BEFORE: Before the World Cup, I’d never watched soccer before. I didn’t understand it and I didn’t like it. Now, I’m the complete opposite. Over the course of one month, I grew to love soccer really fast. So fast, that I’m going to start calling it football now.
I didn’t watch any of the 2010 World Cup, not even the final. I never knew who won.
I watched nearly all of the 2014 World Cup games. The final was extremely tense for me. When the team I supported won, I was ecstatic.
Where do I begin in my World Cup journey, when I became completely absorbed and entranced by football for a whole month?
Before the World Cup started, I was preparing for a month of absolutely not caring about what everybody else would be talking about: football. I really had no idea what was going on.
I missed the first two days and four matches because I had no idea when they were showing. I had a vague idea that the World Cup had started, but I wasn’t following it or anything. Present day, I’m cursing myself for missing the Brazil vs Croatia opening game on Thursday the 12th of June that had people opposing the Brazilians from the start with their ‘unfair’ ways of winning (that which I viewed myself later, but I’ll get to that later on in this recap). I’m pinching myself at missing the incredible Spain vs Netherlands match, which seemed like awesome vengeance wrought by the Dutch, as they hammered Spain 5 – 1, in what seemed to be a rematch for the 2010 Final, in which Spain beat them to the trophy by finally scoring 1 goal in extra time. I’m mourning missing the great Robin van Persie header live that ultimately made its mark as arguably the best goal of the tournament. Still, I watch the gif on tumblr weeks later, and might I say, even after all the spectacular goals I’d watched and raved about all tournament, that header surpasses all. His run, so perfectly timed. The cross, so efficiently executed. The fact that he used all his might to not let that opportunity be wasted, that he went the extra mile to fling himself after the ball, that he actually was able to head that ball, and send it rocketing up and precisely into the top the goal, is such a fantastic, uncontested feat of its own. Even my brother, who I call a ‘soccer snob’, agreed with me that it was the best goal he had ever seen in all his years of watching football. It certainly was the best I’d seen in my whole month of watching the sport. The two other games I missed were Mexico vs Cameroon and Chile vs Australia, which, along with Spain vs Netherlands, were on Friday the 13th of June.
Everything changed when I went to a resort with my family for the weekend. On that Saturday, June 14th, I sat down in front of the TV in our hotel room and flicked channels. The only things to watch were CNN, Sports, or AfricaMagic (which I hate). I almost chose CNN over the World Cup game currently taking place live. My brothers, who crashed the designated girls’ room because they didn’t like their TV, begged me to put on the match. After seeing that their was nothing interesting on the news, I begrudgingly fulfilled their wishes. In that instant, I fell deep into the world of football: into the World Cup that the entire world watches; even those who don’t normally watch football, like me. The match in question was the Uruguay vs Costa Rica match. Let me just admit here and now that at first, I was watching the game to compare and contrast the features of the Uruguayan and Costa Rican players. I was just really fascinated because I’d never met anybody from either country in my life, so I decided that I’d use the World Cup to get to know more about how people of different nationalities look. I observed that the Uruguayans tended to have longer hair, while the Costa Ricans tended to have darker skin, but they both had very latin american features.
Anyway, I was so surprised when I discovered there was another match on later that day. Like I afore said, I didn’t know anything about the World Cup, its schedule, group stage matches, nada. It was on, so I watched it. It was England vs Italy, and Mario Balotelli scored the winning goal for Italy, making the younger of my two younger brothers, Ebube, a very happy boy. He loves Balotelli. At that point, I was starting to know players by name by then. I missed the Cote d’Ivoire vs Japan game because I fell asleep. You see, Nigeria is four hours ahead Brazil’s local time, so that match was at, like 2am. Only I didn’t know that then, because I didn’t know the scheduling still. So I missed it. And guess what? I was actually UPSET. I actually really wanted to watch that match! I guess that’s how I started to join in the World Cup madness. By the way, I only recently discovered that I missed another match that day: Colombia vs Greece. How I rue not watching it! I’ve grown to adore the playing style of the Colombians, how they’re like a family, and, of course, the brilliant James (pronounced Hamuz) Rodriguez. But my discovery of his brilliance comes later.
On Sunday, June 15th, I was quick to watch all the matches. Switzerland vs Ecuador was memorable for me in that, to me, both teams were pretty evenly matched for the longest time until the last minute, when the Swiss scored a shocker goal. I started watching the game supporting Ecuador for one of my good friends, whose from there, but as I watched, I found myself supporting Switzerland for their playing style. Their final goal was such a surprise, and one I found myself raving about! It was at this point, that a major contributor in my blissful World Cup experience appeared to me: Twitter. I went on it and discovered that Worldwide, the top trending topic was always the current world cup match, and other top trends usually included the countries playing, and sometimes, certain players who stood out in the game (like goal scorers). The whole world was talking about the same match that I was watching. I joined in. I found myself tweeting my own thoughts on and opinions about the match, and the matches to come. Next up was France vs Honduras, in which Karim Benzema almost scored a hat trick, if not for one of them being ruled an own goal. I saw the Hondurans as being way too thuggish (they were) and fully supported the French. Benzema got on my radar. The final match of the day, Argentina vs Bosnia and Herzegovinia, caused quite a stir. It was the first match of the World Cup to feature Messi, who even I knew prior to my World Cup experience, because he is considered one of the best footballers. Everyone wanted to see him show off his skills on the world stage, from what I could gather on Twitter, and Vamos Argentina was trending. I grew to discover that Spanish teams usual got the Vamos trend. (I know Vamos means go in Spanish, but that was the only ‘Go’ that trended worldwide, except for ‘Vai’ for Brazil, but that’s cuz Brazil was the host nation). Me being me, I immediately threw myself behind Bosnia and Herzegovinia, simply because Argentina seemed to be the fan favorite. Plus, I was already tired of seeing people talking so much about Messi. I was really happy that I did support Bosnia and Herzegovinia, because what I fight they put up against the almighty Argentina! They really quietened Messi, leading people to start cynically doubting him all over Twitter. It was pretty amusing how, when he did finally score what would be the winning for Argentina, everyone immediately flipped right over to start heralding Messi as the greatest for his spectacular goal. It’s so funny how human beings can be so fickle. Anyway, I congratulated Bosnia-Herzegovinia for such a well fought match, and for definitely giving Argentina a run for their money, and others on Twitter agreed. It was already a victory for Bosnia and Hersegovinia, getting to the World Cup: It’s their first, making history for their country!
