By Dan O’Rourke
For the past two-plus weeks, we have brought you news about watch brands involved in international soccer. Now, we review the exhilaration, exhaustion, heart and soul that goes into one of the world’s most unifying sports competitions.
What makes the World Cup so exciting? Even a casual soccer fan inherently knows the air of exhilaration when this event takes place every four years. Aptly named, the World Cup truly is the biggest stage for the most viewed and played sport on Earth. Drama and thrill are what make this beautiful game so enticing to viewers and this year’s event hasn’t disappointed its audience.
As the headliners are honored to play for the country they most affiliate themselves with, they compete not for a paycheck but for national pride. The tournament has an entirely different feel than league football. There are certainly teams who are favored to win it all. Yet as the all-stars, veterans and rising talent all unite under their own respective flags, the playing field levels out significantly. A purer game evolves based not on monetary funding but each country’s gene pool.
Language barriers are bridged and cultural game tactics that are instilled from childhood become more apparent. And while individual achievements can make for spectacular moments, it is ingenious coaching and fluid team chemistry that makes for a successful team. Since it comes down to quality team play, as well as individual efforts, anything can and usually does happen.
Surprises of the highest degree are often exhilarating for the neutral fan, and can be truly heartbreaking for the supporter. In the case of Spain, the World Cup saw its reigning Champions of 2010 be dismissed shockingly early in this year’s tournament. Ranked #1 in the world, Spain was outplayed by its Dutch counterparts who ranked at a still respectable fifteenth in the world. Stacked with some of the most creative players in the game and known for its dominating football, based around possession and patience, the conquistadors of yesterday were no match for the attacking force of the Netherlands. The Spanish Armada was blown away in a 5-1 defeat.
With hopes that their first game was a fluke, the world, both neutrals and supporters, assumed a bounce-back game was warranted. However, after a 2-0 defeat against a voracious Chile side, España was already eliminated. Perhaps its players are past their prime and its tactics outdated, but this Spanish team is just a shadow of its former self. The spark is gone.
As exciting as it was to watch the downfall of a once dominant force, it was just as thrilling to watch the awakening of a recently dormant team. Mexico was a country looking down and out after having appointed its fourth coach in just a months time. Miguel Herrera needed to rally El Tri in a two match play-off with New Zealand in order to even qualify for the trip to Rio de Janeiro. With a 1-0 win against Camaroon in its first World Cup match, Mexico still had a long way to go prove itself worthy of advancement.
Mexico’s match against the World-Cup favorites and host nation was proof that a 0-0 game can truly be exciting. Against a team flooded with all-stars and glowing with confidence the FIFA ranked #20 was not favored against the #3 team of Brazil. However, to the world’s disbelief, Mexico collectively frustrated some of the biggest and brightest stars of the game. Yet the true excitement was in the individual performance of Mexican goal keeper Guillermo Memo Ochoa. El Tri played well as a team, yet sometimes moments of individual brilliance are needed when team communication breaks down.
A third test was needed to prove whether or not Mexico truly deserved to move on to the round of sixteen. The Croatian team coach boasted his confidence when he said, “If anyone have their knees shaking, it’s Mexico.” And though Mexico were still favored to win the match, Croatia played with a vengeance . The excitement grew in the second half as four balls found the back of the net, only one of which was for Croatia. Mexico’s collective team win saw them through to the knockout stages. Quite an impressive result considering their struggles with qualification.
Excitement and drama have been a common occurance in the 2014 World Cup. Highly ranked teams like Italy, England and the former champions Spain were all eliminated early on. Other nations like Costa Rica, USA, and Mexico rose to the occasion to show the world was wrong for counting them out so soon. The knockout round of sixteen will most certainly bring even more exhilaration and emotional heartache. Yet, as we have learned, a match is not played on paper with calculated numbers and statistics. It is played on the pitch with poise and pride.