WHETHER it truly has been the greatest World Cup, I’m yet to decide, but as ever the tournament has produced its winners – feted to return as heroes – and its losers – condemned to at least four more years in purgatory.
The start of the competition seems so long ago now. To think, there once was a time where a very small part of me believed England could capitalise on their lack of hype and go further than we expected.
Back then Spain and Brazil had an air of invincibility about them, we were all waiting for Holland and France to implode, and the vast majority of us would not have been able to pick James Rodriguez out of a crowd, let alone pronounce his first name correctly.
Now it’s all over I have picked out my winners and losers for your delight and delectation – apart from the obvious, of course.
James Rodriguez: You had to be fairly clued up on French football to know much about the mercurial Colombian before a ball was kicked but thanks to some great goals, his value has shot through the roof.
Louis van Gaal: Eccentric, definitely, a genius, perhaps. Van Gaal has already done it all in Europe but now arrives at Manchester United with his stock sky high. No-one expected Holland to do as well as they did – and his tactical nous played a huge part.
German economics: A lesson in how to reinvent yourself as a footballing nation. The Germans had some dodgy years at international level, went back to the drawing board with their younger players, and reaped the benefits.
Costa Rica: Given absolutely no chance in their group but rose above the likes of England and Uruguay to show us football pundits we don’t know what we’re on about. Keeper Keylar Navas and defender Giancarlo Gonzales were immense.
Danny Murphy: The television find of this World Cup. Intelligent, amusing, self-depracating at times – yes, the former Liverpool and Fulham midfielder often sounds like a young Ron Atkinson but in a competition of poor co-commnentary, he has stood out.
Tika-Taka: Spain’s exit had people etching a tombstone for the possession brand of football that had ruled for the last eight years. While the Spanish do need to regroup with younger stars, it’s too early to abandon those principles.
Big Phil Scolari: “We have one hand on the World Cup already,” he ventured after the quarter-final win over Colombia. Well, not quite. Phil looked like a man who did not know how to change what was going on in front of him against Germany and Holland.
David Luiz: One can only hope Paris St Germain kept the receipt after paying £50million for the Brazil “defender” from Chelsea. Always had an unpredictable side but the way he fell apart at the end of the competition was ridiculous.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Once again, a world class talent is failed by those around him. Tried his best but at half-fit, he couldn’t get Portugal firing again after their humiliation against Germany. For that reason, I expect defender Pepe to be off his Christmas card list.
Luis Suarez: One mid-match snack and it was all over for club and country. This World Cup may forever be remembered for his bite on Giorgio Chiellini. He might have got the move to Barcelona he wanted – but how far has his behaviour now put Liverpool back?