Biggest winners from the 2014 World Cup

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Germany was the big winner, of course, but that’s not exactly what we’re talking about here. At least, we’re not limiting ourselves to the results on the field.

Taking a broader view of the 2014 World Cup, which players, coaches, and teams came out as big winners? Who came into the tournament with one perception and, by virtue of what happened over the last four weeks, has crafted a new reputation for themselves? Who used Brazil 2014 raise their profile in the soccer world?

And let’s not limit this to what happened on the field.  When we look back on the 2014 World Cup, what other aspects will leap from our memories, serving as the surprise contributions that helped define the tournament’s second trip to Brazil.

Undoubtedly, there are too many to list; then again, that’s what comments sections are for. Still, here are the handful that jump out to us one day after festivities have ended in at this summer’s World Cup.

The Players

Tim Howard – The long-time Everton keeper had established a certain level of respect within England, but aside from the most loyal of U.S. Men’s National Team diehards, few would have listed him as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. While that status may still be slightly beyond the 35-year-old’s reach, after his Round of 16 performance against Belgium, his name’s going to come up more often. Germany’s Manuel Neuer is now recognized as the best goalkeeper in the world, but you don’t have to move too far down that list before asking whether Howard deserves recognition.

Miroslav Klose – He’s never going to be discussed among the best strikers in history, but after claiming the World Cup’s all-time scoring record, the 36-year-old has a claim to being the tournament’s best striker. Longevity is certainly on his side, as is his production, but perception is not, something we may want to reconsider. As Klose’s 2014 shows, it’s easy to take the reliable for granted. As German found out, there’s something to be said for somebody who “merely” does his job very, very well. Where Klose started the tournament as an as-needed number nine, he ended it as a starter.

Javier Mascherano – Do you realize there’s a team in the world that has both Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano? After seeing what the Argentina destroyer did in Brazil, it’s tempting to ask why those two can’t play in the same midfield with Barcelona. Yeah, the club’s preferred style and formation mean … blah, blah, blah … Why would you ever want to take Mascherano out of midfield? Crucial to protecting Argentina’s defense, the former Liverpool linchpin proved his still one of the best defensive midfielders in the game, even if he doesn’t get to play the position as often as he wants.

source: AP

Guillermo Ochoa – The former America goalkeeper’s promising international career was derailed when Javier Aguirre went away from him before the 2010 World Cup. It took four years and a pre-tournament injury to Jose de Jesus Corona to get that career back on track, but over four games in Brazil, the free agent goalkeeper reminded us of the promise he flashed in his early 20s. Now we wait and see what Memo’s World Cup breakthrough means for his club career.

Arjen Robben – Robben is recognized within the game as one of the world’s more dangerous attackers, but amid frequent injuries, playing in Germany, and a reputation for treating any contact like an artillery shell, his talents get overshadowed. In Brazil, however, the system Louis van Gaal implemented allowed Robben’s speed and skill to shine in transition, reminding the world that beyond the game’s absolute elite, there may be no player more dangerous than the Dutch star.

James Rodríguez – Radamel Falcao’s injury was a huge loss for the tournament, but Colombia may have been better for it. With James as the team’s focal point, the Cafeteros made a quarterfinal run, along the way establishing their 22-year-old as one of the world’s most exciting players. Back at Monaco, the five games James played in Brazil may become a distant memory, but if the 2014 World Cup provided any hint of his future, a new superstar was born.

[ MORE from our 2014 World Cup review ]

The Coaches

Jurgen Klinsmann – Group of Death or not, almost nobody expected the United States to get out of Group G. But advance they did, vindicating the controversial decisions Klinsmann has made in the run-up to Brazil. Though the team was again eliminated in extra time at the Round of 16, Klinsmann’s redemption continued, with the Germany program he helped build claiming the country’s first title in 24 years. In both his old and new homes, Klinsmann has begun converting doubters into fans, convincing some that his aloof confidence is based on a vision that may actually work.

Louis van Gaal – The Netherlands’ inability to qualify for World Cup 2002 was one of the blights on van Gaal’s résumé. Over the last four weeks, he’s earned redemption, taking a Dutch team picked to crash out in group stage to the tournament’s semifinals. Now on his way to Manchester United, van Gaal will have another reclamation project to master, but in his two years with the Dutch, he’s taken a team humbled by Euro 2012 embarrassment and restored its place among the best nations in the world.