By the way, here are the groups: Group A – Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, and Cameroon. Group B – Spain, Netherlands (Holland), Chile, and Australia. Group C – Colombia, Greece, Cote d’Ivoire, and Japan. Group D – Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, and Italy. Group E – France, Honduras, Switzerland and Ecuador. Group F – Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovinia, Nigeria, and Iran. Group G – USA, Ghana, Germany, and Portugal. Group H – Belgium, Algeria, Russia, and South Korea.
At sometime, I got another website to thank for adding to my World Cup experience: Goal.com. I followed their Live pages for matches to check out live scores and their live commentary, and checked out statistics for the competing teams, and ratings for each player after the matches.
On Monday, June 16th, I partly missed another much buzzed upon match: the battering of Portugal by Germany, up first. I can’t for the life of me remember why, but I missed a lot of the match, and sat down to watch the match late, being completely flabbergasted at the scoreline of 4-0. I was like, “How did this happen? How and when did Germany score 4 goals and Portugal none? How did I miss them all?” Anyway, I watched it to the end, enough to see poor Ronaldo getting repeatedly frustrated. I already knew of him as another football golden boy, like Messi. It was sad to watch him being unable to bamboozle the crowd with his goals like he usually does, but apparently, it was because of the Portuguese team not giving him a platform to do so, which I must agree with. His teammates simply did not give him enough support, and one man cannot do it on his own, for all his trying. Next up, was the highly-anticipated game for me: Iran vs Nigeria. I was supremely disappointed by this match, because nothing happened. It was the first goalless draw of the World Cup 2014. I guess I have to commend Iran, on their defense in that game; it was superb. They really ‘parked the bus’, so to speak. Yet, it was annoying watching my country’s team lose the ability to ‘find the back of the net’, and Iran didn’t really attack our side, either. It seemed they were content with neither side scoring and leaving it a draw. Ups to them; it was their first FIFA World Cup, I think. I’m not sure. After that drastically disappointing game, I eagerly awaited my final game of the night: Ghana vs the United States! On twitter, #IBelieveThatWeWillWin was trending, and it was so beautiful with such patriotic images, and I joined in as an American citizen happily. Imagine my elation when our very own captain, Clint Dempsey, scored the first goal in just about 30 seconds! I felt like I blinked and I missed it! I didn’t even actually see the goal, just the aftermath and celebration. It was really awesome: the fifth fastest goal in World Cup history! Super proud, I was, and still am. Later on, Ghana scored a goal, then towards the end of the game, the USA cinched a win with the young John Brooks scoring a wowzer goal. It was really touching how, afterward, he described how he’d been dreaming of that moment, and he’d seized it. Awwwww.
Tuesday, June 17th: I missed the Belgium vs Algeria and Brazil vs Mexico, but got to watch Russia vs South Korea. Both teams were so evenly matched, which I commented on twitter. The match ended 1-1, which I found befitting, based on the even performances on both sides I witnessed. One thing I gotta say, though: the South Korean fans are really adorable! Anyway, even though I missed Brazil vs Mexico (which ended goalless – 0-0), I couldn’t missed the Ochoa jokes gracing the web for keeping a clean sheet against Brazil. He was really hailed as a goalkeeper, ‘a wall’, so it’s a shame I missed that match. That would’ve been cool to see, his saves and all that.
Wednesday, June 18th: I really enjoyed the first game of the evening, Netherlands vs Australia, although it ended with Australia on the brink of elimination. Australia was a formidable opponent to the Netherlands on my own opinion during the game, and I was naturally rooting for them because I love Australia! The match ended 3-2, but one of my favorite goals of the tournament came from Australia: Tim Cahill’s goal that brought Australia back in the game! What a beauty!! I raved about on Twitter, and the whole world agreed. He was trending worldwide for a while. It was simply magnificent how Cahill rocketed the ball from so far from the goal, roofing the keeper, and smashing it in. I don’t think I watched Spain vs Chile, because I don’t remember anything from that game. However, I did watch Cameroon vs Croatia, in which I watched an African team completely disgrace the entire African continent, including myself. They lost 4-0 to Croatia, and Cameroonian players actually started fighting each other! It was horrifically shameful. ‘These Cameroonians’ was trending on Twitter in Lagos, Nigeria, in which they were basically bashed. It was actually saddening to me, that they would comport themselves in that way. Oh well.
Thursday, June 19th: I missed Colombia vs Cote d’Ivoire, I think, but I definitely didn’t miss Uruguay vs England. I didn’t miss Luis Suarez scoring a fabulous ‘brace’ for Uruguay’s win. I was all “Yay! He’s pretty hot,” and my brother, Chibueze was like, “What? He’s a dick.” And I was like, “Huh?” and he basically just read me his rap sheet, like how he’s racist. I didn’t know what to think of that then, because all I saw was a fantastic player at the time. Japan vs Greece was another even game for me, and the second goalless draw of the tournament.
