As another long wait of four years commences, I look back to the last of a thrilling series of soccer that was. A month of festivities, the 20th FIFA World Cup, was brought about by Pitbull and Shakira and marked by Van Persie’s shots and Suarez’s bites. 64 matches with 32 teams played in the tropical haven of Brazil and out emerged two teams, to play for the finals on May the 13th (or rather, May the 14th , here in India).
This world cup was one of the most interesting editions of the competition with the defending champions, Spain, exiting in the first round and being shortly followed by England, Italy and later, France. Also some of the underdogs crafted the game to their advantage and teams such as Costa Rica, Columbia, Mexico, found themselves in the Super-Eights.
On an individual scale too, this world cup has proved an arena for fresh talent and experience alike. Records have been broken as rapidly as they were created. James Rodriguez has scored 6 goals, in spite of being eliminated from the quarter finals. Ronaldo Luis was bested by Miroslav Klose after he scored his 16th goal in the World Cup. While some stars led their teams upfront, scoring and defending, others concentrated on team work, sharing the field.
Thus, when the bells tolled for the finals, it was indeed a wake-up call (rather a do-not-sleep call) for the viewers to embrace the beautiful game, Jogo Bonito, as they call it, before it again exiled itself but to arrive in Russia, four years later. After a humiliating defeat of the hosts and a Dutch let-down in the semifinals, Rio prepared for battle- as warriors Germany and Argentina flew in.
Unlike most schools in the city, mine had chosen to remain open, despite a lot of unofficial requests. But this (and the test that I had) was not reason enough to dampen my world cup agenda. So there I lay in my couch, not a wink of sleep, a can in my hand, and my eyes glued to the widescreen TV, about half an hour past midnight, Monday.
The kickoff was appropriately timed and the 20 players ran about the ground, making every bit of effort to gain control but somehow the ball balanced its time between the Whites and Blues. After a few minutes of smooth dribbling, finally the Argentine skipper was approaching the post. No luck there. 20 minutes into the game…out of the blue (Oh! The irony), Kroos appeared and jumped up in the centre of midfield and gave a header back to his own goal… right into the path of Higuain. He had a clear run through on goal and just the keeper to beat. But it seemed Argentina was definitely not having a easy way across. Higuain shot the ball way wide of the post, not exactly a close miss. The commentators could be heard, “Today, should Argentina lose by a goal…. Higuain….” The other skipper, Lahm, was advancing steadily now and it looked as if Germans were finally in the field. Passes later, just as the Brazuca neared the post, offside, was the call. But it was another offside in the 29th minute that stole the show. Higuain again. Driving the ball in, celebrations were in order. But wait…there’s the linesman with flag raised. Offside. A wonderful decision, no doubt, but it did dampen the Argentine hopes.
Krammer going out injured and a few cards and warnings were the only interesting sights till Messi approached the right flank and went ahead to the other half. Thankfully, Germany had enough men to contain him. The next couple of minutes saw a steady contest between Müller and Messi, a relief now to the bored Indian eye. The first half came to an end with two corners for Germany, safely encountered.
Adrenaline had by now got better of sleep, and the second half was eagerly awaited. Of course, by now there were new cans in my hand and popcorn bowl was refilled. The rest of it was messed up mixture of painful waiting and keep-calm mood.
The second half started with Aguero coming in. Somehow, it edged in my mind that there’s more to this game. Next up was the twin attack by Messi and Higuain on German defenses. Wide haphazard shots flew and it was a quite a while before Germany was back on its feet.
And to mention the second half without this view of the Redeemer would be unthinkable. The game moved slowly… apart from Neuer climbing Higuain, the rest was a dull affair.
The 86th minute was time for Miroslav Klose to bid a final goodbye to the world cup that had given him his 16th goal. He came out amidst a rousing cheer of German fans.
Inevitably the game gave away to extra time…..