The Countries

source: APAlgeria – The Fennec Foxes had never qualified for the knockout round, with the ghosts of Austria and Germany’s 1982 collusion lingering 32 years later. In South Africa, the team didn’t even score a goal, leaving few hopeful Vahid Halilhodzic’s team would make a big impact in Brazil. Yet employing a quicker, more ambitious approach, Algeria bested Russia for second in their group, eventually taking Germany to extra time in the Round of 16. Shunning their own limitations, the Foxes set a new standard for themselves, making waves at the World Cup in the process.

Costa Rica – Perhaps the biggest Cinderellas since Turkey and South Korea made the semifinals in 2002, the Ticos showed a five-man defense need not be boring. Jorge Luis Pinto’s men were among the hardest workers in the tournament, an ethic that allowed them to navigate one of the competition’s deepest groups. While drawing Greece provided some fortune in the Round of 16, the Costa Ricans took the Netherlands to penalty kicks in the quarters, becoming CONCACAF’s best performer at the 2014 World Cup.

France – For Les Bleus, 2014 went beyond getting results on the field. Looking to redeem the team that was a source of embarrassment in 2010, France played some of the most attractive soccer of the tournament, and while they eventually met their end in the quarterfinals, their run helped erase the lingering unease over what happened in South Africa. Now, France can push on knowing the likes of Paul Pogba and Antoine Greizmann are capable of ushering in a new era, one that will make 2010 less of a memory than a footnote.

Germany – Obviously, the biggest winners of the tournament, but coming off a disappointing Euro 2012, die Nationalmannschaft’s triumph represents something more than the world title. Though the reforms Klinsmann introduced helped move the program out of its 2004 nadir, the semifinal loss to Italy two years ago highlighted a fragility in the team – a fault that introduced new doubts for a squad with nearly unmatched talent. With their win in Brazil, though, there’s no more room for doubt. Even if this generation crashed out of the next two tournaments, they’d still have this moment on top of the world.

source: Getty ImagesThe Supporting Cast

Goal-line technology – From Ochoa’s save on Neymar in the group stage to Ron Vlaar’s near goal in Holland’s penalty kick shootout against Argentina, goal-line technology was implemented simply, elegantly, and without error, with the goal-no goal graphics sparking a number of memes through the competition. Perhaps FIFA should have implemented this sooner, once they did, they got it right.

Vanishing spray – While it was funny to hear the rest of the world’s reaction to a technology the Americas have used for some time, vanishing spray still represented a big win for world soccer. Perhaps that victory was lesson by some’s confusion the vanishing paint with an ability to make objects disappear, but that’s more about branding (and, education levels) than implementation. As Major League Soccer knows, there’s no reason why every major league shouldn’t use this stuff.

The World Cup – Seemingly from the tournament’s opening weekend, Brazil 2014 was lauded as one of the most entertaining World Cups in memory, and while there was some discussion of the tournament slowing as it reached its knockout rounds, drama in competition’s final rounds helped restore the competition’s last impression. With the last bastion of soccer nihilism watching in record numbers (at least, that’s how some want to see the U.S.), the World Cup was winning some of soccer’s final battles. Unless our memories fail us, Brazil 2014 will be remembered as one of the greatest World Cups.

Gonzalo Higuain to Inter Miami confirmed

Gonzalo Higuain to Inter Miami
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Gonzalo Higuain to Inter Miami is official.

The Argentine superstar is finally coming to MLS. After years of speculation about Higuain, 32, joining an MLS club, his move from Juventus to Inter Miami has been confirmed and he will be a Designated Player for the Floridian franchise.

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Higuain has been handed the No. 9 jersey by the MLS side who are in their inaugural season, and David Beckham’s franchise finally have someone to finish off the chances they’ve been creating.

Now that Gonzalo Higuain to Inter Miami is official, here’s what the prolific center forward had to say.

“First of all, I want to thank Inter Miami for the effort it has made to sign me. I think it will be a beautiful experience in my life. It’s what I was looking for – a new experience, a new league and a beautiful city. I’m really happy to be here and that it’s official,” Higuain said. “My goal is to try to transmit all the experience I acquired in Europe and to help the team grow.”