Friday, June 20th: I missed Italy vs Costa Rica, but I did witness the almost complete pummeling of Switzerland by France. It was pretty hard for me to watch the side I’d picked to root for, Switzerland, being bamboozled by the French side, who were on FIRE, as they blasted past the Swiss defense time and time again (5 times, to be exact). I checked out twitter when the Swiss were down 5-0, and ‘Swiss cheese’ was trending worldwide. It was pretty funny, actually. The running joke was that there were more holes in the Swiss defense than Swiss cheese. Anyway, I was so pleasantly surprised when the Swiss came charging back with 2 goals, making the game end with a better scoreline of 5-2. I watched Honduras vs Ecuador, and got to witness Enner Valencia of Ecuador get on the top scorer list with three goals, along with Neymar, Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, and Thomas Muller.
Saturday, June 21st: Okay, Argentina vs Iran was heartbreaking to me, or at least as heartbreaking as it can be without me being Iranian. The Iranians did such a great job defending from a goal by Argentina, and especially, Messi, only for him to score a truly brilliant, fantastical goal at practically the last minute. It was a total surprise, wonder goal, and I can only pin it down as ‘Messi magic’. I wasn’t alone in my sentiments, too. ‘Gutted for Iran’ was trending worldwide on Twitter. After that, I sat down to watch Germany vs Ghana and see how my fellow Africans perform. Ghana really held their own against Germany and it ended in a 2-2 draw, and reflecting, they were probably the only country to give Germany any real competition, at least attack wise, I re-watched the whole match after the World Cup ended, and Ghana played with real passion and serious determination. I really enjoyed that, and I was really proud of them, although, by then, I’d also grown to adore the Germans style of playing, and was delighted by their side more. The last match of the night was Nigeria vs Bosnia and Herzegovinia, which was really disconcerting to watch, because BIH got a goal ruled incorrectly as offside. The game should have ended 1-1 like that, and not 1-0, and BIH ended up getting knocked out from the group stage as a result of that loss. I found it really unfair, which upset me, because I’m Nigerian and wanted to happy for my country’s victory.
Sunday, June 22nd: I don’t think I watched Belgium vs Russia. I did watch South Korea vs Algeria and once again adored the South Korean fans and their infinite cuteness. So it was hard to watch them being beaten out by the Algerian side, though I was happy for my African team. At a point, South Korea came back in the game, scoring goals, and I was really happy for them. Yet, Algeria cinched the winner, and it ended 4-2. Finally for the night: USA VS PORTUGAL!!! #IBelieveThatWeWillWin was trending again on Twitter. Discussions about not being a truly American citizen if you support Portugal for Ronaldo arose. The highly-anticipated game, (for me at least) began. Anyway, the game was really amusing, looking back now, because USA was actually winning 2-1, so certainly it seemed, that Americans in the stands were chanting “USA! USA!! USA!!!” in the stands for the final few minutes of the game. Being American, I was preparing for Team USA to win and the USMNT automatically qualifying for the Round of 16 from there. So, just imagine MY complete shock and utter disbelief when Ronaldo preformed his own magic and did a perfect cross right into the box for the right player to strike it right into the net. It was practically at the last minute of the game. I sobbed. My brother laughed.
Monday, June 23rd: At this point. it was tough to choose between two matches showing at the SAME TIME to watch, or just flicking between both matches. I didn’t watch Netherlands vs Chile, but I did watch Australia vs Spain. Which was great, because I got to watch Spanish greats David Villa, Fernando Torres, and Juan Mata score fabulously for their country, although it was joked that Juan Mata scored that ‘juan’ goal that didn’t ‘mata’, the third goal of the 3-0 match. Didn’t watch either Cameroon vs Brazil or Croatia vs Mexico properly. Netherlands, Chile, Brazil, and Mexico advanced to the knockout round,
Tuesday, June 24th: Ah, Italy vs Uruguay. Arguably the most infamous match of the entire tournament. It was all going swell, until that moment happened, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Suarez’s villainy that my brother Chibueze was telling me about proved itself in that shocking event that unfurled before my very eyes: I watched Luis Suarez, prolific Uruguayan striker, turn his face into Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder, and sink into it. He’d obviously bitten him. Chiellini proved it by showing the bite marks on his shoulder, but that awful referee let it go. What utter rubbish. So, the game continued on, and Uruguay won 1-0, knocking Italy out of the competition and advancing to the knockout round. Meanwhile, Costa Rica uneventfully drew 0-0 with England, progressing to the knockout stages number one in their group in which they had been expected to be at the bottom. Pretty freaking awesome! During Japan vs Colombia, James Rodriguez began to wow me with stunner goals for Colombia. I did feel bad for the adorable Japanese fans watching their side bow out of the tournament like that tho, 4-0. The Greece vs Cote d’Ivoire game crushed me as an African. Cote d’Ivoire was literally THIS close to advancing to the knockout stages on a 1-1 draw with Greece, until, practically at the last minute of the match, Greece was awarded a penalty that I thought was absolutely not warranted. So, Greece scored and won 2-1, and advanced to the knockout round with Colombia while knocking Cote d[Ivoire right out of the tournament. Even having Didier Drogba making appearance on the pitch couldn’t cheer us Africans up. WIth Cote d’Ivoire and obviously, Cameroon out, it was up to Ghana, Algeria, and Nigeria at that point to carry African teams through.
