With World Cup withdrawal syndrome now well and truly set in, the time is right to review each team’s tournament performances. From the refreshing Costa Ricans to the dismal Cameroonians it was a tournament of indescribable highs and unconsolable lows. Here’s a look back at how each of the 32 teams fared. (It’s also worth noting that the team’s grades are based on their pre-tournament expectation levels).
2014 proved to be Algeria’s most successful World Cup in their history, with a first ever appearance in the knockout stages. A brave effort against Germany was not enough as the eventual winners stumbled over the line after extra time. Exciting performances from Slimani and Feghouli in attack proved to be huge positives and hopes should be high heading into next year’s African Cup of Nations.
High Point: A first half blitz against South Korea which laid the foundations for an impressive 4-2 win.
Low Point: Eventually succumbing to German pressure after extra time in the round of 16.
Ultimately losing a World Cup Final will be the abiding memory from an Argentinian perspective, but Messi and company can be proud of their efforts. Messi’s group stage goals saw expectations soar but their progress through the knockout stages owed perhaps more to fantastic defensive performances, while the leadership from Mascherano was a particular highlight.
High Point: Maxi Rodriguez’ winning penalty which sealed victory over the Netherlands and ensured a first final appearance in 24 years.
Low Point: Mario Gotze’s tournament winning goal will haunt many an Argentinean for years to come.
Despite losing all three group games, the Socceroos earned a few fans along the way with their fast, attacking style ensuring there were plenty of goals in all of their games. Ultimately, conceding 3 goals per game is not really good enough at this level, but they perhaps did better than some expected.
High Point: If it weren’t for a certain Colombian, Tim Cahill’s thunderous volley against the Netherlands would surely be Goal of the Tournament.
Low Point: Failure to register a shot on target against Spain in a 3-0 defeat.
Given the amount of expectation on this Belgium team, it was always going to be difficult for them to deliver on the promise of their pre-tournament hype. They were solid, but far from spectacular, and only really played with any genuine threat and guile in the extra time excitement against the USA. All in all a rather disappointing display.
High Point: The 30 minutes of extra time against those plucky American’s was perhaps the most exciting football of the whole tournament.
Low Point: A feeble performance against Argentina saw their tournament end at the quarter final stage.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Another European team with a lot of expectation, this was Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first tournament and it didn’t go quite as planned. Defeat in their opening two games meant the final group win against Iran was ultimately meaningless. A first tournament is something for the players and fans to be proud of however.
High Point: Given the disappointing level of performance at the tournament, perhaps their qualification for a first major competition should be seen as their highlight.
Low Point: A lacklustre 1-0 defeat to Nigeria which ensured their elimination.
The World Cup delivered a roller-coaster of emotions for the hosts and pre-tournament favourites. On the back of some fantastic performances by Neymar (pardon the pun), it seemed as if destiny may be on their side. Ultimately however, injury, suspension and failure to deal with the extreme emotions involved led to the horrendous display against Germany. A lot of changes need to be made if the Brazilians are to reclaim their position as one of the World’s elite national sides.
High Point: Well, at least Argentina didn’t win it! Also, Neymar’s performances suggest there is at least one decent footballer left in Brazil.
Low Point: Being embarrassed in front of your entire nation? That 7-1 defeat will live long in the memory of Luiz, Marcelo and the other Brazilian “Defenders”.
A pathetic offering from a nation that has exhilarated audiences at this stage in the past. It’s fair to say this current crop of Cameroonian’s don’t hold a candle to the Roger Milla led teams of the 90s. Three losses, ill-discipline and fighting between teammates sums up a campaign that the African’s would like to forget in a hurry.
High Point: Scoring against Brazil was as good as it got for the Lions.
Low Point: Benoit Assou-Ekotto nutting his teammate Benjamin Moukandjo is about as low as it gets.
A fine showing from the South American outfit who did very well to escape their group, their 2-0 win over Spain was one of the best team performances of the tournament. A loss against Netherlands was a bitter blow as it meant a clash with Brazil in the last 16 which would ultimately prove the end of the road for the Chileans.
