Germany celebrate with the World Cup trophy after defeating Argentina 1-0 in extra time during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Lessons Learnt: 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil – by ALVIN CORNEAL

We are all aware of the final results of the 2014 FIFA World Cup BrazilTM the winners, losers, goal scorers, the reasons for victory and defeat, plus the exciting goals scored, brilliant saves, and exquisite ball possession methods in midfield or elsewhere.

The matches are fresh in the minds of football fans and those who threw their support behind their favourite teams. The results brought moments of joy, disappointment and even surprise when compared to some expectations.

However, analysis is the father of improvement, a philosophy that many great coaches use in order to prepare a better team.

So, let us first handle the confederation representatives separately, knowing that favorite teams would have come from either Europe or South America, simply because these countries were among the previous winners.

The early exit of Italy, England, Portugal, Spain and Russia – teams that comprised top players who brought great joy to fans when representing their club teams, stunned experts.

To many, the demise of England appeared to be long in the making. The hype and popularity of the English Premier League tended to conceal the shortcomings of the English players.

A critique of the selected players indicates that Sturridge, Sterling, and Rooney needed to have quality teammates similar to those in their respective clubs.

The midfield section was clearly void of imagination as none of Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney or any other, were able to expose gaps in the defenses of their opponents, causing the trio mentioned above to take the challenge individually.

Clearly, Sturridge and Sterling were unable to produce the type of game that England needed. Italy, although well short of their previously typical tactical charisma, found no difficulty in using their veteran superstar, Andrei Pirlo, amidst a few talented greenhorns, to get the results they desired.

An overview of the entire team on the field detected a lack of cohesiveness and a definite absence of proper communication among the defenders.

Luis Suárez provided the icing on the cake for his country, Uruguay, when he single handedly took the England defense apart without too much fuss, a performance that highlighted his super star status on the big stage.

Spain’s exit was painful, especially after they were so brilliant in South Africa four years ago, and more recently earned a final place in the Confederations Cup in Brazil one year ago.

Truth be told, some players who excelled four years ago appeared harried, and the change in their successful strategy in South Africa exposed a drop in the quality of their midfield control.

The shifting of players did not ensure the stability that Puyol had brought to defense, a vulnerability exploited by the Netherlands’ Sneijder, van Persie, and Kuyt.

Chile also enjoyed the freedom of using the midfield where the Spanish had failed to retain the possession for which they were so capable the last time around.

Australia became the whipping boys as they were soundly beaten by Xavi and his team before they left for home.

Portugal may have assessed their demise following a weak start in their first game, where they unfortunately lost a key defender in Pepe early and failed to make the necessary adjustment in order to cope with a competent Germany whose well-orchestrated plan was given more leverage than expected, a feature for which they were thankful.

Cristiano Ronaldo may take some blame for his lackluster contribution generally, but against the USA especially, where his genius was an essential commodity, but was never brought to the field.

One point in two matches created a high-pressure situation when they had to literally beat the shirts off Ghana to enter the second round. They won, but not convincingly and were home among the first group of those returning.

Switzerland enjoyed the honor of not having lost a match in their South African first round, but maybe their desire to be more attacking in Brazil, allowed many loopholes in their defense, and caused their exit.

Belgium was as competent as their fans expected. They produced some quality players who may only have been short of the experience gained only in a World Cup competition. They probably expected more from Eden Hazard, whose speed and skill, had the Belgian fans filled with positive anxiety.

The South Americans produced a more positive approach. The host Brazil may not have demonstrated the artistry and creativity for which they are well known, but gradually moved through the likes of Croatia, got a wakeup call from an amazing Mexican performance, and eventually played their best against Cameroon in the final first round fixture.

Argentina was awfully out of sync in their opening match where they were taken to the wire against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iran, simply because of their lethargy and inaccurate passing. Nigeria twisted their arm and forced out a much-improved display of their possession game in midfield.

The round of sixteen was more or less expected, although the Mexicans had every right to earn victory. They were the better executioners of the swift movement, skillful passing and quick turns of speed when they approached the opponents’ goal. The referee would have been the best person to ask about the final result of that game.

