This World Cup will be surely remembered for the number of upsets involving big names and big teams. The tournament also saw the ‘champions curse’ following Germany which exited in the group stage following similar fate of reigning champions since 2002 World Cup. And it wasn’t just the team performance, some top-rate football stars, who have in them to twist the flow of the game, looked off-coloured and jaded.
The tournament began on a slow note for several front-line favourites. Argentina dew 1-1 with Iceland, Brazil drew with Switzerland, Portugal drew with Spain but one that stood out was Germany’s 0-1 defeat to Mexico.
The reigning World Champions came to the tournament with stellar line up boasting stars and strikers but looked wanting at the sense of purpose and direction. Its spectacular 2-1 win over Sweden, where Kroos scored in the dying minutes looked liked waking up the giant, but in the end it was a mere flicker before demise.
Germany’s inexplicable 0-2 loss to South Korea led to their ouster from the group first time in 80 years. The match will be consigned to be written with sore alphabets in the glorious history of German football.
Among its stars, Thomas Muller disappointed the most. The 28-year-old, who had scored five goals each in the last two world cup, resembled a pale shadow of his self drawing a nought and often coming across pedestrian in a play-making, a far figure who have 98 games under his belt.
One of the most experienced German players with 92 games under his name Mesut Ozil looked slow, off-target and left-behind in the race. He came to the tournament to fill in the gap created after Bastian Schwienstiger’s retirement — chase through midfield, create chances, set-up goals and oversee the job is done — but failed in almost all the fronts.
After his dismal performance in the opening game against Mexico, Ozil failed to figure in the starting 11 against Sweden.
Not just the Germany, last World Cup’s runners up Argentina too were found below par with many of its star players like Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Mascherano and Angel Di Maria failing to raise the level of game.
Messi, playing possibly his last world cup, was particularly disappointing in his team’s draw against Iceland and a massive 0-3 defeat against Croatia. Though he scored against Nigeria in the must-win last group game, the flaws in his form were all to see in the Round of 16 match against France where the South Americans were run over by the Europeans.
Another of the star player, also possibly playing his last game, Cristiano Ronaldo disappointed.
Leading an ordinary looking Portugal team, Ronaldo couldn’t rescue them against superbly talented Uruguay in the Round of 16 where they lost 2-1.
Ronaldo, though started with a bang scoring a hit-trick in an opener against Spain was grounded as the tournament progressed. In next three matches, he could add only one goal to his tally. In a sign of his weaning supremacy his powerful penalty kick was blocked by the Iranian keeper Alireza Bieranvand in a cliff-hanger 1-1 draw. The loss there would have meant early curtain downs for Portugal but the Europeans couldn’t go far as they were sent home in the next game.
The World Cup will also be recalled for the curious fate of 2010 winners Spain. Arriving in Russia as favourites, they gradually looked an average side after starting with a 3-3 tie against Portugal. The game they must have won.
Ramos failed to inspire his defence line, which meant the side suffering five goals in the group stage and a Russian equaliser after leading a good distance in the round of 16 game, which they eventually lost by penalties.