Painting the whole world with one brush, FIFA, has gripped everyone’s attention. Face-painted, jersey-ed, thrilled, nervous, passionate, sentimental, praying, betting- world cup brought out all shades of human enthusiasm and expression. What’s even more fascinating is how FIFA’14 capsized all the predictions made regarding the best playing teams this year.
The world saw some very surprising matches, unexpected performances and recognition of various unsung teams. While the 20th century world cups used to be a one-sided goal scoring fest – where top dogs like Brazil, Germany, France nullified the presence of other teams and where hardly anything like an underdog existed- this year has been a major breakthrough. Underdogs like Costa Rica, Chile, Columbia made the fate of every match undecided till the last second. We saw the game becoming much tighter with some of the great teams crashing out to an underdog. We saw Costa Rica – the team which was supposed to finish at the bottom of the group with no points – beat the star studded and four times champions Italy, topping the ‘group of death’, bringing death to the greats. Chile displayed a beautiful game beating Spain, and almost had the better of the host country, but lost out on penalties.
What we also saw was a game of fine margins, where the underdogs almost choked the big guns. The Netherlands trailed till the 88th minute against Mexico and would have headed home had it not been for Wesley’s rebound goal. Algeria’s goal-scoring frontline gave Germany’s slow defence line a tough time proving how fine margins has become the way of this world cup. Ironically, big margins came from where the teams with better squads met – Spain losing to Netherlands by 5-1 and Brazil to Germany by 7-1. What’s intriguing is how the gap between the top dogs and the underdogs is bridging like never before. Are the greats not great enough or have the unacknowledged ones become so much better? Are
fine margins an outcome of consistent concentration and increasing competency of the dark horses or are the underdogs being taken lightly by the champs?
What rings my ear is how well Ghana played against Germany leading to a draw and how well Iran defended. Display of such unanticipated cut-throat competitive match made these third world countries win respect throughout. More than being just about the game, it’s more about breaking the hegemony of European and South American countries over this sport. Clichéd views about the third world being any less, have been shunned down because football is not a game that will be determined by the topography of a team. It is a game, a game of relentless practice, tireless commitment, never-ending concentration and unbreakable concentration. A game that is entertainment for a few, sport for others and for some, just a way of life!