For many sports commentators the Soccer 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be known as the Bite World Cup in the same way that the 1986 World Cup in Mexico is known as the Handball World Cup and 2006 World Cup in Germany is known as the Headbutting World Cup.
In 2014 Brazil, Uruguay striker Luis Suarez made news by biting the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. In 1986 Mexico, Diego Armando Maradona, captain of the Argentine team, beat English goalkeeper Peter Shilton with a goal made with the hand. Finally, in 2006 Germany, the French midfielder Zinedine Zidane was sent off in the final for headbutting Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the chest after a provocation of the latter.
In my June column I said that 2014 Brazil could be the “Latino World Cup” and for the participating Latin American countries in large measure this was true. Just look at the statistics. In the group stage, only 28 percent of the teams were from Latin America. In the next phase, the second round, this share rose to 44 percent. In the quarterfinals, the semifinals and the final, the share came to 50 percent. Although putting the icing on the cake was lacking as, in the final, Argentina collapsed against Germany.
Making a balance sheet of 2014 Brazil, the play of the Latin American squads was commendable compared to teams from the rest of continents. Of the nine teams of Oceania, Asia and Africa, all (except Algeria and Nigeria) were eliminated in the group stage, as well as, the powerful, on paper, European teams from Spain, Italy, England and Portugal.
Now it would be pertinent to make an evaluation of the performance of the nine participating Latin American teams, which to that effect can be classified into three groups: A) teams that met the expectations, B) teams that exceeded the expectations, and C) teams that fell short of the expectations.
Ecuador and Honduras are in Group A; Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile and Mexico are in group B, and; Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina are in Group C.
Analysts predicted that Honduras was going to place last in the World Cup. It was second to last. There was not much difference. As for Ecuador, it played its home games in the city of Quito, at 9,350 feet above sea level. In 2014 Brazil it had no help from the altitude, so its performance was not the same. Both teams dwelled at the bottom of their group.
Costa Rica, playing in three Brazilian cities, ranked first in its group and advanced up to the quarterfinals. Something similar happened with Colombia. For their part, both Chile and Mexico made it through to the first game of the knockout stage.
Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina suffered from their dependence on star players in their respective squads: Neymar in the case of Brazil, Luis Suarez in the case of Uruguay and Lionel Messi in the case of Argentina. In its two games without Neymar, Brazil was thrashed by a total score of 10-1 by Germany and the Netherlands. For its part, Uruguay lost both games without Suarez (by the overall score of 5-1) but won its matches with Suarez. Finally, Messi, with his passes and goals, bailed Argentina out against several teams (Iran, Nigeria, Switzerland, etc.) but his efforts were insufficient against the German team, a compact team.
The three traditional Latin American soccer powerhouses, on the Atlantic Ocean side, disappointed in all of their lines. Now they have four years to learn from their mistakes and prepare for the qualifying round for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, along with the rest of Latin American countries.
About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields (in the fiction and non-fiction genres).