Wednesday, June 25th: Nigeria vs Argentina started with a bang, with Messi scoring the first goal in flipping 3 minutes before I even got a chance to sit down and watch the match. I was already gnashing my teeth for my country, feeling that Messi and Argentina were using Nigeria ‘for bants’. There was no need to worry anyway, I soon discovered, as Nigeria launched an awesome counter attack right after that goal and our Musa scored brilliantly just a minute after Messi’s goal, making it the fastest reply in FIFA World Cup history. I was so freaking proud at that point, whooping and cheering like nobody’s business. Anyway, Musa answered Messi’s next goal later, but then Argentina ended up winning 3-2, with Nigeria as fierce competition. Both Argentina and Nigeira got to advance to the knockout round. Bosnia and Herzegovinia vs Iran was really cool to see for me, because Bosnia really showed their attacking stuff against Iran, and Iran actually managed to score one goal before leaving the tournament! I was happy to see Dzeko and Pjanic score for BIH because they looked like they were working really hard for them! Switzerland had me cheering again after their 5-2 loss to France with a 3-0 victory over Honduras, having the super cool Shaqiri score a hatrick for the Swiss! He was totally fantastic and blew me away that match!!! Didn’t really watch Ecuador vs France, which was just as well, as it was a goalless draw, seeing France and Switzerland both qualifying for the knockout round.
Thursday, June 26th: Portugal vs Ghana was a mess for Ghana, with random defensive errors that saw Portugal win 2-1, with the winning goal for Portugal from Cristiano Ronaldo. I finally got to see him actually score a goal this World Cup 2014, albeit one basically handed to him on a silver platter, a very easy goal indeed, stemming from a scattered performance inside the box by the Ghanaian defense, but a goal nonetheless. In the meantime, USA was losing 1-0 to Germany from a sole goal from Thomas Muller (who by that time had become my man of the competition – I just love the guy), yet still technically won as they got to advance to the knockout round with Germany, due to Portugal’s win over Ghana. ‘Thanks Ronaldo’ was trending on Twitter for scoring the winning goal, and it was all very amusing, with people making him an ‘honorary US citizen’ and being all happy for his goal that saw the USA through, even as Portugal got knocked out on goal difference (Remember 4-0 Portugal, anyone?). On a more serious note though, I am grateful to Ronaldo. He did help USA get to the knockout stage, and got lots of Americans (including myself) much more interested in soccer. Finally, I watched the tail end of the final two matches of the Group stage. I got to see South Korea bow out after losing 1-0 to Group winners Belgium, and Algeria make history as they headed to the knockout stage with Belgium after drawing 1-1 with a heartbroken Russian side. Nigeria and Algeria both advanced for Africa! No Asian teams advanced.
I had to wait one whole day without any World Cup matches before the start of the knockout round, which was actually pretty tough for me, because I’d gotten so used to constant matches from the couch in the evening.
Saturday, June 28th: The short-lived World Cup drought came to an end! The knockout round kicked off with Brazil vs Chile in what was a fiercely battled match. Brazil played tough, and Chile responded ferociously. I was rooting for Chile, the underdogs, simply because I liked their play better, and Alexis Sanchez wowed me with his goal that was the equalizer. We went into extra time, and it got soooo tense for me, especially because that was my first time seeing a match go into extra time (it certainly wouldn’t be my last! – I got used to it pretty fast). Finally it went to penalties. Anxiety all around on both sides ensued. The first penalty shootout of the World Cup, and I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never watched a penalty shootout before. All the penalties I’d watched before that occurred during matches had resulted in goals, so I didn’t understand how goalkeepers would actually save shots. Yet, they both did. I guess it’s different under so much pressure, plus five different players have to take penalty shots for both teams. In the end, massive heartbreak for all Chileans, as the last shot by a Chilean player ended up being a miss and hitting the bar, knocking out Chile and qualifying Brazil 3-2 on penalties. He instantly, it seemed, started crying. It was anguish. It was so painful for me to watch happen, especially as I’d supported Chile all through the match. Still, I was immensely proud of the Chileans and their steely, powerful play. I felt like they could go home proud.
I told my brother before Colombia vs Uruguay that Uruguay had no chance without Suarez, and he’d actually been such a selfish brute for his country. He disagreed, insisting that they could – and would – be fine without Suarez. He was wrong. We watched the game together, and it was clear that Colombia was the superior team over Uruguay in that match. Despite Uruguayans wearing Suarez face masks to remember him by, his absence, in some way, contributed to a 2-0 loss for Uruguay. Colombia stunned me and warmed my heart with their awesome attacks and fun camaraderie in their goal celebrations. I was delighted watching them perform a whole dance routine together to celebrate their two goals. They were like a family. I must say it, the Colombian team succeeded in stealing my heart that game. James Rodriguez was just brilliant! He was hands down my star of the tournament from then on, scoring both goals for Colombia as part of a sizzling hot attacking trio of himself, Juan Cuadrado, and Jackson Martinez. One of those goals just blew me away! I couldn’t believe what I had just watched. It was a spectacular volley, terrifically roofing the keeper from such a far distance, and the ball zig-zagged up and down from hitting the bar precisely into the goalpost. It was such a glorious sight. What a rocket! I couldn’t stop raving about it, and even repeated highlights still left me speechless. That was one of THE goals of the tournament, along with Robin van Persie’s and Tim Cahill’s. Everyone seemed to choose from one of those three as their best goal of the tournament, or their favorite, but I couldn’t really choose between them. Colombia made it to the quarter finals for the first time in history, thanks to their man (and our man) James Rodriguez!!! Whoooooo!!!
