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Biggest losers from the World Cup 2014

Jul 14, 2014, 9:55 PM EDT

BrazilFan AP

Earlier today, PST went through its collection of winners from this year’s World Cup. Now we look at the other side of the coin. Here’s the negatives, the losers, from Brazil 2014:

The Teams

Asia’s representatives – The ACF’s four representatives played 12 games, lost nine, and failed to win a match, posting a -16 goal difference along the way – a surprisingly weak performance from a confederation that put two teams into South Africa’s knockout stage. While the current World Cup allocation seems pretty balanced, there are always those that want to shake things up based on one tournament’s results. Particularly in this part of the world, Asia’s performance will have CONCACAF honks arguing for their half-spots at Russia 2018.

Brazil – In 2010, South Africa, became the first host nation to miss the knockout round, a disappointment that pales in comparison to what happened to Brazil. Though the Selecao reached this year’s semifinals, their ensuing collapse created the country’s second major soccer nightmare – a failure that will rival 1950’s Maracanzo. With 7-1 and 3-0 losses to close their tournament, Brazil has sparked a national soccer identity crisis, one that has the world’s most successful nation questioning whether it can keep up.

Honduras –  The Catrachos only played three matches, two of which were among the worst performances in the tournament. A overly physical approach in the team’s opener against France saw Wilson Palacios sent off during a 3-0 loss, a result that was replicated against Switzerland at the end of group stage. While experts predicted Honduras would be one of the (euphemism warning) least sophisticated teams in Brazil, an undue level of cynicism cast Luis Fernando Suárez’s team apart from the rest of CONCACAF. While Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States were pushing their way into the knockout round, Honduras looked out-of-place.

Spain – Call it a crash or flop, or maybe pick something more onomatopoeic, like whiz or whimper. There’s no shortage of ways to describe Spain’s collapse, one that saw the defending champions fail to making it out of a tough Group B. Somewhere between South Africa and Brazil, la Roja’s zeppelin turned into a lead balloon, and while the autopsy has reminded us of a number of preconditions, it was still shocking to see the crash on June 13 in Salvador.

[ MORE from our 2014 World Cup review ]

The Players

Rafa Márquez – Márquez’s vilification in the U.S. has achieved full distortion since he left the New York Red Bulls two years ago, a bias that stood in stark contrast to the 35-year-old’s strong group stage. In the knockout round, however, Márquez fulfilled his heel’s destiny, taking down Arjen Robben in the penalty area to give the Netherlands a stoppage time, game-winning penalty kick. It may be unfair that one moment overshadows the previous 360 minutes, but when you make a mistake to send your team out of the tournament, you get branded. You also get ridiculed by the fans you scorned.

source:  Pepe – With the possible exception of the next name on this list, no player’s misadventures stunted his team as much as Pepe’s. Earning a red card against Germany after head butting Thomas Müller, the Real Madrid defender was a major part of his team’s 4-0, opening match loss, with the effects of that goal difference leaving the Seleccao virtually eliminated after their draw with the United States. Suspended for that match, Pepe was helpless as his team gave up two goals to the States, turning a must-win match into one of the lasting memories of a failed World Cup campaign.

Luis Suárez – This goes without saying.

Juan Camilo Zuñiga – Zuñiga is a quality if imperfect fullback, one who’s capable of playing for teams at near top of most of the world’s best leagues. From here forward, however, he’s going to be the guy who broke Neymar’s back. After leaping knee-first into the Brazilian’s back, Zuñiga saw Neymar’s stretchered off in agony with a broken third vertebra. Only 28, Zuñiga may have another World Cup in him, but he’ll always be known as the guy who ended the young superstar’s tournament.

The Coaches

Fabio Capello – Blame Igor Akinfeev if you want (and you’d be right to do so), but none of Russia’s games were so far beyond reach that a more aggressive approach, particularly against Algeria and South Korea, couldn’t have produced a better result. But Capello, despite being the world’s most expensive coach, had only one approach, one that favored a conservative, reactive style above taking the game to his opponents. Now, between 2010 and 2014, Capello has won once in seven World Cup games. Congratulations for getting England past Slovenia, Fabio.

