After the World Cup ended on Sunday, all 32 teams have now returned home after a sizzling summer of soccer.
Many are experiencing contrasting emotions at the moment.
[ RELATED: Story of the 2014 World Cup ]
Plenty of sides under-performed in Brazil, but plenty of teams overachieved too.
Here we take a look at three teams whose stock is on the rise after their World Cup performances, plus three teams who return with their tails in-between their legs.
Momentum means a lot in soccer. Let’s see who has got it.
USA – With Jurgen Klinsmann’s side getting out of the “Group of Death” they could do no wrong heading into the knockout stages. A brave battle against Belgium resulted in defeat, but there was plenty to be positive about. Key players like Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey came up big when it mattered, while youngsters DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green showed they are stars of the future. An entire nation is hopeful ahead off Russia 2018, as the U.S. gained plenty of respect from around the globe for their gritty performances. The next two summers provide a good chance for more tournament experience, as the Gold Cup and Copa America Centenario await.
FRANCE – The French lost 1-0 to eventual champions Germany in the quarterfinals and were so close to sending the game into extra time with the final attack. Didier Deschamps’ side stumbled into the World Cup via the UEFA playoffs, but left Brazil with everyone raving about their potential to lift the European Championships on home soil in 2016. Raphael Varane (despite being bullied by Mats Hummels for the deciding goal in the quarters) impressed, Paul Pogba won the Young Player of the Tournament award and the duo of Karim Benzema and Matheiu Valbuena were live-wires up top.
NETHERLANDS – Dutch courage prevailed, as the Oranje produced some superb soccer and went for broke in Brazil. Louis van Gaal’s side smashed Spain 5-1 in the opener and were a breath of fresh air throughout. Now LVG has stepped down to take charge of Manchester United, legendary Dutch coach Gus Huddink will take over this summer. Sure, guys like Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie are getting older, but there are plenty of talented youngsters like Daley Blind, Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum who will shine bright. The future’s bright. The future’s Oranje….
Honorable mention: Colombia
SPAIN – The end of an era? It could well be. After their embarrassing title defense in Brazil, Spain could see several legendary players bowing out. Xavi, Iniesta, Iker Casillas, Xabo Alonso, David Villa… they could all make way. Will Vicente del Bosque still be in charge for the 2016 European Championships? Will Spain qualify? Is this the end of tiki-taka? So many questions have arisen after a truly disastrous World Cup.
ITALY – Another European giant and former World Cup winner is floundering after being knocked out in the group stages of the World Cup. Veterans Andrea Pirlo, Gigi Buffon and others failed to patch up a pragmatic and rather dull Cesare Prandelli side. Mario Balotelli scored in their opening win against England then disappeared for the rest of the tournament, while a lack of true attacking talent must be worrying. Prandelli is no longer in charge, could Antonio Conte be the man to restore the Azzurri’s pride?
BRAZIL – We will see what life after Luis Felipe Scolari will look like for the Selecao but it appears they have plenty of issues to address. Neymar aside, they have no superstar talents and with their monumental collapse during the 2014 World Cup, there is some serious work to be done. First they need a new manager, find out the contenders here. Then the real work can begin. Defensively they need to be more organized, in midfield they need structure and up top they need another top forward to ease the burden on Neymar. Yes, they made the semifinals on home soil this summer… but the home crowd urged them on against Colombia and Chile in tight knockout wins that only papered over the gaping cracks.
Dishonorable mention: England