There’s never a dull year in the world of sports, and 2014 was certainly no exception. While it definitely had its low points (Donald Sterling, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson), 2014 still produced more than its fair share of memorable games, performances and moments, so let’s take a look back at some of the best things that the world of sports had to offer in 2014.
2014 World Cup
We have all been ranting about Germany’s epic 7-1 beat down of Brazil in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup for a few days now. Personally I’ve been scrambling for an explanation for how the host country fell apart in such epic fashion. Thanks to some digging, I may have figured out the real reason for A Seleção’s collapse.
If you look closely at the video below, you can tell why Germany had such an easy time scoring. The Brazilians weren’t actually on the field! Look, Julio Cesar, David Luiz, Marcelo, Bernard, Maicon and company were clearly off getting hot pretzels. How did Luiz Felipe Scolari allow this to happen?!?
Check out the video below:
Seriously, that really explains a lot. I really can’t believe I didn’t catch that the first few times I watched the game.
In what was potentially his final game with the U.S. men’s national team, Tim Howard had the best performance of his illustrious career.
Against a star-studded Belgian team that’s considered one of the most dangerous in Europe, Howard stood on his head for his country, breaking the record for most saves in a World Cup match with 16.
But it wasn’t just the quantity of saves that was impressive, the quality of Howard’s stops were otherworldly as well.
On a night where the United States was thoroughly dominated by the Belgians, Howard kept his team in the match with his heroic performance. His efforts were so impressive that FIFA named him the Man of the Match (an award he also received in the U.S.’s draw against Portugal) despite his team’s loss, and Belgian center back and captain Vincent Kompany took to Twitter to offer a few words of respect to the American goalkeeper:
— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) July 1, 2014
It was a touching sign of respect towards a player that has represented the United States with nothing but class throughout his career, during which he has set U.S. records for most caps (104) and wins (55) by a goalkeeper. There were many personnel questions at several positions facing the U.S. heading into the World Cup, but goalkeeper wasn’t one of them. On Jürgen Klinsmann’s young American squad, Howard’s veteran presence and leadership was an invaluable asset.
Of course, whether of not this is the end of his international career remains to be seen, but he has stated that he intends on retiring once current his deal with Everton ends at the conclusion of the 2017-18 Premier League season.
However, there’s certainly no guarantee that Howard, 35, would still be the starter for the United States in four years. Even if Howard chose to continue to play on the national team, backup keeper Brad Guzan looks to be more than capable of taking the torch from his predecessor if he were to retire.
If this was his final game with the Stars and Stripes, it’s hard to imagine that he could’ve had a better swan song. His hands and feet were the only thing keeping the Americans in the game, but alas even his Superman-esque performance wasn’t enough to keep the U.S.’s country-uniting run alive any longer. Howard simply didn’t deserve to be on the losing end of this match, and his emotional postgame interview had to make you feel for the man who had nothing left to give for his team.
Landon Donovan may be the most iconic player in American soccer history, but there’s definitely a case to be made that Tim Howard is the greatest. And never has the star of this all-time great shined brighter than it did on Tuesday evening in Salvador, Brazil, where Tim Howard almost single-handedly willed the United States past Belgium and into the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the pitch. Maybe the the puns should be kept to a minimum, but at what should be the very peak of his career Uruguayan superstar Luis Suarez has bitten what should be a sensational career in its own behind.
The main talking point of the 2014 World Cup should be the numerous upsets that has sent several of soccer’s blue bloods home early. That would include Uruguay’s 1-0 win over Italy which saw Gil Azzurri’s head coach and other heads roll immediately after the final whistle.
But instead everyone is talking about something else.
For the third time in four years serial biter Luis Suarez has struck again. He bit PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal in 2010 while playing for Dutch juggernaut Ajax, and was suspended for seven matches. Then last year he bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic and was banned for 10 matches.
The third time should be the charm, and FIFA has no choice but to throw the book at him. The organization needs to clamp down like a shark off the coast of Recife, and Suarez may have a fate similar to Sam Quint. The organization can ban a player for as long as two years.
Maybe Suarez should consult with baseball’s Miguel Olivo, who was recently shown the door after biting a teammate in a dugout altercation as a member of the Albuquerque Isotopes. That will likely be the last act of Olivo’s professional baseball career.
Suarez’s fate won’t be quite that bad only because he is arguably soccer’s most prolific goal scorer. But he will have an extended vacation to work on his apparent cravings and biting fetishes.
Most of the media has focused on how Suarez should be suspended for the rest of the World Cup, but a suspension will likely go long beyond that. The biggest loser will end up being Suarez’s club team, Liverpool.