Odd as it may seem even the extra time seemed to have a boring undercurrent to it. Or at least the first half of the extra time was. Just when everyone (includes me, yes) was wishing penalties would commence, Schweinsteiger was fouled thrice, by Biglia, Mascherano and finally Aguero, who hit him giving him his scar, which would be later mentioned by Zaman Quashef,
“He’ll be telling his grandchildren the story of that scar.” And then came the fateful assist in the 113th minute. Schurrle passes on to Gotze who assumes control of the ball nicely, before letting it slide past Romero. Germany had scored. One step closer to history, Germany was.
Argentina could not get back to it, save for the last minute, where Messi made a desperate last attempt but that was all it was. An Attempt.
So for the first time in the history, a European country, Germany, won the World Cup on the South American soil. As my slow watch struck 3, thus ended the 20th FIFA World Cup, Brazil with Germany the new Champions….
Neil McCormick writes in the Daily Telegraph: “Twenty years ago, the body of Kurt Cobain was discovered, dead by his own hand in a brutal act of self-destruction, immediately launching Nirvana’s tortured leader into the pantheon of rock’s most iconic and tragic stars. His name burns now alongside Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and John Lennon in the front rank of rock martyrs, enduring symbols of twentieth century electric guitar music’s primal power, mixing the elixir of youth with the endless silence of death in a terrible bargain, the devil couldn’t have bettered.”
Kurt Cobain was a sallow, wasted sad-eyed beauty possessing a voice that ached with hoarse pain, as if every note wrung out of him was a matter of life and death. He exuded pure, raw emotion, never attempting to hide his angst from his audience. He was an honest performer, so to say. On September 1991, Nirvana came up with their second album-NEVERMIND. Their previous album, “BLEACH” had received mixed criticisms – it was the precursor to the modern grunge genre. Although the emotion of anger loomed in the songs of “BLEACH”, it showed great promise – especially for the lead singer, the man at the helm Kurt Donald Cobain. “NEVERMIND” is perhaps the greatest, the purest and perhaps the most thrilling rock album ever made. It soon topped music charts all over the world and Nirvana had found its place among avid music buffs and music fanatics all over the world. Kurt Cobain was gifted with a unique voice – you couldn’t point out any particular emotion and say, “The song…I think Kurt is trying to be melancholic here.” His voice was divine, possessing a raw, grungy texture. It was a montage of emotions – and these emotions were dark and torturous. Melancholy, ennui, anger, lust and passion – you could feel them scattering everywhere when he sang, like shrapnels off a bomb.
“People laugh at me because I’m different,” said Kurt Cobain, “But I laugh at them because they all are the same.” I’m just an amateur when it comes to discussing about music but the stride to be “different” was clearly prevalent in each of Nirvana’s songs. It seemed that Cobain had a hard love for experimentation – he experimented with music, with the subjects for his songs, with his lyrics. At first, the lyrics of Nirvana’s songs may seem nonsensical and hilariously absurd, but the meanings of the songs can be understood by their execution. As famed Indian rock star, Rupam Islam told in one of his interviews, “The songs have to be understood by their delivery. You can’t sit with a pen and paper and ponder over for hours about what Kurt wanted to say”. “NEVERMIND” topped Michael Jackson’s, “DANGEROUS” at number one on Billboard Charts. When “NEVERMIND” reached number one, Billboard proclaimed, “Nirvana is that rare band that has everything: critical acclaim, industry respect, pop radio appeal, and a rock-solid college/alternative base.” “IN UTERO” was Nirvana’s last album and possibly the only one that wasn’t up to Kurt Cobain’s satisfaction – he regarded that the album was not “perfect”. Nevertheless, it topped the Billboard 200 chart on September 1993. Time’s Christopher John Farley wrote in his review of the album, “Despite the fears of some alternative-music fans, Nirvana hasn’t gone mainstream, though this potent new album may once again force the mainstream to go Nirvana.” That Kurt Cobain’s imagination was flawlessly perfect, could be best understood from the incident – when Kurt wrote “SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRITS”, as a direct product of the lewd comments from his friends. “SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRITS” ranks among the greatest rock songs of all time and the anthem for Generation X.
