Some believe that Saturday’s third place match at the World Cup was a completely pointless exercise. I tend to agree.
It was a nice try by the Netherlands and Brazil to put on a show, but if you could have asked the 22 players on the pitch what they’d rather be doing today, I bet they’d admit it wouldn’t have included playing a football match.
Enough words on this match. Some thoughts and memories on Brazil 2014 ahead of Sunday’s final…
2014 FIFA World Cup: Sportsnet.ca is your home for in-depth coverage of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. TV viewers can watch all 64 games on CBC and Sportsnet from June 12 to July 13. Be sure to watch Connected every night on Sportsnet for all of the latest news and analysis. And check out Sportsnet magazine’s team profiles of all 32 nations.
• Guillermo Ochoa's Banks-like save on Neymar in the group stage. Of all the superb goalkeeping moments in this tournament, that was the best.
• Robin van Persie’s header against Spain. Not only as good of a header as you'll ever likely see, but the moment that Spain's reign ended. It was this goal that turned the tide in the match, the World Cup, and ended an era of Spanish domination.
• The thought of Spain versus Chile had most of us salivating since the draw. The thought of Xavi not in the starting 11 was unthinkable. The unthinkable happened, thus ending a truly wonderful international career. The frequent camera shots of Xavi on the bench were hard to take—such a magnificent player but now a symbol of a team kept together one tournament too many.
• Daniel Sturridge scored for England off a brilliant Wayne Rooney cross. Even the eventual loss to Italy was greeted by celebration. Perhaps tellingly Roy Hodgson called it the best performance he'd had under his reign, and Gary Neville suggested it was as good as he'd seen in 15 years. How to build on that? Mess with the shape of the team and put in a clunker against Uruguay. England everybody, England!
• Miguel Herrera made believers of Mexico. Forget the fact that his team was minutes away from a quarterfinal berth; it was Herrera’s antics on the sidelines that had me in hysterics. Pure raw emotion; nice to see.
• Ghana flies over three million dollars in cash to settle a players’ dispute. John Boye is pictured kissing his wad of money. He goes on to score an own goal the same day.
• Alejandro Sabella almost falls over after his team miss another great chance against Belgium. It was one of those trust exercises, right? Where your team catch you?
• James Rodriguez. Thank you son, player of the tournament for me for the non-German contingent.
• A goalkeeper being subbed out when healthy late in a match. No, not Japser Cillesen for Tim Krul but David Ospina for Faryd Mondragon with Colombia up 3-1 against Japan. With it he became the oldest every player at a World Cup at 43, and was rewarded for being such an incredible servant for Colombian football through the dreadful times and now the happier times.
• Tim Krul in for Cillessen. Face it, it was just damn cool!
• Michel Vorm on for Cillessen? Just a hug it out moment and an example of why Luis van Gaal's players love him.
• 7-1. Obvious, sure, but I'll never ever forget it.
• Bryan Ruiz beats Italy as Costa Rica become the surprise package of Brazil 2014. At the same time Italy probably disappointed me than any other team.
• After a halftime remake, Argentina finds a way to best Bosnia through Leo Messi's vintage goal. His celebration told the story—the boy needed that goal!
• Against Algeria, Germany lost right back Shkodran Mustafi to injury. Cue a return to basics with Philipp Lahm at right back and Sami Khedira-Bastian Schweinsteiger in the midfield. The team began to click, purr, and look like a World Cup champion in the making.
• The realization that Marco Reus, Illkay Gundogan and Lars Bender aren't even in Brazil with Germany. Gulp. #Euro2016.
• The excitement ahead of each match day. This was a World Cup to remember, a joy to be involved in, and a major pain in the backside to the next major championship that has some massive shoes to fill.