Spellbound in Brazil

2014-06-22 15:02

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In what’s turning out to be a thrilling and frantic World Cup, Timothy Molobi gathers the facts

Fact?1: Defending champions can’t do the double. France were embarrassed in 2002 after winning in 1998 and Italy went the same route in 2010 after winning in Germany in 2006; and now Spain is feeling the pain. All suffered the humiliation of being knocked out in the first round as defending champions. So once again, new champions will be crowned next month.

The dream of having the European Championship, Uefa Europa League Cup, Uefa Champions League and the World Cup trophies all in Spain went up in smoke at Rio’s Estadio Maracana on Wednesday.

Fact?2: A team that wins the Confederations Cup never wins the World Cup. Football followers can’t wait to see if this fact holds up.

Brazil won last year’s Confederations Cup on home soil and are a game away from advancing to the last 16.

They also won the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa, but failed to win the World Cup a year later when they were knocked out in the quarterfinals by the Netherlands. Now it remains to be seen if they will bust the long-standing myth.

Fact?3: A foreign coach has never won the World Cup. Another question mark still hanging over the tournament is whether a foreign coach will win the World Cup. So far, indications are that this will remain a distant dream as all the favourites are coached by men of the same nationality.

Fact?4: Australia was the first country to be knocked out of the 2014 Fifa World Cup after losing their opening two matches. This was followed by the defending champions and Cameroon.

Fact?5: The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon are no longer a force to be reckoned with. Their early exit was hardly surprising after their protracted contract negotiations that nearly derailed their World Cup plans.

It is time they let go of some of their players. Samuel Eto’o, who was called a traitor for leading the mini bonus strike before the event, should lead by example and call it a day on the international stage.

Fact?6: No one saw Spain’s early exit coming. This is what made their early exit even more humiliating. Dumped out of the World Cup after just two group matches, the nation’s footballers have now relinquished the crown they once wore with distinction.

But signs have always been there for the aging Spaniards, who had thrilled and mesmerised their fans for years.

They were beaten, thrashed and humiliated by the Netherlands last week, a defeat that not only brought a shattering halt to the domination Spain had enjoyed on the international stage, but signalled the end of an era.

Over the past few years, Spain has been invincible as it thrilled those who marvelled at its “tiki-taka” style of play and ability to make the game look so effortless.

But the wheels started coming off at last year’s Confederations Cup, where they lost to hosts Brazil in the final.

Captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas was the main letdown, proving to be the weakest last line of defence in the two games.

For Spain, it is now time to rebuild on the excellent foundation laid by the likes of Xavi and Iniesta, and freshen up if they are to become the invincible force they once were. But it will take time.

Just last week, Spain were ranked as the most valuable team in the World Cup, but after their embarrassing exit in the first round, their market value will surely plummet.

Such is the nature of the beautiful game.

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