In his later life, Kurt became a victim of heroin addiction. On April 8, 1994, Kurt was found dead at his Seattle home with a self-inflicted shotgun to his head. Cobain’s rhythm guitar style, which relied on power chords, low-note riffs, and a loose right-hand technique, featured the key components to the band’s songs. Cobain would often initially play a song’s verse riff in a clean tone, and then double it with distorted guitars when he repeated the part. In some songs the guitar would be absent from the verses entirely to allow the drums and bass guitar to support the vocals, or it would only play sparse melodies like the two-note pattern used in “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Cobain rarely played standard guitar solos, opting to play slight variations of the song’s melody as single note lines. Cobain’s solos were mostly blues-based and out of tune, which music writer Jon Chappell described as “almost an iconoclastic parody of the traditional instrumental break”, a quality typified by the note-for-note replication of the lead melody in “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the atonal solo for “Breed”. When asked about their musical education, the band states that they had no formal musical training. In fact, Cobain says: “I have no concept of knowing how to be a musician at all what-so-ever…I couldn’t even pass Guitar 101.”
Kurt Cobain influenced the future generations of musicians all over the world, including the grunge Bengali band, Fossils. For Kurt believed in honesty and sincerity to his audience and he knew fully well in his last days that he was heading into an abyss-and his imagination was slowly crumbling away as was his songwriting ability. Everett True said in 1989, “Nirvana songs treat the banal and pedestrian with a unique slant.” Cobain came up with the basic components of each song (usually writing them on an acoustic guitar), as well as the singing style and the lyrics. He emphasized that Novoselic and Grohl “have a big part in deciding on how long a song should be and how many parts it should have. So I don’t like to be considered the sole songwriter.” When asked which part of the songs he would write first, Cobain responded, “I don’t know. I really don’t know. I guess I start with the verse and then go into the chorus.” Cobain usually wrote lyrics for songs minutes before recording them. Cobain said, “When I write a song the lyrics are the least important subject. I can go through two or three different subjects in a song and the title can mean absolutely nothing at all.” Cobain told Spin in 1993 that he “didn’t give a flying f***” what the lyrics on Bleach were about, figuring “Let’s just scream some negative lyrics and as long as they’re not sexist and don’t get too embarrassing it’ll be okay”, while the lyrics to Nevermind were taken from two years of poetry he had accumulated, which he cut up and chose lines he preferred from. In comparison, Cobain stated that the lyrics to In Utero were “more focused, they’re almost built on themes”.
Cobain didn’t write necessarily in a linear fashion, instead relying on juxtapositions of contradictory images to convey emotions and ideas. Often in his lyrics, Cobain would present an idea then reject it; the songwriter explained, “I’m such a nihilistic jerk half the time and other times I’m so vulnerable and sincere [. . . The songs are] like a mixture of both of them. That’s how most people my age are.” For the Generation X, Kurt Cobain was a messiah whose every word had been plundered and parsed. As he wrote in conclusion to his suicide note, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” I wonder what would have happened had lived on-possibly the present teens would have realized that classic rock is more than just “a vintage pursuit.”
Spain, Brazil, Argentina and Germany are widely regarded as favourites to win this World Cup, but who could be the Dark Horses? Who should be expected to top their group? Well read ahead to find answers to these questions.
Despite this being somewhat a tricky group, Brazil is the out-and-out favourite to win it. Having won the Confederations Cup convincingly, Brazil is a team brimming with confidence and have hit fine form winning 9 of their last 10 games in their preparation to the World Cup, with the only loss coming against Switzerland.
The second spot here is what makes the group a little tricky. Mexico and Croatia are two teams who could both challenge for the second spot: Cameroon seems heavily over matched here. However Mexico, unlike Brazil, heads into the tournament with a shaky morale. They changed their coach twice in the space of four months and almost failed to make it to Brazil. A playoff was required to book their berth in the finals. Croatia has had a similar run up to the World Cup, changing their coach just before their two-legged playoff against Iceland. Another huge setback is the unavailability of Mario Mandzukic for the opener against Brazil.
Players to watch out for:
Brazil: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Oscar
Croatia: Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, Darijo Srna
Mexico: Giovanni Dos Santos, Javier Hernandez, Raul Jimenez
Cameroon: Samuel Eto, Alexander Song
A crucial game would be the decider between Mexico and Croatia. Croatian midfielders Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric have had spectacular seasons with their clubs and those along with Mario Mandzukic could tip the balance in favour of the Vaterni.
