored some goals, more than can be said for his countryman - Fred. But for all the hype surrounding this player heading into the tournament he was a huge flop.
  • Honorable mention - the entire Brazilian back line and keeper. The 7-1 trashing exemplified how atrocious the Brazilian defense was starting with their donkey keeper - Cesar - who can thank his goal frame for beating Chile. But even more so with their excuses for outside backs - Maicon/Alves and Marcelo. They cannot defend and all think they are really strikers. One play that epitomized how pathetic they are was on the goal by Klose in the semi final game. Marcelo keeps Muller onside by giving him a 5 foot cushion...inside his penalty area. Marcelo almost ran over Cesar trying to "cover" Muller. But the worst of the lot is Luiz. Big Bird might be the worst central defender I have seen since Pascal Cygan. He has no positional awareness...wonder why Muller was so wide open on the first goal in the semi finals? Answer - Luiz was suppose to be covering him. Go back and look at the fifth goal...Luiz makes an attempted tackle in the midfield and got skinned. There is a reason why he ended up playing mostly as a defensive midfielder for Chelsea...at least there were players behind him to clean up his mess. Sigh...and PSG spent a boat load on him...why? Maybe we can get a refund from Chelsea.
The best team of the tournament, that didn't win the tournament, was Costa Rica. Los Ticos emerged from the "Group of Champions" besting, England, Italy and Uruguay. I was reading a pre-tournament publication that stated they had "no chances" of getting out of the group. They took Holland to the penalty kicks, so were that close to getting to the semi finals. A great run for the CONCACAF side.

The best manager of the tournament - Van Gaal. I put him above Low, since the German manager gets points deducted because of his stubborn Germaness when it came to Lahm in the midfield. But the Dutch manager pulled many of the right strings. It is ashamed that captain and striker - RVP - disappeared during the knock out stage, otherwise Holland might have expected a better result. Van Gaal's 3 back system with two deep lying wide players, including former striker Kuyt, was a perfect system for the Oranje. Swapping keepers during the penalty kicks against Costa Rica was a bold move that paid off...clearly one he wanted to make in the Argentina game but did not have any substitutes.

The player of the tournament - Yes Messi won the golden ball...but he did not deserve it, I think he knows that as well! Neuer was the player of the tournament. His performances against Algeria, France and Argentina were player of the tournament worthy. He made countless plays with his feet outside the area against Algeria that allowed his team to continue to play a dangerous high line. He made two imperial saves against France to keep a clean sheet. And was equally dominant against Argentina in the finals. On the other hand Messi completely disappeared in the knock outs, especially when it counted against Holland and Germany. There were many stories about how tired he was from a long season, but it isn't as if the other players were playing for amateur club sides....they all have been playing lots of football. It feels as if the moment overwhelmed the Barcelona magician.

2014 was a great World Cup, even if Germany won it all! See you all in 4 years in Russia. Actually see you in 2 years in France for the European Cup!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

no french player....debuchi may b better than lam...

GFC said...

I cannot put Debuchy ahead of Lahm. Debuchy had a decent tournament but by no means the equal to Lahm when it comes to carrying the offense as well as defending that wide flank.

I did not think any French player deserved to be in the all tourney team, Pogba did get to the bench for me. But really which French player? Matuidi maybe, but that would be stretch and no way was he better than Schweiny and Mascherano. Benzema to me failed to impress...two great games against Honduras and Switzerland, and then completely disappeared. France needed a top class Benzema to get past Germany and they got something far short of that.

France had a good tournament, one that they can be proud of, but none of their players took the next step to elevate Les Bleus to a higher level.

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