High Point: Their first half performance against Spain was a joy to behold.
Low Point: A heart-breaking penalty shoot-out defeat at the hands of the hosts was a cruel way to bow out of the competition.
Despite missing their talismanic striker Radamel Falcao, the Colombians were arguably the most impressive team in the tournament up until their elimination at the quarter final stage. The performances of James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado and Mario Yepes were particularly memorable. Their fluid attacking style of football won over many fans during the competition.
High Point: The breakout performances of James Rodriguez and that goal against Uruguay will be remembered for a long long time.
Low Point: Following their defeat against Brazil, the image of a tearful Rodriguez was a particularly heart wrenching moment.
The feel-good story of the tournament was undoubtedly Costa Rica’s march to the quarter finals. The Ticos delivered impressive performances en route to topping a group which included Italy, England and Uruguay. The Netherlands did finally get the better of the plucky Central Americans in a penalty shootout but Keylor Navas, Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell in particular had the whole of Costa Rica in a celebratory mood throughout the tournament.
High Point: The whole tournament? The penalties victory against Greece was perhaps their fondest memory.
Low Point: Their eventual elimination via penalties put an end to their unexpectedly glorious summer.
A relatively positive start to the tournament, where they were unfortunate to lose to Brazil in the opening game, ultimately ended in disappointment for a Croatian team who failed to make it out of the group stage. Despite possessing one of the tournaments strongest midfields, 3 points is a poor return for a team with such talent and Mexico progressed at their expense.
High Point: Taking the lead against the hosts in a tournament opener is a high not many teams get the opportunity to experience.
Low Point: Getting dumped out by Mexico, after losing 3-1 in a winner takes all encounter.
A disappointing performance from the South American side who have players capable of better. An opening loss against the Swiss made their task very tough and a draw against an already qualified France team was not enough to make it to the next stage. Even their sole victory against the lowly Hondurans saw them get outplayed for large periods of the game.
High Point: The goal scoring exploits of Enner Valencia.
Low Point: Switzerland’s last gasp goal which condemned the Ecuadorians to an agonising 2-1 defeat.
A hugely disappointing showing from Hodgson’s side. A flickering flame of optimism began to grow following a half-decent display in defeat against the Italians but this was quickly extinguished by the boot of Luis Suarez. The final group game, a dead rubber against an already qualified Costa Rican side, must have proved painful viewing for English supporters.
High Point: Rooney’s equaliser against Uruguay looked like it was going to be a turning point for both his and England’s World Cup tournament.
Low Point: Defensive mistakes costing them dear and allowing Suarez to send them home early.
A positive showing from a French side of whom no one really knew what to expect. However the performances of Pogba, Varane and Griezmann highlighted the team’s potential. They were narrowly edged out by their German neighbours in the quarter finals but offered enough in the tournament to suggest that Euro 2016 could yet prove very winnable for Les Bleus.
High Point: The performances of young guns Pogba and Varane must have been very exciting from a French perspective.
Low Point: Running out of steam and ideas against the Germans.
The ultimate tournament performance saw the German’s stumble in the early stages before picking up some strong momentum in the knockout rounds. Portugal, France, Brazil and Argentina were all defeated and with the likes of Neuer, Hummels, Kroos, Khedira, Reus, Ozil, Muller and Gotze still having their best years ahead of them the future is very bright for the 2014 World Champions.
High Point: Gotze’s winner ensured Germany would win their first World Cup in 24 years.
Low Point: With the trophy in the bag there were no low points.
Ghana’s tournament got off to a rough start a very early and avery late goals saw them defeated in their opener against the USA. They bounced back with a positive draw against the Germans but a loss to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal ended any hopes of progression. Controversy with player bonuses as well as disciplinary issues off the field did not help their case.
High Point: A fantastic second half against champions Germans saw them secure a famous 2-2 draw.
Low Point: The behaviour of Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari, both experienced star players for the team, was nothing short of disgraceful.
Brian Bowler, Pundit Arena.