This, in my opinion, is one of the three “Groups of Death”. Spain heads into the tournament as one of the favourites having dominated at the International stage since 2008, winning 2 European Championships (2008,2012), A World Cup (2010) and finishing 2nd in last year’s Confederations Cup. Netherlands and Chile however, are no pushovers. Spearheaded by Captain Robin Van Persie Netherlands qualified in style winning all their qualifying matches except the draw against Estonia while Chile finished 3rd in their qualifying group. Australia, like Cameroon, is dramatically over-matched.
What makes this a group of death?
Kevin Strootman’s injury has forced Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal to adopt a 5-3-2 formation rather than his usual 4-3-3 formation, implying how important the player was for the team. The Orange has also been very unpredictable, from runners-up in 2010 world cup to a shocking group exit at the European Championships in 2012. Chile, on the other hand, is a team that could definitely cause upsets, a win against England and a draw against Spain in their preparation for the World Cup makes it the Dark Horse of this group.
Spain: Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos
Netherlands: Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie
Chile: Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez
Australia: Tim Cahill, Mile Jedinak
This is a really intriguing group as feasibly all four of these teams could advance. Even the unquestioned favourites, Colombia, will have questions to answer, one of them being “how they’ll fare without star striker Radamel Falcao?”
Japan is a technically sound side led by creative midfielders Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda, but can they stifle the attack-minded Colombians or the athletic and talented players littering Ivory Coast’s roster? Yaya Toure Wilfried Bony and Didier Drogba are good enough to lead Ivory Coast to top billing in this group.
And then there is Greece, the sleeper team. The Greeks traditionally play a stifling brand of defence, but goals can be hard to come by. Still, those close results mean just about anything can happen. They nearly escaped a tough group in the 2010 World Cup that included Argentina, Nigeria and South Korea, and they proved their mettle at the 2012 Euros. Their qualifying campaign is enough proof of their defensive prowess, conceding just 4 goals in 10 games.
Colombia: James Rodriguez, Freddy Guarin, Juan Cuadrado, Jackson Martinez
Greece: Georgios Samaras, Konstantinos Mitroglou
Ivory Coast: Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba, Wilfried Bony
Japan: Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa, Shinji Okazaki
This for me is “The” group of death. Any one of the three teams, Uruguay, Italy and England could top the group. Uruguay secured their place in Brazil only after a two-legged playoff against Jordan as opposed to England and Italy who qualified from their groups by not only finishing first but also undefeated. Costa Rica would have very little to say in this World Cup.
Uruguay however is the current Copa America champions, spearheaded by the deadly strike force of Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez. The latter’s injury concerns however could put Uruguay’s qualification in jeopardy.
England heads into the tournament with a perfect mix of young talents and experience. However, a weak link in the team is their right back position. While Glen Johnson is most likely to get the nod he had a very poor season at Liverpool. England also lacks a proper cover for the full back should he get injured. An injury to Danny Welbeck, one of Roy Hodgson’s preferred players, is another problem.
Italy has had their fair share of injuries with Rossi and now Montolivo. Italy, similar to Netherlands, has also been really unpredictable – from World champions to an exit in group stages in the 2010 World Cup and then a sensational run to finish as runners-up in the European Championships in 2012.
Key Players :
Uruguay: Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin
England: Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge
Italy: Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli, Gianluigi Buffon
Costa Rica: Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz
Boy, did France luck out, drawing the weakest Pot 1 team (Switzerland) and a very winnable group overall. Switzerland was very impressive in their qualification run and are no pushovers either and could upset a volatile France.
Ecuador is an interesting team to watch. Led by Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia, they finished fourth in South American qualifying, forcing Uruguay into the playoff round. But while they are incredibly difficult to beat on their home soil, they are less dangerous away from Ecuador. It remains to be seen if they can bottle some of their home magic for Brazil.