Luiz Felipe Scolari – Felipao is the last coach to win a World Cup for Brazil, taking the Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho team to glory in 2002. After this year’s performance, critics will be less forgiving about that easy run to that title. As bad as Brazil was, the team doesn’t lack for talent, as evidenced by its players’ performance at club level. Lacking in cohesion, preparation, proper selection and execution, the hosts’ performance reflects terribly on their coach.

source: Getty Images

The Supporting Cast

African FAs – Cameroon’s players almost didn’t go. Ghana’s had to hold out to make sure they got their money. Nigeria’s been banned by FIFA in the wake of the World Cup. The reasons behind all of these aren’t simple (for example, FIFA’s dabbling in Nigeria’s FA), but it’s easy to imagine these soap operas influencing the results on the field.

Concussion protocol – All of Uruguay’s Álvaro Pereira, Argentina’s Javier Mascherano, and Germany’s Christoph Kramer had high-profile, on-field concussion incidents, and while we’ve gotten bit reactionary about assuming every clash of heads produces a concussion, there’s a reason why people err on that side of the equation. Teams have proven unable to manage the conflict of assessing their own players, and until FIFA recognizes some objective assessment is needed, players will continue to assume too much risk in the face of potential concussions.

Yuichi Nishimura, Carlos Carballo – While the tournament’s officiating got off to a terrible start, the quality of refereeing was mostly fine (particularly considering the role Howard Webb’s leniency had in the final four years ago). There were, however, two noticeable exceptions. If Nishimura doesn’t reward Fred’s dive with a penalty kick in game one, perhaps Brazil gets found out in group stage? And if Carballo doesn’t allow such  a rough game in the quarterfinals, maybe James Rodríguez is able to pick apart the Selecao? In the spotlight of the host nation’s games, both poor performances stood out.

World Cup alarmists – The lead up to the last two World Cups has featured a slew of English-language media moaning and hyper-ventilating about the  tournaments’ impending failures, yet just as South Africa 2010 was fine, Brazil 2014 came off with only minor hitches. The weather was managed, the stadiums stayed up, and the matches were played as planned. While there were social and logistical issues, too, this year’s World Cup betrayed the alarmists.

Remember this in the lead up to Russia 2018. With the tournament going to a first-time host, there’ll be stories about whether the nation can pull off the event. There’ll be concern about infrastructure. Maybe Vladimir Putin’s politics will come into play. Regardless, no opportunity to worry will elude those who’ve cultivated this beat.

As you’re clicking on those stories, just remember 2010. Remember 2014. Remember that there are always people worrying about whether a World Cup will come off.

Also remember: Brazil just gave us one of the best World Cups in history, and while there were plenty of social issues around the games to worry about, whether the games would actually happen was never a real concern.

  1. dkalev - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:05 AM

    Ronaldo: being born to Portugal
    Messi: not able to make a lasting impact against a legitimate team when it mattered most
    Diego Costa: bring vilified in both the nation of birth and nation of adoption
    Iker Casillas: for his acute decline
    David de gea: for being hurt and unable to prove his national team worth
    Radamel falcao: for missing out on his countries historic World Cup
    Ochoa sand Howard: stuck on sides in which they were their whole team (see above: Ronaldo)

    Juergen Klinsman + Miguel Herrera + Louis van gaal: deserved much more then they accomplished (limitations based on team coached)
    Paulo bento: who hired this guy?

    Israel national team: the only stiff group competitors in Russia and portugals World Cup qualifiers… Can’t help but wonder, given the disastrous outing those two teams had and the miraculous runs of Colombia and Costa Rica how this team would have fared…
    Uruguay: lost a major chance due in no small part to Suarez on the pitch cravings

  2. rmccleary97 - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:31 AM

    — CONCACAF’s confederation coefficient (barring a change in the formula). Yes, CONCACAF put up a better performance than 2010 – but CONMEBOL’s dominating show and UEFA’s typical play would set coefficients at 1.00 for CONMEBOL and UEFA, and 0.85 (the minimum allowed) for the rest of the world, meaning CONCACAF drops from the current 0.88. A shame, too – because CONCACAF demonstrated it’s probably the 3rd best confederation (though that strength may only run 3 teams deep).

