Group Stage RecapBy: Juan Mesa
SHOW STEALERS: Coaches Jorge Luis Pinto (Costa Rica) and Miguel Herrera (México) stole the limelight in the group stage with their histrionics in goal celebrations and claims to referees. Herrera became a GIF sensation on the Web, while Pinto made sure to tell everybody he had studied Italy, England and Uruguay for what seemed to be most of his life whenever a microphone was put in front of him. By making their teams succeed against all odds, both coaches also became CONCACAF’s pride.
THE BUMMER: It happened in the 91st minute of the Argentina vs. Iran match. With the score 0-0, Lio Messi found some space and fired a rocket from outside the box that sealed Argentina’s qualification to the Round of 16. The amazing effort the Middle Easterners put during the first 90 minutes went away in a few seconds. Some Iranians collapsed in the field like soldiers in crossfire when the ball hit the net. The scoreless tie was sweet chocolate for underdog supporters.
THE SCANDALS: During the first few days of the Cup, the man on everyone’s lips was Japanese ref Yuichi Nishimura, who bought Fred’s dive in the box when Croatia was beating Brazil 1-0 in the opening match. His judgment made many fans (predictably) accuse FIFA of fixing the Cup in favor of the home team. The incident was only forgotten when Mexico and Brazil played a scoreless draw in Fortaleza, something that coincided with demands to punish Mexican fans for chanting the homophobic slur “puto,” which FIFA did not concede. Finally, Luis Suárez threw a full season of good conduct at the Premier League when he bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. All the memes and puns the incident generated were quickly forgotten by the real-life consequences of his unjustifiable behavior.
THE NEXT MILLIONAIRES: Brazil 2014 has been a grand stage for new stars. Stock futures are up for Colombian James Rodríguez, Chilean Charles Aránguiz, Dutchman Memphis Depay, Ecuadorian Enner Valencia, Nigerian Ahmed Musa and American Fabian Johnson. All these players look ready for the next step: joining a European powerhouse, and their agents are probably getting more calls than they can handle.
CLASS (FINAL) ACTS: Some veterans are firing their last ammunitions in style. Rafa Márquez is coaching México on the field, and against Croatia scored and gave one assist. Although Australia didn’t earn a point in Brazil, Tim Cahill left everybody wondering what he was doing in the MLS after scoring two goals and being a constant menace. And Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón, at 43, became the oldest to ever play in a World Cup match.
THE ACHIEVER: Dutch master Anjen Robben has been the most consistent player from the world’s Top 10 during the tournament. By showing his genius for 90 minutes instead of one or two, his consistency has made him better than Messi, CR7 and Neymar so far.