“I feel good, I feel whole as a player. I’m motivated to try a new league and help the team grow. Individually, my goal is to demonstrate that I can contribute and continue playing great futbol here, and I hope I can achieve that because I have all the tools necessary to succeed. Inter Miami is a team in construction but there is already a good base to reach important goals.”

After adding Blaise Matuidi on a TAM deal last month, Inter Miami are making moves. Big time. They have yet to suffer a blowout defeat in their first season in MLS but they sit bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and have won just twice so far.

Scoring goals has been a problem for Diego Alonso’s side who have scored nine goals in their first 11 games of the 2020 season.

Scoring goals has never been a problem for Higuain. Well, except in the 2014 World Cup final…

Higuain is about as pure of a goalscorer as you can get and has proven that during a sensational 15-year career in Europe. He drifts into the perfect positions and has that knack of keeping his cool when it matters most. He scored 121 goals and added 56 assists in 264 appearances for Real Madrid before scoring 91 goals in 146 games for Napoli and 66 in 148 appearances for Juventus. Wedged in-between all of that were loan spells at Chelsea and AC Milan where he had limited success.

Still, Higuain to MLS is a big deal and defenders across the league will be wary of his clinical finishing. If the success his brother, Gonzalo, has had in MLS is anything to go by, this will be a lot of fun and will involve a lot of goals. Just what Inter Miami needed.

Southampton – Tottenham: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Southampton – Tottenham: This will be a tight game on Sunday (Watch live at 7am ET, online via Peacock) at St Mary’s as Ralph Hasenhuttl and Jose Mourinho have locked horns three times already in 2020.

SOUTHAMPTON – TOTTENHAM STREAM LIVE

Saints have won the league game, draw an FA Cup game at home and lost the FA Cup replay away at Tottenham and all three of those games were tightly contested encounters. With Spurs having a quick turnaround given their Europa League qualifying win in Bulgaria on Thursday, plus League Cup and Europa League games next midweek, Mourinho may be forced to shuffle his pack.

After losing their opening game of the Premier League, both clubs will want to get back on track quickly.

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Here is everything you need to know ahead of Tottenham this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Southampton – Tottenham (INJURY REPORT)

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl has been without Stuart Armstrong through injury, while Nathan Redmond suffered a knock in their surprising League Cup defeat to second-tier Brentford in midweek. Saints have yet to get going this season and Hasenhuttl may shake up his squad.

Mourinho has Giovani Lo Celso back in training, while there is perhaps the possibility that Gareth Bale and Sergio Reguilon could feature but it may be too late after their impending arrival from Real Madrid on Friday.


What they’re saying

Ralph Hasenhuttl on Southampton not being fully fit to start the season: “We are not playing quick enough at the moment. Not aggressive enough without the ball. We are not at the fitness levels we had last season. This is not surprising we had no pre-season where we could work together. But yes we should go quickly to a different level otherwise it’ll be difficult.”

Eric Dier on Tottenham’s congested fixture schedule: “If you look at the schedule, it isn’t showing any care for players’ physical welfare. It’s common sense really, trying to ask someone to play Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday. It doesn’t seem like there is any care for players’ welfare in that situation.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Southampton are the underdogs (+210) but have matched up well against Tottenham in recent meetings. Spurs are favored (+130) but the draw (+235) looks likely in this one and Mourinho will probably take that given all of their recent games.

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Prediction

Danny Ings can cause Tottenham problems and if Saints start quickly, as they like to do, they can catch Spurs out. Tottenham will sit back and then look to hit Saints on the counter and hope the quality of Son, Kane and Co. will see them through. I’m going for a draw. 1-1.


How to watch Southampton – Tottenham stream and start time

Kickoff: 7 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Chelsea – Liverpool: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Chelsea – Liverpool: This is always one of the biggest games of the Premier League season and on Sunday (Watch live at 11:30am ET, online via Peacock) at Stamford Bridge we can expect all-out attack between these two stacked heavyweights.

