Brilliance in Brazil hasn’t left us feeling hungry for greatness

Lionel Messi has finally delivered at a World Cup. Picture: JON SUPER/PA Lionel Messi has finally delivered at a World Cup. Picture: JON SUPER/PA

Monday, June 30, 2014
11:30 AM

Football fans born in the late 1980s or 90s are regularly fed stories that they haven’t witnessed a great World Cup.

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While people like myself, born in 1987, hadn’t even been thought about, members of our families have gorged on some of the most memorable tournaments that the global showcase has had to offer. We’ve been fed snippets – thanks to blurry imagery of that Carlos Alberto goal during Mexico 1970, and Diego Maradona’s wonder strike against England in the same country 16 years later. And no, I don’t mean the ‘Hand of God’ moment either.

I guess it’s part of our psyche to look back fondly and remember the ‘good old days’, as my grandad regularly did as we watched Holland roast Spain on his widescreen TV. Life has changed and so has football... or so we thought.

For while South Africa 2010 left us stuffed with enough negative play to fall out of love with football, this tournament has provided us with a fruitful serving of exciting action. It’s almost as if the party amosphere that’s sweeping Brazil has seeped into the players’ veins.

If matches packed full with defensive play left us nodding off four years ago, this time around we’re wide awake and desperate for more. Keep attacking. Keep scoring. And please, give us more helpings of this brilliance.

Just 145 goals were scored throughout the whole tournament in 2010. Yet prior to this weekend’s start of second round matches, 129 had already been slotted home in South America. And much of that is down to the lost art of defending.

While players like Rio Ferdinand and Fabio Cannavaro were lauded going into previous tournaments, what world-class centre-backs are actually on show in Brazil? David Luiz? Please. England fans growing up on a diet of Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, Tony Adams and John Terry, were also left trying to digest the performances of Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka. It was enough to make you feel sick.

Managers have realised that rearguard actions, unless you are Greece, often don’t pay off anymore. So they’ve let their men pour forward in the hope that their side’s defensive deficiencies are overpowered by their attacking abilities.

Even Germany – the most efficient of nations – have taken the shackles off and been involved in some rip-roaring games. Yes, poor defending has allowed frontmen to flourish so far, but we must reward the appetite from all to create excitement and score goals.

Teams are simply overflowing with attacking talent. Take Argentina. Carlos Tevez couldn’t even make a squad which contains perhaps the greatest player of all time in Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuaín and the now sadly injured Sergio Aguero. Thankfully, big players, like Messi, who flopped in Africa, are revelling in Brazil.

A World Cup is the platform for the finest to display their talents. The ‘new Maradona’ has, scoring four goals already. So has Neymar, his country’s modern-day Pele. Crikey, even Wayne Rooney managed to break his duck on the grand stage.

If that’s not enough, we’ve had great goals (Tim Cahill), free-flowing football (Colombia), high-scoring games (where do you start?), and lesser nations shining with their desire to join in on the feast of excitement (Costa Rica and Algeria).

And of course, every outstanding tournament has a moment that is never forgotten. That is forever talked about. Well we’ve already had at least two. Luis Suarez trying to do some eating of his own and Faryd Mondragón becoming the oldest player ever to appear at a World Cup.

Finally, at last, the modern era (for us 20 somethings) has given us a tournament that will not leave us feeling hungry for more when it finishes. But most pleasingly, it should stop us young-uns being forced to devour any more stories about how football isn’t as great as it used to be.

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