Sunday, June 29th: I watched Netherlands vs Mexico at a family friend’s place after church, coming about halfway through the match. I always say it: I love the Dutch color of bright orange. It just lifts my mood instantly, just looking at it. It’s such a sunny, happy color, and there was a whole sea of it in the stands! It always makes me happy to see the Dutch team play. The Mexican coach, Miguel Herrera, was quite entertaining to me, like always. He is just so effusive and really expresses himself with his hands and facial expressions. Very Mexican, I thought. The Netherlands was losing 1-0 to Mexico. Close to full-time, I started really believing that Mexico was going to go through and cause an upset as the underdogs, which would have been totally cool. I was preparing for it. The Netherlands was just not connecting in attack, and Mexico was doing a fine job of keeping them out. Ochoa was showing me why he was so widely praised: he makes me great saves that frustrate prolific strikers, which is always amusing to watch. But this was the World Cup. Anything, and I mean literally anything, can happen. The first cooling break of the World Cup 2014 happened. And then, the unexpected happened. Welsey Sneijder of the Netherlands (who my brother Chibueze likes so much, and I saw why) freaking CHANGED THE GAME!! He delivered a superb goal in the 88th minute, outdoing Ochoa, finally, with a fantastic assist from Klaas Jan Huntelaar (who I think looks like Rachel McAdams 2nd love interest in The Notebook with Ryan Gosling). Then, the unthinkable, and the horrifying for the Mexicans, happened. Mexico was going to go through. Then a wonder strike happened, which is always fun to watch, equalizing. Then the game flipped on its head in stoppage time as the Netherlands was awarded a penalty, as apparently, Arjen Robben was fouled inside the box, according to the referee. I watched it happen and didn’t understand how that happened. I rewatched it and it’s possible that Robben dived for his country, but I didn’t know for sure, and I have no affiliation with either country, so I didn’t actually have any strong feelings or opinion about it. Huntelaar took the penalty shot and scored, and it was excruciating heartbreak for Mexicans and utter jubilation for the Dutch! Naturally, Mexicans were infuriated with Robben for what they saw clearly as an unfair dive. I was just in shock at how things just turned around at the end.
I didn’t get to watch Costa-Rica vs Greece, but I got to see the highlights later of how Greece actually really awesomely scored terrifically at what was practically the last minute keeping themselves valiantly into the competition in a 1-1 draw after an early goal from Costa Rica. Costa Rica then won on penalties 5-3, making history for the country by qualifying for the quarter finals! By the way, I really just fell for Greek names. They have such nice rings to them (to me anyway), like Karagounis!
Monday, June 30th: Da-da-da-dah!!! Two African countries, one night. What a delight it was. First off, was France vs Nigeria. I’m totally patriotic to my country, but I just love the French team. The have a really elegant playing style to me. Vincent Enyeama, our goalkeeper, got me cheering with his magnificent saves. Yet, in the 79th minute, he was beaten, from a surprising blunder on his part. It was a corner kick from Matthieu Valbuena, Enyeama went out for the ball, he punched it out, a French head connected to it, and it was a French goal into the open net. It pissed me off. The French head was Paul Pogba, a totally cool player, and Chibueze likes him a lot. Then we were all (my family, that is) hoping for a last minute goal for Nigeria, but the complete opposite ensued. A Nigerian defended, Joseph Yobo, accidentally scored an own goal at the last minute, and it was all over for us. Sigh. Lost out due to mistakes on our side, and France qualified.
So, only one African team remained to possibly take us to the quarter finals: Algeria. They took on Germany. They didn’t make it easy for Germany at all. They were ferocious and powerful, and I was – and still am – immensely proud of them. The game went into extra time with no goals on either side. Watching the game again later, after the World Cup had ended, when I was rewatching all of Germany’s matches, I was astounded and impressed by how efficient the Germans were in playing even back then, and glossed over fine moments by my absolute favorite team of the tournament. Andre Schurrle scored impressively right at the beginning of extra time (2 minutes in), then Mesut Ozil scored coolly right at the end. We thought it was all over, but it wasn’t, because the Algerians were so valiant. They scored a minute later, during stoppage time of extra time, in a fantastic reply, but they couldn’t equalize, but not for want of trying at all! They really kept the German side on their toes! Germany qualified brilliantly (they’re so consistently excellent!), but Algeria was their fiercest competitor in the whole tournament. I say that with the utmost of pride.
By the way, I adored the way Manuel Neuer, Germany’s goalkeeper, confidently played outside of his box with such ease, playing the role, I discovered, of sweeper-keeper. It was just the coolest thing I’d ever seen a goalkeeper do all tournament, quickly making him my favorite goalkeeper.
Tuesday, July 1st: Messi-led Argentina broke my heart as they sent out one of my favorite teams: Switzerland. The Swiss held on wonderfully in a goalless draw until the very nearly last minute of extra time, when Messi performed that Messi magic of his, with a key assist to Angel di Maria, who scored a wondrous winning goal for Argentina. That really crushed me. I couldn’t even watch the end of the game after that, it hurt me that much to see the Swiss lose so closely like that. Still, loved them, loved their fans, with some even wearing Swiss cheese proudly on their heads. So cute.
Then BELGIUM VS THE USA!!! What a match! I didn’t watch the first half of normal time because I was too busy watching 5SOS’s live stream, but I dragged myself away from the livestream for the second half, and thankfully, I hadn’t really missed anything. Tim Howard was AMAZING!!! Belgians were fiercely attacking and quite frankly outclassing the Americans, but Tim Howard frustrated Belgian strikers time and time again, constantly saving their terrific strikes. Like I afore said, it’s always amusing to me to watch a stellar goalkeeper frustrate stellar attackers. Finally, in extra time, the Belgians wonderfully found a way around Howard to score, and then scored again close to the end to seemingly seal the deal. First was the brilliant de Bruyne, who’d been trying so hard, and the second was from Lukaku, who’d been working hard for his too. But our oh so heroic USMNT battled on, and scored their own stunner last minute goal that had me whooping and cheering at the magnificent effort. We ended up losing 2-1 (but definitely not for want of trying), but I was still so proud of my US team. As an added bonus, #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave was trending worldwide on Twitter with hilarious photo-shopped images of Tim Howard saving everything from the Titanic to Janet Jackson’s nip slip. Fun fun fun.