Belgium were never worried about the USA’s hype. They were superior in every department of the game and deserved their victory. Until the final two matches they played, the USA was an exciting team to watch. However, while their running game took them the length of the field in quick time, it reduced their physical capability, and when they needed the extra effort, they failed.

Brazil’s reputation when playing at home certainly placed Columbia in defense mode. Zuniga’s instruction to mark the Brazilian star Neymar Jr. may well have been misconstrued and his nonsensical tackle, which appeared to be his choice of achievement of the job, brought ugly dividends to Columbia and also a stunning decision from the referee who did not give the tackle as a foul.

Assuming that the referee would have said what most would claim when these issues take place, he would have cried out that he used the advantage rule.

Correct. But when the play was completed a few seconds afterwards, the official could have returned to the guilty player and the scene of the incident, to let Zuniga know that the call was worthy of immediate expulsion to possibly be followed by suspension.

France battled Germany for a quarterfinal place in a manner that implied they’d restrict the Germans to midfield possession, but minimize any opportunity to penetrate. Because of this the Germans showed discipline, gained greater percentage of ball possession and awaited any chance to get a goal; they proved successful. France had run out of that smooth fluency of their first round matches.

Costa Rica was the epitome of consistency. They banked heavily on the quality of their players and were unafraid of taking the game to anyone. Netherlands were confused by this surprise packet from Central America, whose goalkeeper and the likes of Campbell, Bolaños and Umaña, provided a lesson on football strategy.

Neither van Persie nor Sneijder were able to practice their habitual and often predictable one-sided maneuvers to defeat their opponents.

When those failed, van Persie showed up with his diving acts that had brought him previous success. This did not work, but a handle ball in Holland’s penalty area was seen by almost every viewer on the ground. This would have been a penalty in a game that was nearing the end and maybe the end of Netherlands as well.

Belgium was unfortunate. They probably studied the performances of Argentina in the early matches and decided to ignore the likes of Messi and sturdy ball winner, Mascherano.

Later, they were forced to pay attention to what was appearing to be dangerous moves by the Argentinians. They moved the effectiveness of their game backward into their own half of the field, which allowed constant attacks by their opponents.

They could have been proud of their overall effort, but lessons in adjusting strategy will be their next step.

The semifinal matches should have brought a great climax to the tournament. But Brazil, with the absence of their skipper, Thiago Silva, and super star Neymar, took a hard blow. Germany decided to win early and scored two goals in the first eight minutes; the Brazilians were unable to turn to any of their senior players to reorganize their game. They looked like lost sheep and conceded goal after goal. Pathetic, disappointing, and providing maximum pain to their people.

Argentina simply produced game strategy, plus an exquisite display of ball winning from their midfielders. The Dutch defense was under pressure for varying periods of play, but they held their ground and lost out from the penalty spot.

Argentina and Germany demonstrated the type of game that will bring joy to the true lovers of football. The Germans, who did not really dominate all the matches they played in the earlier rounds, knew that against Messi, Agüero, and Luzetti, the defense must be airtight.

Messi needed attention from more than one defender, while the presence of Boateng to the central defense for Germany was probably the winning decision for his country.

Argentina penetrated four times in the first half with Messi missing two simple chances and Higuaín failing to score a goal that was probably the easiest in the tournament. Messi repeated a missed chance in the second half together with Palacios.

Goals win matches. Germany made a substitution when they replaced Klose for Götze, who collected a ball on his chest and scored what could be considered a perfect goal.

Some may claim that the best team won the World Cup and it would be unfair to take even a small bit of credit from the Germans. However, there were certainly some wonderful performances by a few other teams who technically and artistically showed the world that the pendulum is on the swing for some newcomers in the near future.

The World Cup was won by the most organized team in the football world.

About the author

ALVIN CORNEAL is one of a handful of sportsmen who has represented our national teams in both football and cricket. He was also a member of the first ever West Indies football team. His participation in sports at the national level spans more than a decade. He has held positions such as National Football Coach of junior and senior teams, Technical Director of the TTFA, Technical Director of CONCACAF, and the prestigious positions of FIFA Technical Committee Member and currently, FIFA Technical Advisor. Alvin is also a presenter/analyst for radio and television on all local, regional and International sports.

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