The 2014 World Cup in Brazil has already proved itself to be a stage befitting of the greatest of players and for the greatest of teams.
Unlike South Africa four years previously where goals were too infrequent and moments of sheer quality rare, this year’s summer showpiece has often seen the net bulging and goalkeepers from all nations despairing.
Holders Spain found the increase in quality this time around too much to handle. Chile’s 2-0 victory may have knocked them from the tournament, but the 5-1 mauling by an irrepressible Netherlands side will rankle long in the memory for the humiliation and embarrassment it inflicted on Vicente Del Bosque’s men during the first assault on their crown and title.
Stars deliver on the biggest stage
The biggest names in the sport have assembled and delivered. From James Rodriguez, Neymar, Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller spearheading the charge for the golden boot, to goals from Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo as England and Portugal bowed out with a whimper.
Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie both played such a prominent role with braces in that win over the Spanish, whilst Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has found the net three times in as many matches for France as they look to emulate the class of 1998 and lift the famous golden trophy.
Monaco winger Rodriguez sent his side through to the quarter-finals with a brace in Columbia’s 2-0 win over Uruguay, who were left to fare for themselves without the inspirational Luis Suarez in their ranks. In spite of missing the first game through injury and his side’s last through suspension for a bite on Giorgio Chiellini, there was brilliance amongst the bizarre.
Mario Balotelli alerted Arsenal to his services with the winner against England, whilst fellow Premier League outfit Liverpool will have been pleased with the hat-trick scored by Xherdan Shaqiri as they ponder a move for the Bayern Munich and Switzerland winger.
Top managers doing top jobs
This has also been a tournament where the quality of the managers has shone through.
Louis van Gaal has not allowed the distractions of the Manchester United job to mar his campaign, whereas Luis Filipe Scolari has silenced his doubters by guiding Brazil to the quarter-finals even if their reliance on Neymar has bordered on the unhealthy.
Joachim Low’s years of experience in the Germany hotseat has also made them a team to be feared and avoided in South America. Quite simply, for the likes of Roy Hodgson and Cesare Prandelli the tournament proved to be one beyond them.
The World Cup still has just under two weeks remaining. More goals will be scored, ensuring more names join those of the greats.
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