10 things we learnt from the World Cup


Goals. Shock defeats. Goals. Plucky underdogs. More goals. We're not quite sure what the official process is for naming a World Cup the "best ever", but Brazil 2014 will be up there with the best of them.

As the confetti is dusted off the riot shields and the Germans pause for a breath between trophy-lifting selfies, we've compiled a list of lessons learnt from this most excellent of competitions. Bring on Russia 2018.


The USA can enjoy Soccer

It was a record-breaking World Cup for team USA. Clint Dempsey recorded the fifth fastest goal in the tournament's history, while Tim Howard blocked his way to securing the most saves in a single match - notching up 15 saves in their quarter-final defeat to Belgium.

More significant than their exploits on the pitch was the nation's growing affection for the beautiful game: 24.7 million Americans tuned in for the match against Portugal, the most ever for a US soccer game; the USA bought more tickets for this World Cup than any nation bar Brazil; 56 percent of Americans even followed the tournament after they were dumped out. It remains to be seen as to whether this interest in an international competition will spill into to the ever-struggling domestic contest, but Brazil 2014 did at least prove that the USA can wave their flags in the direction of soccer when it counts.


The dead ball is dead

Only three goals were scored from direct free kicks at Brazil's tournament: Messi curled a beauty past Nigeria, David Luiz sunk Colombia with a screamer and Blerim Džemaili snuck one through a French wall. We'd be stretching the point to declare that the art of the dead ball is dead, but if this tournament was lacking in any one department it was in goalkeepers quaking in fear as free kick specialists strolled up to slap dippers over trembling walls.


Goal line technology works

Despite the blushes of Jonathan Pearce (no John, they didn't changed their minds), the goal line technology on display at Brazil proved what those fans following Premier League clubs for the past season already knew: goal line technology is a good thing. In fact, all the new technology on display in Brazil was all pretty excellent...


Magic spray is magic

...particularly the vanishing foam spray used by the tournament's referees. Eliminating the frustrating creep of a defensive wall and the cheek of a replaced free kick, the foam added a new moment of theatre to the spectacle of Brazil. First used in the Brazilian Championship of 2000, it looks like the magic spray could make an appearance in the English game within the near future.


The right ball makes a difference

No one liked the Jabulani. Adidas' "roundest ever" ball was heavily criticised - Gianluigi Buffon describing it as "inadequate", while Robinho mused that its designer had "never played football". Such was the erratic nature of the ball's flight that a pitiful 145 goals were scored at South Africa 2010 - the lowest of any 64-team tournament.

The Brazuca was a veritable goal magnet in comparison. The even flight and textured finish of the Pakistan-made ball helped teams notch up 171 goals, equalling the record set in France '98. It seems that perfection isn't everything.


Brazil is capable of putting on a show

Vast stadia (mostly) filled to capacity; a general public swept up in the euphoria of hosting one of the world's biggest sporting events; a contest that brought the best out of its competitors - Brazil's World Cup gave a clear indication that the nation is capable of putting on a grand carnival for 2016's Olympics. Despite fears that important preparations wouldn't be ready in time and a rioting minority, this World Cup will be remembered for all the right reasons. However...


Corners should never be cut

...the collapse of an unfinished flyover in Belo Horizonte, built as part of the city's infrastructure improvements for the World Cup, served as a tragic reminder of what can happen if preparations are rushed. Following a damning report into preparations for the 2016 Olympics issued earlier this year, including the revelation that Rio Bay wouldn't be fit to host water sports events, the pressure is now on for Rio to host an event on a part with this World Cup.


Tiki-taka is no more

At the World Cup of 2010 and Euro 2012, Spain passed teams to death. Their movement of ball and man, executed by some of the most creative players in the world, looked capable of unpicking the most disciplined of opponents. When the Netherlands put five past the Spanish with apparent ease, they weren't just nudging the champions toward an early exit - they had shown the rest of the world that tiki-taka wasn't the highest form of footballing philosophy. An indifferent loss to Chile seemed to clarify matters further - the new flavour of 'perfect' football was direct, attacking and measured, and built in Germany.


Brazil are no longer the proverbial team

The magnitude of Brazil's defeat to Germany was such that a proverbial staple of footballing vernacular was plucked out and discarded. The destruction of this supreme sporting icon was succinctly summed up by Alan Hansen, writing on his retirement from Match of The Day for The Telegraph: "For more than 40 years, Brazil have been my benchmark, but to see them humiliated against Germany in Belo Horizonte left me distraught... It was historic, but not the kind of history that you ever imagined witnessing."


It takes a team to win a World Cup

Much of the talk before the World Cup focused on which player was going to steal the show. Would Messi finally step up for Argentina and match the exploits of Maradona (for what it's worth, he did)? Might Ronaldo build on his Ballon D'Or and light up group G? Or was the world set to fall in love with the juvenile smile of Neymar? While Argentina and Brazil both performed admirably, all three sides and their super stars were eclipsed not by an individual with supreme skill and class, but by a team whose unity and depth proved worthy of winning a World Cup.

(Images: Rex)


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