The first round of the FIFA World Football Cup 2014 is now completed and already some of the usually respected major teams have gone home and justly so.
To many football aficionados the early exit of defending champions, Spain, was not much of a surprise. They were making some adverse comments since the team was named. The early exit of the Spaniards is historic. No previous world champion has ever exited the World Cup Finals at a faster pace. Spain received a 5 – 1 licking from a strong Netherlands team seemingly eager to showcase their preparations and awesome presence imbued with immense skill and determination. Shortly thereafter Spain received a surprising and most debilitating defeat at the hands of Chile, an upset worthy of note and good enough reason for the team to be sent home.
Football analysts have not been impressed with England at the World Cup for some time. The country has been hard pressed to put a sound football team together for several years and this year is no exception.
In the previous World Cup in South Africa four years ago critics were declaring that Steven Gerrard and Andy Rooney were already disappointing oldsters who lacked what was required to lead England to football glory at this level yet there they were again four years later, still finding it extremely difficult to get the team together enough to pose a major threat to their opponents.
England, in Group D, has now been forced to make their earliest exit in a World Cup competition for the first time since 1958.
In the same Group D, Italy also made an early exit having been humbled along the way.
Germany has organised itself very well in terms of its focus for the World Cup. Reports indicate that the German team. They were housed away from everything in a sprawling spread where no one could bother them in their preparation.
Portugal with its Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, have also exited the World Cup in the very first round of competition.
For many football enthusiasts the big question is whether or not the surprise performances of some teams thus far in this year’s World Cup Finals is directly related to some critical issues that the world governing body for the sport, FIFA, should feel compelled to address in the shortest possible time.
The performance of Costa Rica did however surprise many if only because the CONCACAF teams are not usually expected to be so outstanding at the World Cup level. The Central American team started with a come from behind win over Uruguay that revealed their sheer commitment to the game and an overwhelming desire to win. A few days later they showed four-time World Cup titleholders, Italy, just why they should be feared. They handed the Italians a 1 – 0 shocker that reverberated around the entire global football fraternity.
Costa Rica, in topping their group, made it to the quarterfinals of this year’s World Cup for the first time in 24 years, the surprise of the entire tournament thus far.
In the past only Mexico was considered a worthy representative of the CONCACAF region. This time around, in the preliminaries, Mexico had to struggle and ended up like Trinidad and Tobago some years ago, having to engage in a run-off to get to the World Cup Finals.
Mexico, however, showed that they deserved to be in the Finals this year if only because of the show-stopping skills of its amazing goalkeeper, Guillermo Ochoa, who frustrated the Brazilian team in their encounter before a packed house.
The USA won a hard-fought encounter against Ghana eventually winning 2 – 1. The team made it through to the second round.
Only Honduras from CONCACAF failed to impress at this year’s World Cup Finals. They were defeated 3 – 0 by France and went under to Ecuador 0 – 2, ahead of their final first round encounter.
FIFA’s President, Sepp Blatter, continues to fight one crisis after another. Even as he has to deal with the daily protestations in Brazil, he is mired in controversy over the award of the World Cup to Russia and Qatar, but more particularly to the latter.
It remains a difficult proposition to accept the decision in respect of the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
Not long after the award of the Cup to Qatar international concern centered around the sweltering heat of the country in the summer months usually reserved for the grand sporting spectacle. It is inconceivable that the voting members of the FIFA family could have missed this all-important feature of the potential host nation.
Currently FIFA has had to agree the introduction of water breaks in Brazil, which is not nearly as hot s Qatar around the proposed time of the World Cup.
It is amazing that we could have had the ludicrous suggestions that Qatar has so much money that it is possible for them to create fully air-conditioned football venues for the 2022 World Cup.
That many began discussions of a possible shift of the World Cup 2022 to the early part of the year 2022 reveals much of the confusion that the decision to allocate the event to Qatar has engendered.
FIFA has recently been challenged in respect of whether or not their top brass would receive $200,000.00 USD annually following the cessation of bonuses.
Perhaps it is just FIFA’s seemingly overt concern with money that churns up these multitudinous issues.
The problems with Bin Hamman, Warner, Havelange and others continue to leave many bothered by the organisation’s mode of operations. The bothersome issues have finally piqued some major sponsors of football to re-examine their involvement with the sport. Sony has already taken the lead raising its concerns publicly. Other sponsors may follow soon.
As mentioned in a previous article, organisers of major sporting events may well find that local populations are now willing to stand up in defiance of what they perceive as excessive expenditures on sport while they stand on the brink of poverty, experiencing chronic unemployment and underemployment as well as poor housing and debilitating diseases.
Blatter has been able to operate almost as though the thorny issues negatively impacting the sport he leads does not in any way phase him. He has offered himself up for another term, flying in the face of all the controversy.
There does not seem to be any end in sight for the accusations levelled at FIFA. In different countries around the world the increased available funding has not always translated into significant improvements in the sport at the local level.
Football politics is among the most frightening in the world and seems destined to grow worse in the years ahead.
FIFA seems to have gotten itself lost in the world of making money to such an extent that it may well have forgotten that footballers are human beings and not machines.
The previous two World Cups have delivered much weaker play than we had grown accustomed to in the past. Many of the best players seem jaded, to say the least.
Pele, the world’s greatest footballer never played for a club outside of Brazil until after he had retired from international football following the conclusion of the historic victory in Mexico in 1970. He played fewer games a year and had numerous opportunities to represent his country and be integral to their preparations than is possible today for the vast majority of players involved in the current World Cup.
Today it appears that players, anxious to earn megabucks are more committed to their big paying clubs than allegiant to their respective countries.
FIFA has not helped to redress this otherwise untenable situation.
Worse still is the fact that the major international football leagues are making greater demands on the players in the respective clubs.
The European Champions League Finals ended on 24 May 2014, less that one month prior to commencement of the World Cup Finals. The semis were played on 29 and 30 April.
The English Premier League ended on 11 May while Italy’s Seria A, Spain’s La Liga and Germany’s Bundesliga all concluded on 18 May, less than a month before the start of the World Cup Finals in Brazil.
All of the foregoing Leagues are extremely demanding on the players. To think of the number of local League matches they play each year before we add the European League. Add the fact that during the past football season in the different parts of the world national teams that qualified for the World Cup were trying to field teams in friendlies to determine just how well their players would mesh to facilitate bringing together the best team possible to give good representation.
However much we may appreciate the talent on show in Brazil for the World Cup 2014 it is clear that the vast majority of the players are well below their best.
They are tired and should really be in recovery mode. This is something of a travesty for the millions across the world for whom the sport is of major interest. It is a deluding of the public, in a sense, who wish to pay to see the best in the world deliver their best. Instead they get a seemingly messy Messi, a partially injured and extremely tired Ronaldo, to name just two.
While FIFA continues to cash in on the World Cup through sale of TV rights the World Cup Finals under its control continue to be less than it should be in terms of the quality of play displayed and the level of excitement generated.
Whatever happens in this World Cup, the event would most likely become all the more controversial in the future.
Many await the outcome of the FIFA inquiry into the decision relative to the award of the World Cup to Qatar.
The Qatari may feel justified in claiming that the accusations are racist but there is indeed reason enough for the sporting fraternity to be concerned.
Money may not just make the world go round. It may indeed make the world go wrong.