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Soccer on the side - It's all over
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 15 - 07 - 2014

Controversial, electric, unpredictable, scary on the ball and unstoppable on his day are just some of the words that describe Arjen Robben's performances at the World Cup.
Robben has proven to be an exceptionally talented player at every single club he played for throughout his career, starting with PSV and passing through the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid and up until this day with Bayern Munich.
In Brazil 2014, Robben showed the world that he is one of a kind and that sometimes you probably need two teams to stop such a player on his day. His first game of the World Cup came against holders and one of the favourites to lift the title, Spain. The flying Dutch winger showed his intentions in a the game that saw him score two world-class goals, in addition to tormenting the Spanish defenders every time he got the ball at his feet. His two strikes say all about how the Spanish defenders failed to deal with such an amazing player.
There was no stopping for Robben in the second game as Holland faced Australia where Robben once again scored a brilliant individual game and capped off a very impressive performance with a man-of-the-match award.
The third game against Chile saw Robben named man-of-the-match again, setting up both goals as Holland defeated the extremely talented and brave Chilean side 2-0. Three goals and two assists from Robben helped Holland win all three games and qualify to round 16 where they faced Mexico. Holland was just about to bow out before they scored an equaliser in the 89th minute through Sneijder to make it 1-1.
As the game headed to extra time, Robben dazzled inside the box only to see Rafael Marquez foul him and the referee pointing to the spot, giving Holland the chance to win the game in the 94th minute. A very generous Arjen Robben gave the ball to Huntelaar, who made no mistake to take the Dutch side to the quarter-finals, where they defeated Costa Rica 4-3 in penalties after a 0-0 draw. Robben was yet again man-of-the-match by some distance as Costa Rica defenders treated him toughly in a game that saw him fouled 18 times alone. It was probably the only way to stop him.
The semi-final against Argentina was not the game we expected to see as both teams created very few chances and it was Lionel Messi's side that triumphed through penalties this time. Robben was back to his best against Brazil in the third and fourth place game, where he won a penalty in the third minute and had a hand in the other two goals as Holland defeated sorry Brazil 3-0.
The Brazilian nation knew before the World Cup that if they are to be the World Champions on their home soil come the 13th of July, they needed Neymar at his very best throughout the competition. Neymar started with a bang as he scored two goals in the first game for Brazil as they defeated Croatia 3-1. The second game saw them draw 0-0 against Mexico before Neymar once again scored a brace and assisted another as Brazil defeated Cameroon 4-1. Four goals and one assist meant Neymar was the sole hope for Brazil to have any chance of lifting the trophy. A 1-1 draw against Chile saw Neymar score the decisive penalty kick as Brazil triumphed in the penalties shootout.
In the quarter-finals, Neymar set up Thiago Silva to score the first goal before he suffered a horrific back injury late in the game that ended in a 2-1 for Brazil. Neymar was ruled out for the rest of the World Cup and so were the Brazilian dreams. A shocking 7-1 defeat at the hands of Germany in the semis and a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Holland saw Brazil end the World Cup in the worst way possible. Neymar's tears in the stands against Germany said all about the disastrous outcome.
Now moving to the brightest prospect at the World Cup, it has got to be Colombia's golden boy James Rodriguez. No words can describe what this young lad did on the biggest football stage on the planet. Colombia bowed out of the Word Cup in the quarter finals, but not before gaining the respect of the world. Rodriquez in particular was the most impressive and likeable player in the World Cup, thanks to his six strikes and four assists in just five games. Out of these six strikes, there were at least three that were out of this world, with the first against Uruguay chosen as goal of the tournament. Three man-of-the-match awards from his five games say all about that boy and his performances in Brazil.
The last group stages game for Colombia came against Japan and the scores were level at half time when the rested James Rodriguez came on. The following 45 minutes saw Rodriguez hailed as the best player in the World Cup as he assisted two goals and scored one of the best goals in Brazil. World Cup fans were sure no one would be able to top that performance for the rest of the competition, but it was Rodriguez himself who topped it with an outstanding and astonishing performance against Uruguay where he scored both goals, with the first chosen as goal of the tournament as mentioned before. The game ended 2-0 to Colombia. Another goal in the 2-1 defeat against Brazil in the quarters made sure the super talented playmaker bowed out on a high as he scored in every single game he played in the competition.
Thomas Muller's playing style might not really give an impression about what he can really do on a football pitch, yet his stats more than speak for the player. Muller scored five World Cup goals for the second time in a row to write his name in the history of the competition as he played a major role in helping Germany win the World Cup in Brazil 2014. If some people doubted that young boy four years ago and said he would not ever repeat his heroics again, those same people are eating their words now after seeing the prolific attacker score five impressive strikes that included a hattrick against Portugal and magnificent strikes against both the USA and Brazil. He needed just one goal to equal Rodriguez's six goals and finish as top scorer for the second time in a row.
The winner of Adidas Golden Ball in Brazil 2014 is that little kid from Argentina who was just one step away from staking his claim as the best player in history, Lionel Messi. Messi may have lost the final to Germany, but at least being named the best player in the World Cup will partially make up for the huge disappointment he suffered. Many people will argue that Messi did not deserve the personal accolade, as players like Robben and Rodriguez were better than him throughout the completion. Yet, very few people will debate whether Messi had a great tournament. He found the back of the net four times with all of them coming in the group stages, in addition to setting up Di Maria for the only goal of the game against Switzerland in Round 16. Four man-of-the-match awards in seven games say much about the little Argentinian who saw his dream wrecked in the 110th minute when Mario Gotze scored the only goal of the game in the Marracana Stadium that hosted the final.
Whether Messi deserved to win the best player in the World Cup over the likes of Robben, Rodriguez, Kroos and Muller is a debate that will surely arise in coming days. However, no one will doubt that all the previous names had a great World Cup and certainly few of them will feel disappointed not to win the personal accolade.
The writer is a freelance journalist.

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