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  • James Rodriguez, Marco Reus and Chelsea FC:  Football Power 101

    James Rodriguez, Marco Reus and Chelsea FC: Football Power 101

  • Micah Richards: To The Blue Moon And Back

    Micah Richards: To The Blue Moon And Back

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    Did Antonio Conte's Ambition Outgrow Juventus?

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    Blackpool - How to build a squad for next to nothing

The stage was set, the script written. One of the most pulsating, passionate yet professional World Cup finals of recent years was drawing to a close as the last few seconds of extra time leaked away. As it stood, Joachim Löw’s impressive German team had one hand firmly wrapped around the trophy, after Mario Götze’s stunning chested volley fizzed André Schürrle's cross past a stricken Sergio Romero with 113 minutes on the clock. Then Lionel Messi, the heir apparent to Diego Maradona, finally had his moment. Hauled down in the injury time of extra time by the otherwise indomitable Bastian Schweinsteiger, Argentina’s talisman was a free-kick away from salvaging a penalty shoot-out for his country, and a chance to beat Die Adler at their own game. The ghosts of a hundred and one footballing legends circled the Maracanã, as the whole world watched a shrimp of a man from Rosario in confidence, in expectation. But it wasn’t to be. Not for the first time that night, Messi let us down, shooting a set-piece that wouldn’t look out of place on a wet Wednesday night in Stoke high over the bar. Argentina had lost the World Cup final, and Messi, devastatingly, had fallen short of the standards we set for him.

I'll say this now.

I don't have a lot of time for England. I don't like international games, I don't like the endless collection of St George's flags lashed across advertising hoardings, suspended from rooftops and flown from cars every two years. Furthermore, I hate international breaks, as it means no Liverpool game for a fortnight and my weekly fix of all things Red is put on hold so we can watch a host of rookie England players obtain their only caps before the big lads return for the tournaments. 'What have we learned from this game, Alan?' 'Well, we know that the subs board works.'

It was supposed to be all about the world’s best player. The stage was set for Lionel Messi, the little Argentine following in the footsteps of his compatriot and inspiration Diego Maradona in almost single-handedly dragging his side to glory against a team of Germans. But instead it became about the world’s best team.

Instead, Messi would trudge up the Maracana’s long flight of steps 120 minutes later, not to collect football’s most coveted trophy, but to pick up a barely-deserved Golden Ball award, seen by some as a token gesture in the wake of a disappointing final for the four-time Ballon d’Or winner. Messi failed to crack even a half-smile, perhaps knowing that the decision to give him the award would be deeply scrutinised.

To the game, and much of it was disappointing when compared the rest of the tournament, or at least its early stages. Perhaps understandably, given what was at stake, it was a largely tense affair.

And breathe.

What a World Cup. What was expected by many to be a turgid, sluggish affair in energy-drenching temperatures turned out to be something rather quite special. Brazil is a country notorious for its party planning and it played host to arguably the greatest festival of football there has ever been in a summer that will take more than a couple of Caipirinha’s to forget about. 171 goals were scored, the applecart was upset on more than one occasion, histrionics were at a minimum and some of the world’s best players paraded their quality on a stage that has played host to so many greats of the game in the past. Brazil 2014 was truly a triumph.

The World Cup is over for another four years; no longer will we be able to watch a display of international excellence almost every day, or compare the skills of players we probably wouldn’t have heard of otherwise (Ochoa, anyone?). But what we have been left with is an absolute feast of goals that can sustain us through the drought until Euro 2016.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the best of World Cup 2014 (in no particular order) all over again. Don’t say we’re not good to you here at Ballsy Banter.

 For a game that consists of 22 players and a pitch that is generally larger than 7000 square metres, football can be an awfully simple sport. For all the tactical preparation that is invested in a match, a culmination of scouting, training and continuous analysis, a single game of football is far too often decided by the best player on the pitch.

They may not necessarily be the most talented overall, but the one player who outperforms everyone on the pitch often does enough to tip the scales in his or her team’s favour. Such a phenomenon belies the trumpeted team nature of football. This World Cup has been emblematic of this, with many nations relying on the exploits of only one player to drag them into the latter stages of the tournament.

  • Scouting Report: Divock Origi

    Scouting Report: Divock Origi

  • Scouting Report: Ciro Immobile (Torino)

    Scouting Report: Ciro Immobile (Torino)

  • Scouting Report: Memphis Depay (PSV)

    Scouting Report: Memphis Depay (PSV)

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