It has been a GOOD World Cup for...
Not content with potentially winning the Golden Boot, the Colombian also looks like leaving the World Cup with his dream move to Real Madrid secured.
In the absence of the injured Radamel Falcao, Colombia needed a new hero to step into the breach, and Rodriguez rose to the challenge superbly, scoring six goals in five matches to emerge as one of the stars of the tournament.
His brace in the second-round win over Uruguay was especially memorable, and looks like being enough to persuade Real to shell out €70m to sign him from Monaco.
Most World Cups end with neutrals raving about the performances of the leading centre-forwards, but this one is heading to its climax with most of the stand-out displays having come at the other end of the field.
Whether it’s Germany’s Manuel Neuer pioneering the goalkeeper-sweeper role, the United States’ Tim Howard setting a new record for the most saves in a game or Holland’s Tim Krul coming off the bench to star in a penalty shoot-out victory, keepers have held sway in Brazil.
The group stage in particular was peppered with sensational saves, with Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa and Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas also playing their part.
North and Central America
It’s not an area that tends to be especially prominent in global footballing discussions, but the Concacaf group of nations have enjoyed an unexpectedly successful month.
Costa Rica were the flag-bearers, emerging from one of the toughest groups on paper before seeing off Greece to make the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
The US captivated most neutrals with their boundless enthusiasm – helping transform the image of “soccer” back in their homeland – and Mexico were unfortunate not to make the last eight as they conceded two dramatic late goals to Holland.
Jonathan Pearce might not have been able to work out what was going on when France played Honduras, but the award of an own goal against goalkeeper Noel Valladares was effective enough to persuade most cynics that goalline technology is rightly here to stay.
The process worked smoothly enough, and the fact that the technology has barely been seen since underlines the limited disruption caused by an innovation that should have been commonplace years ago.
UEFA boss Michel Platini continues to mount a one-man crusade against it, preferring his extra officials on the goalline, but it’s hard to imagine how he can justify shelving goalline cameras at Euro 2016 now.
The usual scare stories were all in evidence before the tournament – Brazil’s not safe, the stadiums won’t be ready, the infrastructure won’t cope – but as usual, they proved to be largely without foundation.
Every game has been well attended, every ground has looked the part and while there have been low-key protests in some of the major Brazilian cities, there has been nothing like the social unrest that accompanied last year’s Confederations Cup.
The England fans I have spoken to returned from Brazil with tales of beautiful scenery, lively nightlife and unfailingly friendly hosts. It was just the three England games that soured their trip.
How bad must some of the World Cup pundits be if Alan Shearer suddenly looks like a font of knowledge and insightful analysis?
This has not been a good World Cup for either the BBC or ITV. The former relied too heavily on the likes of Juninho and Phil Neville, who had nothing at all of note to say, while ITV’s decision to dress Gordon Strachan, Glenn Hoddle and Martin O’Neill in shorts and sit them around an outdoor table remains baffling.
Having bored his way through most of last season on Match of the Day, Shearer has unexpectedly discovered a range of opinions. Let’s hope he doesn’t revert to type as soon as he leaves Brazil.
It has been a BAD World Cup for...
As if Portugal’s tame exit at the group stage wasn’t bad enough, the reigning World Player of the Year has also had to watch his arch-nemesis Lionel Messi finally live up to his billing in an Argentina shirt and inspire his side all the way to the final.
Ronaldo didn’t look fit as Portugal flopped again, and his failure to make an impression on the last two World Cup finals is now a considerable stain on his record.
It doesn’t help that he is playing for a side that lacks emerging world-class talent, but it’s hard not to feel that Ronaldo is more interested in playing for himself than putting self-interest aside for the good of his nation.
Four Asian sides travelled to Brazil, and all four exited at the group stage. To make matters worse, not one of them won a game.
Australia looked good in attack, but were wide open at the back and lost all three of their matches. Iran troubled Argentina, but were largely out of their depth, Japan were typically toothless, and South Korea underperformed dramatically as they finished bottom of Group H.
The game in the Asian sub-continent appears to be stagnant, perhaps reflecting the region’s obsession with the Premier League and La Liga at the expense of their own domestic product.
The old-fashioned number nine
Spain started the process of doing away with a traditional centre-forward, and while Germany are the only leading side in Brazil to have experimented with a false number nine, most of the tournament’s leading attacking players have been midfielders.
Karim Benzema was probably the most effective centre-forward, with the likes of Robin van Persie, Gonzalo Higuain and Romelu Lukaku proving surprisingly simple to negate. And let’s not even mention Fred.
The leading sides have tended to play with a fluid attacking line-up, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Thomas Muller and James Rodriguez prospering as a result.
With his annual salary of some £7m-a-year, the Russia boss is the highest-paid manager in world football. So what did Russia get for that money? A set of predictably negative tactics and a haul of two points from three matches that saw them go out at the group stage.
Having flopped when leading England in South Africa, Capello was every bit as unsuccessful as he led his new side in Brazil.
Is he capable of inspiring Russia to a decent showing on home soil in four years time? His employers had better hope so because it will cost them an absolute fortune to move him on.
What do you do if you style yourself as the only meaningful player in televised football, but then you’re unable to show any of the matches in the biggest tournament in the world?
If you’re Sky, you wrap yourself up in knots, unsure whether to ignore the whole thing completely or plough on with wall-to-wall coverage, even though you can only show grainy still photographs of what’s actually happening on the pitch.
The idea of protected events that have to be shown on terrestrial TV might be controversial in a world where most of the population has access to a digital platform, but it’s worth supporting just to see Sky squirm.
They’ve been out of the equation for so long, it’s easy to forget that England were actually involved in this World Cup, albeit only fleetingly.
Pre-tournament expectations were low, and England’s players certainly lived down to them as they lost to Italy and Uruguay before boring their way through a goalless draw with Costa Rica.
So many of the same failings were apparent, but a fortnight down the line, and the demands for change have already been silenced as attention switches back to the Premier League. Expect them to be ignored until England flop again in France at Euro 2016.