Key players :
France: Karim Benzema, Matheiu Valbuena, Paul Pogba
Switzerland: Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Josip Drmic
Ecuador: Antonio Valencia
Honduras: Wilson Palacios
Argentina is an overwhelming favourite to win the group and anything short of top spot would be a disappointment. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Nigeria are not poor teams but they lack the quality to finish ahead of Argentina.
As if having arguably the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, wasn’t enough, they also have Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria, a group of attacking talent most countries simply can’t match.
Despite being this their first World Cup, Bosnia-Herzegovina are better than they are given credit for. Led by Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic and Vedad Ibesivic they are most likely to finish runners up. But Nigeria is a very dangerous side, the African champions have all the fire power to prevail
Argentina: Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano
Bosnia-Herzegovina: Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic, Vedad Ibesivic
Nigeria: John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses, Emanuel Emenike, Ahmed Musa
Iran: Javad Nekounam
Three times World Cup winner – Germany is the favourite to top the group. Germany has rightly been labelled “chokers”, being the only team to make it to the semi-finals in their last 4 major tournaments (WC 2006, 2010 and Euro 2008, 2012) and not winning any of them. Having a plethora of talents with the right mix of youth and experience, Germany is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Portugal is led by the Captain and prolific goal scorer Crisitano Ronaldo. Ronaldo was at the helm for Portugal in Euro 2012, leading them to a 4th place finish. He was also very instrumental in Portugal securing a berth in the finals at Brazil after scoring all 4 goals in the playoffs against Team Zlatan.
Ghana is definitely the Dark Horse of this group, led by striker and captain Asamoah Gyan, Ghana has been one of the most successful African teams in recent World Cup history, making it past the group stages in their last two world cups. USA coached by Klinsmann is a very determined team, who finished ahead of England in the 2010 World Cup group stage. Led by Clint Dempsey and Micheal Bradley, USA topped their qualifying group ahead of the likes of Mexico and Costa Rica.
Games to look out for:
Portugal vs. Germany:
This could decide who tops the group, while Germany are widely considered favourites , a good day for Cristiano and co could definitely see off the Germans.
Germany vs. USA :
While this game isn’t a proper match up, USA coach Klinsmann who was then at the helm of the Germany side between 2004 and 2006 played a significant role in the country’s ‘fairytale’ World Cup in 2006. After Klinsmann stepped down, his former assistant Joachim Low took charge and has since taken Germany’s game to another level.
Germany vs. Ghana :
A lot of emotions in this game would be exciting to see how Kevin Prince Boateng fares against his brother Jerome Boateng.
Key Players :
Germany: Mesut Ozil, Miroslav Klose, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller
Portugal: Joao Moutinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe
Ghana: Asamoah Gyan, Kevin Prince Boateng, Michael Essien
USA: Micheal Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore
The Belgium team booked their place in the finals with superb performances in their qualifying campaign going undefeated and winning 8 out of their 10 games. Being a team that comprises of a lot of talented and experienced players who have performed exceedingly well at club level in recent years has made them the biggest sleeper team in this tournament.
Russia, just like Belgium, topped their group in the qualifying campaign against the likes of Portugal, pushing the latter into playoffs. Populated mainly by CSKA Moscow players, Fabio Capello’s defence let in just five goals in 10 qualifying matches, and have conceded only once during their three warm-up fixtures. An injury to their star man and captain Shirokov is definitely a huge blow for the Russians.
But Korea Republic could make some noise. They surprised many by advancing to the knockout phase in 2010 over the likes of Greece and Nigeria, and they could do so again this year. Led by Sunderland’s Ki Sung-yueng and Bayer Leverkusen winger Son Heung-min and bolstered by new manager Hong Myung-bo, South Korea could surprise some folks in Brazil.
Key Players :
Belgium: Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany
Russia: Aleksandr Kokorin, Igor Akinfeev, Igor Denisov, Alan
Algeria: Sofiane Feghouli, Saphir Taider
Korea Republic: Park Chu-Young, Ki Sung-yueng, Son Heung-Min
You know you are in SIMC-UG, the best mass media college of India when you meet teachers who are far from bossy, and when hostel food is actually tasty!!
From providing us with free lodging and food in their hostel to holding orientations for us on specific fields of Media, the professors and staff have been very warm.