5/8 of the knockout round matches went into extra time! Such competition they all were too.
We had to wait two whole days before the next round: the quarter finals. I bemoaned the torrid wait with the rest of Twitter. As the time to wait was actually trending worldwide. I highly anticipated France vs Germany because it was such a classic clash, and I couldn’t really see one team having a particular edge over the other up till that point. I spent my wait scouring online, reading news articles comparing the two sides and describing their previous historic clashes, as well as checking out opinions on the upcoming match. I could scarcely wait.
By the way, at some point in time, I started checking out Daily Mail sport after each match to read the match report, as well as see popular comments about the game. It became an important part of my World Cup experience. I was really happy to see lots of people agreeing with things I had thought about and observing the same things I had during matches. Definite plus.
Friday, July 4th: The long-anticipated day arrives! I was so excited. I went to go have my hair done, planning to get back home before the match began, but it actually started as I was finishing my hair. Anyway, they had their TV on to the match so it wasn’t so bad. I got to watch the build up as the wonderfully analytical panelists for SS Football (the tv channels I watch sports from) dissected the weaknesses of the two teams from their previous games that could possibly be exploited, as well as their strengths they could use against each other. I loved the Build Up for every match that I got to watch during this World Cup 2014, but that one took the cake. I witnessed a howler of a miss by Benzema before going back home to meet the Germans one goal ahead. I missed the winning goal! Chibueze explained how Mats Hummels of Germany overpowered the young Raphael Varane of France to score from a header off a corner kick. Watching the highlights, I saw that that pretty much was what happened. Anyway, the highlight of the match for me was Manuel Neuer casually using one hand to block a last ditch effort shot on goal by Karim Benzema. I love Neuer! The lowlight: watching the French cutie, the young Antoine Griezmann, one of my World Cup 2014 crushes (I’ll get to them later), so upset and in tears at being knocked out of the tournament. Several of his teammates enveloped him and comforted him, which was heartwarming.
Brazil vs Colombia was crushing to me. I was so sure that Colombia was going to win! Yet, the tables turned and Brazil seemed to dominate the game. However, the Brazilian players were very thuggish, it seemed to me, in their play, which didn’t sit well to me. It seemed that they had to win at all costs, and that included running rough shod over the Colombian players. My baby, James Rodriguez got upset (and rightly so) when they invaded his space when he was obligated to a free kick. I got really pissed at the Brazilian side right there and then. David Luiz did score a marvelous free-kick goal, and James scored a goal of his own, making him lead the goal scoring list of the World Cup with 6 goals. The game ended 2-1, with Brazil qualifying for the next round, and poor James Rodriguez cried hard with the anguish at having his country go home . It broke my heart. Then David Luiz did the single most sweetest thing I had ever witnessed one guy do for another, in football or elsewhere. He went right up to James Rodriguez, hugged him, then pointed at him, and roused applause from all the spectators in the stadium for him, and his fabtastic play this whole world cup that had made him the top scorer. My heart overwhelmingly expanded with admiration and respect for David Luiz, as well as pure joy for James Rodriguez, to be acknowledged in such a fashion.
Saturday, July 5th: That day was my big sister, Oruoma’s birthday. She was turning 19, and my whole family went out to dinner to celebrate, so I missed the first match of the evening (my Nigerian local time), Argentina vs Belgium. Wait, that wasn’t why: My DSTV (cable) subscription had expired and hadn’t been paid yet. So, I just checked out the live commentary of Argentina vs Belgum online. Argentina won 1-0 by a Higuain goal, continuing the trend of tight matches from Germany vs France. I was sad to see Belgium leave. I liked them, better than Argentina at least. I didn’t really like Argentina’s method of playing, and didn’t care for Messi, whose name by them I’d been hearing and seeing much too often, which I’d gotten very tired of. I badly wanted them to be sent out of the competition.
I watched Netherlands vs Mexico from about the 75th minute, after we’d finished eating Oruoma’s birthday dinner. There was a bar near the restaurant we’d gone too that was showing the match. My whole family actually all stayed to finish watching the match together. I got very frustrated at the Netherlands, because they got really solid opportunities to score goals which they messed up, extending the game into extra-time, and then, into penalties. In all fairness, the Costa-RIcan keeper did a fine job frustrating prolific Dutch strikers and keeping them from finding the back of the net. Just before the penalties, towards the end of extra time, Louis van Gaal (the Dutch coach) switched out his goalkeeper, the incredibly cute Jasper Cillessen, for a sub keeper, Tim Krul, showing himself to be a true mastermind. At some point during the game, I’d shifted from supporting the Netherlands to supporting Costa-Rica because I felt that they displayed more resilience. In the end, though, Tim Krul saved the day for the Dutch in a super intense penalty shoot-out in which the Dutch won 4-3. Louis van Gaal won massive respect points as a brilliant strategist coach from me, and the rest of the world, as his name trended worldwide on Twitter after the match.
