World Cup A to Z

A is for Asian angst

Not a win between the four AFC reps, the worst effort since 1990. Particular woe in South Korea and Japan, who made the knockouts in South Africa. The South Koreans were pelted with toffees on arrival home, while Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni got out of a sticky situation by falling on his sword.

B is for Byrne, Gay

Risteárd Cooper’s impeccable Gaybo, with an exquisite range of facial puckers and patronising probings, was the highlight of another excellent Après Match innings. Cooper’s Kenny Cunningham and Gary Cooke’s Richie “I can see things” Sadlier were also fine additions to the stable.

C is for cash

Jetted in by the planeload to placate the Ghanaians and Nigerians as the African challenge threatened to unravel into a cliché-ticking exercise. Disorganisation, disputes, indiscipline and the compulsory naive defending that cost Ivory Coast dear against Greece. Only the unlucky Algerians went home to a heroes’ welcome.

D is for Dilma

Just as bogeyman Blatter lurked in the shadows, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was happy to keep a low profile as the tournament ran reasonably smoothly and expected protests were quashed. Then Germany battered down the floodgates on a torrent of jeers and insults and lavish spending on the event is likely to stay on the political agenda until October’s elections.

E is for end of an era

Madrid paper Marca probably summed it up adequately, whether you have the lingo or not. ‘Lamentable final de la época más gloriosa de La Roja’. The holders went home with many questions to ponder, among them whether the hasty graft of a rickety Brazilian extension to the front of their structure had undermined its foundations.

F is for flops

Prospects beyond rejection for Premier League failures. Ex-Fulham stroller Bryan Ruiz inspired Costa Rica. Carl Medjani — unwanted by Liverpool, cherished by Algeria. Gonzala Jara, rejected by WBA and Forest, brilliant, if unfortunate, for Chile. Cardiff’s Gary Medel unrecognisable in front of him. Arsenal misfit Johan Djourou solid, at least compared to Swiss colleague Phil Senderos.

G is for goalkeepers

Adidas won’t thank them — it was the World Cup when nobody mentioned the ball. Tim Howard broke the internet; Manuel Neuer played fly goalie; Keylor Navas put up the for-sale signs; Guillermo Ochoa pulled off a Banks; Vincent Enyeama laughed it up. Though none of it was much consolation to Akinfeev or Casillas.

H is for Herrera, Miguel

Reportedly the lowest-paid manager at the tournament, the touchline titan certainly provided the best value. Visually a mix of Jocky Wilson and Meat Loaf, he had the Mexicans on target and on-song and his impressive range of theatrical celebrations and protests ensured that when the end came Robben’s crafty tumble broke all our hearts.

I is for inner chimps

‘Mind mechanic’ Dr Steve Peters thought he had Luis Suarez’s in captivity, but may have bitten off more than he could chew. Overall, it wasn’t a great tournament for head games. Peters’ England didn’t make it as far as a shootout to test his methods, while Brazil’s regular psychology sessions couldn’t head off what looked a collective nervous breakdown.

J is for James Rodriguez

‘When the world knows your name, but can’t decide how to pronounce it’ was nearly the title of an early Deacon Blue album. Already in the €45m bracket, James’ next wages day should be even more lucrative. May soon be a Real gone kid.

K is for Kerr, Brian

Even confined to barracks in Montrose, the media star of the tournament. Knowledge to embarrass any of his commentary rivals and also the best man to spot a ‘birrof a hoosh’ in the box. Strode down Abbey Road during the third-place play-off: “He got a bang of Maxwell’s elbow, not Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”

L is for leniency

Fifa denies any policy decision but it was a tournament reffed in 1990 mode and sometimes played in 1982. Few red cards, bookings way down, it was sure to end in tears and did with Neymar’s broken back.

M is for moral victories

Underdogs were gallant, in the main, including AFC pair Iran and Australia early on. And even though the knockouts went to plan, American resilience stole hearts, while Switzerland, Algeria, Mexico and Nigeria all took it to the wire.

N is for new world

Not exactly a new world order, but the Americas enjoyed a fine tournament, the hosts’ calamity, Uruguayan paranoia and Honduran hatchetry notwithstanding. Both Chile and Colombia can regret crossing their neighbouring giant’s path. USA won a few million more sawker converts. While Mexico, and particularly Costa Rica, did Concacaf proud.

O is for O’Herlihy, Bill

“We know Honduras for drugs and for crime and the highest murder rate in the world. What about their football?” Won’t, presumably, be adding many Central American clients to his PR roster, but was never more relaxed than in his final hours at the helm of RTÉ’s panel. Will be missed.

P is for particular moment in time, this

Nobody brought more intensity to Brazil than Kenny “I’d counter that” Cunningham. His face an open book of quizzical eyebrows and dismissive sniffs; he took on Dunphy compulsively, but also squared up to Sadlier, Friedel and whoever dared bring it on. An overwhelming favourite if cage punditry ever gets the go-ahead.

Q is for Queen

Mario Balotelli wanted a kiss from Elizabeth II if he bailed out England against Costa Rica, but fluffed a sitter to botch his side of the bargain. The big prize off the table, Mario couldn’t lift himself for Uruguay and another former champion went home ignominiously early.

R is for records

Colombia wheeled on 43-year-old goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon in Japanese junk time to make him the oldest player to play in a World Cup, and provoke another Kenny Cunningham tirade about disrespect. While Miroslav ‘Klose-range’ Klose finally overtook Ronaldo’s World Cup scoring tally.

S is for seven-one

The scoreline pronounced — when sliced and diced through Nate Silver’s probability indices and poisson distributions — the most shocking in World Cup history. When the tournament is just an entry in the winners’ roll of honour, this is the one we will remember. Certainly one the host nation will never forget.

T is for technology, goal-line

A confused Jonathan Pearcewas still at war with the robots, but it was an unblemished debut for GoalControl, the German firm who pointed seven cameras at every goalmouth to keep things honest. Just a pity Ron Vlaar’s penalty didn’t roll back a shade more, to see if we could catch it off guard.

U is for unbelievable, Jeff

Van Persie’s flightpath, Cahill’s belter, the Suarez savagery, James’s swivel, Messi’s magical cameos, Luiz’s monumental sidefoot, Germany’s six-minute siege. The moments when the globe gasped in unison.

V is for vanishing spray

Better news for adidas and co, with all the boot close-ups. Deemed a successful deterrent to encroachment, even if Carlos Velasco Carballo allowed Brazil step over the line during the quarter-final with Colombia, just as they did with most of the other laws.

W is for water breaks

Allowed the TV networks squeeze in a few more ads and provided a vital timeout for the Dutch against Mexico, affording Louis van Gaal the first platform to shout from the rooftops about his genius. He had to organise 120 goalless minutes against Costa Rica for the next one.

X is for Xherdan Shaqiri

Just two World Cup hat-tricks. Thomas Muller embarrassed Portugal and the Alpine Messi bagged the 50th treble in a finals when he slalomed the Honduran hardmen.

Y is for Yuichi Nishimura

Set the tone for some peculiar refereeing by gift-wrapping a penalty for the hosts in the opener with Croatia. Wasn’t seen thereafter.

Z is for Zuniga, Juan

Even after all the prayers, it was a bended knee that buckled Brazil. The Napoli defender was branded a coward after cracking Neymar’s vertebrae, even if it was the hosts who set the terms of engagement.


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