    — Fred, Hulk, David Luis, … one has quit the international team, the 2nd would be voted off by the people of Brazil if put to a vote, and the latter had one of the more horrific 2-game stretches in recent World Cup memory – possibly enough to damage whatever goodwill he had earned to that point. Throw in the criticism of the players on the Brazil squad from past Brazilian players, and you could arguably put most (all?) of the 23-man team here.

    — England. One point, in a game that Costa Rica happily took a draw in to win the group. Uninspiring vs. Uruguay, uninspiring vs. Italy – even if expectations were low coming in, Three Lions managed to underachieve. On the bright side, Rooney did score in a major international competition for the home country!

    — Italy. At least England at least had no expectation of getting out of group play; Italy was expected to be top-2 in the group at the start of the tournament, and looked poor in the loss to Costa Rica.

  3. Skulb - Jul 15, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    When it comes to allocations people need to remember to look at the amount of nations in each con.

    South America – 12
    CONCACAF – 21
    Asia – 43 + Australia
    Africa – 50
    Europe – 50

    Already, half of the South American teams always qualify. This would be equivalent to 25 nations from Europe going through, and considering that Europe is now ahead of SA is a huge over representation. I base this on the fact that the last three World Cups have been won by European nations. By far the hardest place to qualify from is Europe. Teams like Sweden, Poland, Ukraine, Denmark, Romania, Turkey and Norway are more or less comparable to teams like Mexico and USA which qualify almost by default from CONCACAF every four years. If anyone needs more spots it`s Europe, not Asia.
    We could have had and should have had Zlatan at this World Cup, but it`s so tight it got down to either him or CR7 in a qualifier. Portugal might have failed in the CONCACAF qualifier but Sweden would have smashed that, sorry to say.

    • jxen - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      I’m not sure where you got your numbers but the real teams are more like this.

      CONMEBOL – 10
      CONCACAF – 41
      AFC – 47
      CAF – 56
      UEFA – 54

      Sadly for Sweden they are not Team Ibra. Team Ibra lost to Portugal, who had a horrendous showing at this WC. Team Ibra lost to Turkey 2-1 in a friendly(not that it means much) while the US team beat them 2-1. I believe you are overestimating the quality of lower ranked UEFA teams but I would agree that UEFA qualifying is a tougher challenge than CONCACAF. I disagree that UEFA has the toughest qualifying, that clearly goes to CAF, in which you can be knocked out in the span of 2 games which determine the 5 teams who advance to the WC. As we’ve seen though, the African teams consistently under perform and certainly don’t deserve any more slots and possibly deserve to lose 1 or 2. As to your statement of UEFA qualifying being tougher then CONMEBOL, I would also raise contention with that. In CONMEBOL, the worst teams you play are ranked 40, 45, 50, 67. In UEFA you have a group with teams ranked Montenegro(51), Poland(69), Moldova(101), San Marino(207) or a “tough” group that Turkey failed to qualify out of with Netherlands(15), Romania(29), Hungary(44), Turkey(35), Estonia(98), Andorra(200). Even CONCACAF has a tougher group than them with the worst teams being Jamaica(81), Panama(31), Mexico(20), Honduras(33). In the end my point is that you have to realize(with this WC as the wake up call) that International Football is changing and your presumptions are no longer the norm.

  4. dkalev - Jul 15, 2014 at 8:15 AM

    I remember a time when Israel was in the Asia qualifiers, they’d qualify every year, but since teams like Iran and turkey refuse to play them, they were moved to Europe and always come in third in the group qualifiers lol

    • mazblast - Jul 15, 2014 at 11:13 PM

      I dream of Israel qualifying and winding up in a group with Iran, Algeria, or some other Muslim nation, just to see if those countries would have the stones to forfeit a match. Ooohh, just the thought of Iran facing a team in white with a blue Star of David on the front…

      It won’t happen, of course. FIFA would stack the qualifying against Israel (some say they already do), others say FIFA would go the David-Stern-fixing-the-lottery route and making sure they don’t play in a group with any Muslim nations.

  5. granadafan - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    Surely FIFA could turn to the NFL (if they would condescend to seek help from Americans) regarding the concussions on field. There are independent doctors on the sidelines not hired by either team who makes the decision on whether a player can return. Unfortunately, like the NFL, no action will be taken until FIFA gets hit where it hurts the most… money from a lawsuit.

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