When last seen, Liverpool lost its best chance at a Premier League title back in May after Steven Gerrard slipped and the team squandered a three-goal lead at Crystal Palace. It was devastating in the short and long-term for a number of reasons. Gerrard is not getting any younger, Manchester United’s rebuilding program will likely not go longer than one year, and odds were good Suarez wouldn’t make it through the World Cup without making his next stupid mistake.
Even if Suarez gets off relatively easy I would expect a six-month ban, through the end of the calendar year. That would eliminate him from half of the domestic season and the entire group stage of the Champions League. By that time Liverpool will likely be battling Everton and Tottenham for fifth place rather than having designs on a championship.
The silver lining is that Liverpool can think ahead with the new domestic campaign still weeks away and the transfer window still to open. There won’t be a scoring talent like Suarez available, but the club should have funds to find either another striker or shore up its leaky defense which towards the end of last season lacked bite.
By the time the 2018 World Cup rolls around Suarez’s career will be on the downswing. He can consult with Landon Donovan on how brief someone’s reign as star of a national team can be. The world will go on confronting much larger issues.
At least Suarez knows he has left his mark on the 2014 World Cup, literally and figuratively.
The United States Men’s National Soccer Team was seconds away from seeing through a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Portugal. The U.S. was poised to secure a berth into the Round of 16 with a game to spare, while temporarily silencing many critics in their own country. Then Cristiano Ronaldo, playing at far less than 100 percent, made one last frantic rush down the right flank. His crossing pass to Silvestre Varela was perfect and led to a walk-off tying goal for the Portuguese. For neutral soccer fans worldwide, it was a celebration of one of the best matches of the 2014 World Cup.
There were talking points and momentum swings on both sides. NBA Draft prospect Joel Embiid raised eyebrows by tipping his cap to Ronaldo on social media.
The average American Soccer Hater cheered the Portugal goal as well. Among my connections, I do not run across many who are just “neutral” on the game. It is either complete support for the USMNT or hating the team and the sport like biological rubbish.
The criticism and sarcasm is the same. They complain about tie games. They will complain in a fortnight when such games are decided on penalty kicks. They will mock the lack of goals, criticize how stoppage time is handled, offside rules, players flopping and other gamesmanship. They make references to players receiving orange slices then compare the game to the metric system, claiming because the rest of the world follows it doesn’t mean America will ever follow suit.
In 1980, the United States Olympic hockey team solidified and galvanized a nation. It mattered little that it involved a game many did not understand. As Al Michaels said at the time, “It doesn’t matter if you don’t know a blue line from a clothesline.” By the time that team won the gold medal people knew the names of every single player on it.
The U.S. soccer team doesn’t enjoy such universal support. Its presence divides America. The USMNT doesn’t represent America, but certain segments of America. It is said the game is followed by nerdy hipsters. They shop at Trader Joe’s, drink lattes, ride their bicycles to work and listen to indy records. It is a lifestyle fans of the National Football League would never adhere to.
Impressively, soccer has gained American popularity in recent years. If you don’t believe it, try to find a ticket to an MLS game, in some cases it is far more expensive to get into than the NBA or Major League Baseball. Some European teams will tour America later this summer, those tickets are sold at NFL-level prices.
But Soccer Hater is as prevalent as ever, for a multitude of reasons. Jim Rome is an example of someone who is derisive on the subject. There is a reason. The fear is talking soccer kills radio ratings. In Los Angeles a sportstalk host can never go wrong opening up the lines to a Lakers conversation on any day. Same goes for Dallas talking Cowboys football. Down south it is never too early to discuss Les Miles and verbal commitments for LSU’s 2016 football class.
England is the polar opposite, and eagerly awaiting the run up towards the next domestic season in mere weeks. The fans there will also be annoyed by the intrusion of three National Football League games. The NFL shows up in Piccadilly Circus and other venues in an attempt to sell the game. While many will show up at Wembley Stadium to see the actual product, the vast majority would like to tell Roger Goodell and his invading army to take the next flight back, or at least send better teams than the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins.
Soccer Hater may have a field day this week. The United States and Germany can both advance by playing to a draw in their final group game. Soccer Hater would be quickly joined by conspiracy theorist, and Bohemian Grove would be impressed. Don’t let the fact that the U.S. can claim first place in the group with the win and potentially draw an easier opponent in the knockout stage.
If forced to choose between the National Football League and soccer, I would personally go with the NFL just because I’ve been that way since childhood. What I don’t like is suggestions of what sports I should or shouldn’t follow.
It is unfortunate. The U.S. Team is proving to be every bit as good as it’s No. 13 world ranking, and capable of going deep into the tournament. Those ignoring the drama and exploits of United States soccer are doing nothing but cheating themselves.