Tuesday, July 8th: SEMI-FINALS Day 1: My biggest regret of the World Cup is not watching Brazil vs Germany live. Our DSTV subscription had still not been renewed, so I went on goal.com for the live commentary. I really wanted Germany to beat Brazil and qualify for the next round, the FINAL, because I liked Germany’s playing style much better than Brazil’s. Plus, I believed that Brazil would not be able to win without Neymar (who’d been injured in their quarter-finals match against Colombia). To make matters worse, Brazil’s captain, Thiago Silva, had been suspended from the semi-final match due to racking up two yellow cards. Still, nothing, NOTHING, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for Germany’s total and utter, obliteration, demolition, and annihilation of Brazil. It was like a dream I didn’t even know I was dreaming of had come true in the best way. All I remember is going on goal.com for the live commentary, and seeing that Germany had already scored 1 goal, and I’d just checked out the match live about 10 minutes late. It was scored by Thomas Muller, who I love to bits for his outstanding team effort and workmanship, and prolific goal scoring. So I was already very happy. I was just chilling, checking the scores every now and then, when suddenly, it became 3-0. I got SO happy, running down the hall to my sister’s room to announce the scoreline in elation. She had already seen the score on google’s live reporting. I came back to my room to my laptop to hear choruses of “GOAL!!!” from my next-door neighbors’. Lo and behold, the scoreline had become 4-0. 4-0. Already. I was basically on cloud nine. I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing, what I was witnessing! Germany didn’t give me any chance to process that information, however, with the scoreline swiftly changing again to 5-0. The live written commentary was in all caps. I just started laughing and jumping up and down in pure joy. The score was 5-0 at half-time! It was better than I could ever have dreamed of, as a Germany supporter. In the next half, Germany still scored two more goals (by the same person, I saw), then Brazil tarnished what would have been the perfect scoreline of 7-0 by making it 7-1 at the very end. Anyhow, Twitter was on fire. It seemed like everyone on my timeline was talking about the match. The jokes were beyond hilarious! Germany had changed the game, and one thing (as heavily circulated on Twitter) was clear: Portugal has Ronaldo. Argentina has Messi. Brazil has Neymar. Germany has a TEAM. That, I think, is the biggest compliment paid to this rampant German side.
Wednesday, July 9th: SEMI-FINALS Day 2: Netherlands vs Argentina, in contrast to the previous night’s match, was not a fun match for me to watch at all. The DSTV subscription had finally been renewed, so I got to watch it live. I remember chatting with my good friend, Peace, on Whatsapp during the game. We both were supporters of the Netherlands, and we both disliked the annoying, incessant, and perpetual hype around Messi, and wanted Argentina to get kicked out of the tournament already. At that time, my biggest fear was that Argentina would get through to the final and be a serious contender for the World Cup against my favorites: Germany. I watched my worst fears become confirmed as the match dragged on through extra-time with neither side finding the back of the net, and into penalties. Louis van Gaal had exhausted all his subs (the limit during the World Cup was three), and was unable to switch Jasper Cillessen out for Tim Krul again. I watched in sorrow as all Argentina’s four penalty shots went through, while two of the Netherland’s four shots were blocked by Romero (Argentina’s goalkeeper), including, to me and my brother Chibueze’s horror, even Wesley Sneijder’s. I remember Chibueze saying something along the lines of, “Sneijder’s penalty shot got blocked; it’s all over.” And it was. My heart sank as Argentina went through to the final. The Dutch were heartbroken, and I was right there with them. Peace and I shared our joint heartbreak, as well as hope that Germany would beat Argentina in the final, on Whatsapp.
On a side note,though, Jasper Cillessen, the Dutch goalkeeper, was freaking awesome during that match. He coolly denied the Argentinians from scoring time and time again, and he looked like a total boss while doing it.
In the two days before the next match, I watched the entire Brazil vs Germany match, watched the match highlights several times, and scoured the internet for articles about the match, as well as those previewing the final. I read The Daily Mail Online, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Independent, Bleacher Report, and more.
Watching the match, I was completely blown away by the overwhelming tactical superiority, precise accuracy, bedazzling teamwork, technical masterclass, and sheer talent that the German National Team possessed to massacre Brazil. Sure, Brazil played atrociously, but Germany was just pure class and quite simply outclassed them. I can rave and rave and rave about the German Master Class for days (and I did).
I tremendously willed for the German national team (also known as Die Manschafft) to win the final, because they were clearly the best team in the World Cup, and really deserved to lift the trophy. I knew that some people wanted Argentina to win because of Messi, which didn’t make sense to me. The match was heralded as “the best player in the world vs the best team in the world”. Football is a team sport. Germany was the best team of the tournament, with their exciting attack, high-intensity play, and ability to really, truly connect with each other on the pitch. Their passes were smooth with razor-sharp accuracy. Their drive to goal was lethal. Their technical strength spoke volumes. Every single player on the team is brilliant to me. After watching them perform, I couldn’t understand how anyone could still rally behind Argentina win (unless, of course, they were Argentinian). The way I see it, there are Ronaldo fans, there are Messi fans, and then there are football fans. Football fans rallied behind Germany to be the winners of the 2014 World Cup, and I became emotionally invested in them as a team and in their success.
Saturday, August 12th: Third Place Match: This was such a FUN match for me to watch! I got to see the Dutch National Team (also known as Oranje) celebrate winning, after losing in the last match when they were so close to making it to the final. It would have been awful if Brazil had gotten 3rd place instead, because of how much of a flop they’d become. My nerves were set aside quickly with an early goal from a penalty for the Dutch. Arjen Robben was fouled, arguably, in the penalty box. To the referee, it was inside the box; to others, it began outside the box. To be honest, I was happy with the ref’s decision. The Brazilians were playing dirty. To me, the foul extended inside the box, as the Brazilian player dragged Robben down. Anyhow, van Persie scored from the penalty awarded and the Netherlands were 1-0 up in the first five minutes. Daley Blind, one of my hotties of the World Cup, scored in the 17th minute, and Wjinaldum scored nearly at the last minute to seal the deal in a comfortable win for the Netherlands. It made me really happy to see the Netherlands accept their medals happily and proudly. I was so proud of them. They were an awesome team.