CHELSEA – LIVERPOOL STREAM LIVE

Frank Lampard and Chelsea have spent close to $300 million on new players this summer and may spend even more as they look to make the leap from a top four team to title contenders. As for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp, the reigning champions had a scare in their opening day win against Leeds but will know they will have plenty of chances to score against Chelsea.

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Here is everything you need to know ahead of Chelsea – Liverpool this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Chelsea – Liverpool (INJURY REPORT)

Chelsea will be without USMNT star Christian Pulisic as Lampard revealed he suffered a minor injury setback from his hamstring issue. This game has also come too early for new signings Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva to make their debuts as they work their way towards full fitness. Timo Werner is fit after suffering a small injury on his debut.

Liverpool could have Kostas Tsimikas available as he’s back in training following a period of self-isolation after he tested positive for COVID-19. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be missing once again after he picked up a knee injury, while Xherdan Shaqiri is battling back from yet another injury. 


What they’re saying

Timo Werner believes Chelsea have similar quality to Liverpool: “We will improve game by game but now we have to play on Sunday and we try to win the game. We are playing against a strong team and they have such good players, not only Virgil van Dijk, the whole defending part of Liverpool are very good. They conceded the least goals in the league and it is a great team in every position. But we also have great players and we have the quality to beat them. It will be an interesting game.”

Jurgen Klopp on Mohamed Salah’s hat trick on the opening day against Leeds: “Of all the good performances Mo had for us obviously, this was for sure one of the better ones. So he should be proud of that because it’s very special to have these kind of numbers. ‘Long may it continue,’ I like to think in these moments, and this time I say it as well.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Chelsea (+215) are the underdogs but Liverpool’s odds are longer (+115) than many would expect. Chelsea have done well against Liverpool in recent seasons and seem to match up with them well, and the draw (+270) would be the smart bet in this one. Both teams would take that early in the season and move on.

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Prediction

I’m going for a goalfest here and I think both teams will have plenty of chances and it’s all about who is more clinical. Liverpool will try to shore things up at the back but I think Chelsea know how to get behind them and Werner, if he’s fit, will cause problems. I’m going for 3-3. This will be a classic.


How to watch Chelsea – Liverpool stream and start time

Kickoff: 11:30 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Is Gareth Bale’s return to Tottenham a good idea?

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Gareth Bale to Tottenham is a transfer which is romantic. It has Spurs fans everywhere reminiscing about the good old days of eight years ago when he was ripping up the Premier League. This season-long loan deal probably has Bale dreaming of being a star in the PL once again.

But is this Gareth Bale to Tottenham a good idea? Is joining this Tottenham a good idea for Gareth Bale?

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Bale, 31, has been hit by injuries hard in recent seasons but we’re talking about a player who has won four UEFA Champions League titles, two La Liga titles and every other major trophy possible since he left Tottenham for Real Madrid in 2013. Even though things have turned sour at Real in recent seasons — fallouts with Zinedine Zidane, the fans and the media amid the injuries — he is still one of the best wingers in the game, on his day.

The Welshman has always performed well for his country and is capable of scoring sensational goals and taking a game by the scruff of the neck at key moments. But can he do this week in, week out at Tottenham and in the Premier League right now? Does he have to?

As the ProSoccerTalk lads point out in the video above, Bale will have a lot more help from this current Spurs squad compared to when he bailed out (pardon the pun) Andre Villas-Boas’ side time and time again in the past. Harry Kane and Heung-min Son will carry the main goalscoring burden and Bale is around to help Spurs with his big game experience.

That should suit him well.

Jose Mourinho loves to bring in star players as short-term solutions because, well, he is rarely around for longer than three years at a club. See: Ibrahimovic, Zlatan and Sanchez, Alexis. He wants to win now and wants to be successful now and Bale helps Spurs immediately, as long as he can stay fit.

This is a risky deal for Bale and Tottenham, though. Best case scenario for Bale is that he flourishes and with a year left on his contract at Real Madrid he’s in a good position to get another big deal elsewhere, maybe even at Tottenham. Worst case scenario, Spurs have just blown a load of cash chasing nostalgia and Bale will return to Real Madrid next summer with his tail between his legs.

There’s no doubting his quality but with Tottenham, Bale and Mourinho all involved, this feels like we should be warming up our popcorn in the microwave.

Whichever way it goes, it will be eventful.