Thursday, 19 June 2014

A Day Of Contrasts: Bowing Out In Style And Shame

Day seven of the 2014 saw the first three teams eliminated from the competition. The contrast in the three different ways each of them exited the tournament could not have been greater. While one team enhanced its reputation, another marked the passing of an era of dominance. Sadly, the third team did neither.

The expectations on Australia could not have been smaller. They were the rank outsiders coming into the competition and they were facing the Dutch team who destroyed reigning champions Spain. They were expected to be blown away. Despite an admirable start, once the Netherlands took the lead those predictions looked even more likely. Instead, 13 seconds of playing time later, this happened...

That is how you respond to adversity! Despite going on to take the lead, Australia eventually lost out to the class of the Dutch, and in particular Robin Van Persie. They kept fighting for a result right up until the final whistle, doing themselves and their nation proud.

 In contrast to the Australians, the weight of expectation on the shoulders of the Spanish team was immense. These were the superstars who had dominated World and European football for the past six years. The thought of Spain becoming the first holders to go out after only playing two games would have been inconceivable a week ago. Last night it happened. In truth they never looked like overcoming Chile, who were quicker, more energetic, and more creative. The Spanish looked tired and short of inspiration. We were watching the sad sight of a once powerful, but now wounded, animal trying to cling onto its former glory and dignity, but instead succumbing to the inevitable throes of death. This team has much to be proud of though. All good things come to an end, but we should not forget how good this Spanish team were for three consecutive tournaments. This group of players have more than earned the right to be forgiven for 2014's failures.

And then came Cameroon. Cameroon were the African nation who first showed the world how good African football could be. It was Cameroon in 1990 who battled past the reigning champions Argentina in the opening game. It was that 1990 team that made it all the way to the quarter finals, where they were very unlucky to be beaten by England. The team of Roger Miller and co showed passion, creativity and flair, and in the process won the hearts of the footballing world.