The funniest part of that match, of course, was when the Dutch goalkeeper, Jasper Cillessen (another of my World Cup hotties) did a wall sit on the left bar of his goal. I remember pointing it out to my brother Chibueze, and really noticing it. I somehow just knew it was going to really talked about on Twitter. I wasn’t disappointed. I went on Twitter to discover that #JasperCillessensitsonthings was trending worldwide. There were the funniest photo-shopped images in all sorts of place, from the iron throne on Game of Thrones, to Christ the Redeemer, to van Persie’s back when he was dong his famous flying header goal. They never failed to crack me up. Cillessen basically became an overnight viral sensation.
Other hashtags created during the match included #ThingsMorePointlessThanAThirdPlaceMatch, which I didn’t really agree upon, because I actually like the idea of a match for 3rd Place. There was also the seriously hilarious #ThingsLessUselessThanBrazilsDefense.
Sunday, July 13th: FINAL: The D-Day had arrived. The highly-talked about, highly-anticipated match of the year arrived. “Who would win between Magic Messi and the German machine?” seemed to be on everyone’s lips. I knew that Argentina would not be the walk in the park that Brazil was, so I was very very very nervous, tense, and anxious. That day was also my brother Ebube’s birthday, but he was away at military camp. I remember joking, “What day is it today?” and answering myself, “The World Cup Final!” and then jokingly saying, “Just kidding! Ebube’s birthday of course!” On the way either to or from church, I spotted the German and Argentinian national flags hanging on a bar/club/lounge exterior. I got really excited.
I watched the whole build-up for the match, buzzing with pent-up emotions: fear, excitement, pride: I was a bundle of nerves. Then, I sat down with my family to watch the World Cup final. I was so FREAKING tense the WHOLE time. My heart literally stopped every time the Argentinians came close to the goal, and I got really nervous during each Argentinian attack. The times when they came so close, with Higuain, Palacio, and Messi, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Higuain’s disallowed goal (for being offside) gave me chills.
The Germans played as a collective unit, the way I loved. Pinpoint accuracy in their passes, connection between teammates, and hard work as a team. Jerome Boateng was so key in defense, crucially blocking what could have been a goal from Lionel Messi himself. He made me breathe again. Manuel Neuer was a total boss as goalkeeper, as always. Bastian Schweinsteiger was a warrior. He was bruised and battered by the opposition, yet he came back in the game, fiercely playing for the common goal, even with a bloodied cheek. All of the German players I witnessed on the field that night were heroes Phillip Lahm, Andre Schurrle, Mats Hummels, Christoph Kramer – poor thing got an awful blow to the head – Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Thomas Muller, and so on.
The star of the day was Mario Gotze. When he scored that winning goal from a pivotal assist by Andre Schurrle, my heart leaped from my chest, and I just burst into happy tears. I was beyond ecstatic. I was on top of the world! The Germans had shown me what true winners are. Still, it was so intense for me the remaining eight minutes or so before the game actually ended. I was honestly terrified that Messi would pull some magic trick and equalize. He even got a free kick, the last one of the game. So much pressure was on him! I felt pretty bad for him. Anyway, he missed. Finally, the game was over, and I jumped up and down and cried out with such triumph!!! It was a glorious night for me. By common consensus, the best team won and Germany deserved the trophy. I still can’t describe the pure, raw emotion that came out of me as I watched the German players receive their medals and hoist their World Cup trophy elatedly up into the air. I was celebrating right over here with them.
A youtube commenter by the name of Robert Dekanic wrote: “Hard work, talent, and superb technical proficiency will always prevail in then end. In addition, outstanding teamwork helped as well. It was a pleasure to watch Germany take the 2014 World Cup. Germany deserved to win. Thank you, Team Germany for showing me Football excellence in 2014. ”
I completely agree. The tremendous discipline, fierce determination, hard work, and passionate dedication the German team showed this World Cup is inspiring.
AWARDS: In the end, James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot with his 6 goals and Manuel Neuer won the Golden Glove (both compounding my happiness). Lionel Messi won the Golden Ball, which was complete bullshit. He was instrumental to his country’s success, agreed, but he didn’t deserve that award. Thomas Muller and Neymar Jr won the Silver Boot and Bronze Boot respectively, with their 5 and 4 goals. Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben won the Silver Ball and Bronze Ball respectively, which I felt is very deserved for their outstanding effort for their countries in the tournament. Colombia won the fair play award, and I totally agree. James Rodriguez’s wonder strike for Colombia against Uruguay ended up being voted the goal of the tournament. For me, it was between that goal, Robin van Persie’s flying header for the Netherlands against Spain, and Tim Cahill’s stupendous volley for Australia against the Netherlands. So, it’s all good.
AFTER: I didn’t know how long this football frenzy of mine would last after the World Cup. Club football definitely isn’t the same. I watched some pre-season games to see players I’d enjoyed watching in the World Cup play. I’ve decided to support Arsenal in the Barclays’ Premier League, Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, and Real Madrid in La Liga. They all have a contingent of players I really loved watching at the World Cup. Their leagues are starting up soon, so I’m pretty excited. Let’s see if I’ll actually become a bonafide football fan!
BONUS: MY WORLD CUP HOTTIES: Erik Durm (Germany), Antoine Griezmann (France), James Rodriguez (Colombia), Ciro Immobile (Italy), Daley Blind (The Netherlands), Jasper Cillessen (The Netherlands), Manuel Neuer (Germany), Thomas Muller (Germany), Neymar Jr (Brazil), Oscar Embaboa (Brazil), Olivier Giroud (France), Alexis Sanchez (Chile), Mats Hummels (Germany), Robin van Persie (The Netherlands), Christoph Kramer (Germany), Osaze Odemwingie (Nigeria), Kevin Prince-Boateng (Ghana), Javier Hernandez (Mexico), Toni Kroos (Germany), and Mesut Ozil (Germany).