Sunday, July 13, 2014

AZ's Slant on Sunday - 2014 FIFA World Cup: A Retrospective

Oh, great. Now I'm not going to have anything to watch on TV before nightly baseball. I guess I can't always have nice things.

As eventful as this past month has been, it has gone by so quickly. Then again, that always seems to happen when you're having fun and enjoying the moment. While I'm sad that the World Cup is now over, a new chapter in football is starting to unfold, and we have seen the dawn of new stars,  the birth of legends, and the last stands of veterans throughout this tournament. Outside controversies aside, we have seen an incredible display of skill, playmaking, and excessive nail-biting. We've had more excitement than you can shake a yellow card at, and after this World Cup, there is no possible way for you to tell me that soccer is boring. No sir.

Even if you don't follow the sport, I've laid out a couple of the highlights from this Cup. A lot of them bear repeating, and there may be a few things you hadn't thought about during the tournament. Shall we?

One last time... OHHH-AAAYYY-AHHHHHH

There were more fireworks during this World Cup than in the previous Cup.
Throughout the 2010 World Cup, 145 goals were scored. That amount was reached during the knockout rounds in this World Cup. In this tournament alone, 171 goals were scored. Ten of those goals were hammered against host country Brazil in their final two matches. There were a lot of tears as well.

Goal-line technology wasn't a terrible idea.
This World Cup introduced a slice of the 21st Century in the implementation of goal-line technology. Because this is such a huge event, and every call needs to count, numerous cameras were set up around each net to monitor close calls to see whether close shots should be counted as goals or not. These analyses were also shown to the crowds in each stadium, much like the instant replays you'll see in MLB, the NHL, and the NFL. There were times in which is did come in handy, so the first time doing this wasn't a total bust.

Spain, England, and Italy looked bad, and they should feel bad.
We're looking at three countries from UEFA (Union of European Football Associations), which is arguably the powerhouse conference compared to the rest of the world. Neither of these three teams made it out of the Group Stages, and especially in the case of 2010 Champion Spain, this really opened up a can of worms in the football world. Now grant it, Germany won the whole thing, but you know a change is coming when CONCACAF--represented this year by the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Honduras--had a better showing as a whole than three teams that have the finances in their respective countries for leagues that also enhance talent. Sure, a lot of CONCACAF players play for UEFA clubs, but still. Winds of change, ladies and gentlemen.

This is has been unofficially named the "Pope Cup."
Pope Francis is from Argentina. Pope Benedict XVI is from Germany.
May I begin the hilarious mental imagery for you?

An American referee did Major League Soccer proud.
Here's looking at you, Mark Geiger.

Despite the U.S. Men's National Team going out in the Round of 16 (again), we have much more to be proud of this time around.
Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to see the US take on Argentina in the quarterfinal, even though they'd have probably succumbed to Lionel Messi somehow. But after the build of soccer support here at home, this is only the beginning. They've gotten attention from the mainstream media--although most of it was satire--but hey, any exposure is good, right? Brian Barrish of The Soccer Desk sums up this journey quite well here.

Ann Coulter earned her full-time status as an idiot in the Football Universe.
And I responded in my own, special way.

The Brazuca ball used in Brazil was infinitely better than the Jabulani ball used in South Africa.
You're probably wondering what language I'm speaking right now. These names are the different balls used for the previous two World Cups. Because of the aerodynamic design of the Jabulani, players often had difficulty curving the ball on free kicks, and the overall design was rather unique in the sense that it was hard to use. How, I'm not exactly sure, but I've never played a pickup game with one. But from first-hand experience, the Brazuca ball was a huge step in the right direction as far as the ball design for this World Cup. You don't notice it on television of course, but the design is rather innovative. Similar to a basketball, there are very small dimples on the ball, and considering that there were a handful of matches played on nearly-flooded pitches, this really made a difference in traction and overall movement on different grounds. Take it from me, a slippery ball is a massive pain in the behind, and with the Brazuca, things seemed a little less hairy in the elements for the men out there.

There was another biting incident. Plus, diving was curbed.
Luis Suarez, really? Oh, and diving is the Son of Soccer Satan. Oddly enough, I cover both of these subjects in a previous post. You should check that out right now.

This was a very eventful World Cup, that's for certain.

For my piece on the 2010 World Cup from South Africa, you can check it out here. Yes, my blog existed during the last World Cup, and it's one of the few posts from my first year of blogging that I can willingly stomach. It's a cute little time machine. This World Cup made me forget how that US loss to Ghana in stoppage in the Round of 16 killed my spirits. Well, I relived that in two sentences, and I realized that the loss to Belgium could have been as deadly to my sanity as that.

I'm certainly looking forward to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and I am definitely excited for next year's Women's World Cup in Canada. Yes, that's what got me started in '99, after all. Let's not fool around here.

Long live this sport. Except for the diving. That can die a fiery death.