They came a cropper


World champion. First round exit. Need one say more? Yet, it hadn't started so badly. The opening half of Spain's first match against Netherlands hardly dropped any hints on what was to follow. The defending champion collapsed spectacularly in the second half to lose 1-5.

A 0-2 defeat to Chile in the next game confirmed elimination. An ageing squad wasn't in the best shape to uphold its possession-based approach against quality opposition and a lack of variety further tied the Spanish in knots.


Outside favourite for the title, its campaign began well too. Italy defeated England 2-1, and with Costa Rica and Uruguay left to play, it would have taken a brave person to bet against the former champion's qualification. Bravery would have been rewarded though as the unthinkable happened. Italy conceded just twice in the remaining group matches but failed to score even once. Cesare Prandelli's decision to leave Giuseppe Rossi at home proved crucial as the attack lacked a quality finisher.


To be fair, he carried an injury. Not at his best and saddled with a side that functions at a conspicuously lower level than him, Ronaldo failed to lead Portugal through from a tough group. He was largely invisible during Germany's 4-0 thrashing of his side. Neither did he play a prominent role against Ghana and the United States of America. Although there was a moment of magic from the Real Madrid star in both games, it wasn't enough to save Portugal from an early exit.


It's a difficult one, this. After a long time, there were low expectations from this England side. Many regarded this as a positive, claiming it placed lesser pressure the young squad. Yet, this seemed to raise expectations as they anticipated England would do well. Eventually the pressure rose, not least because of the team's fabulous display in its 1-2 loss to Italy, and consumed England.

The usual ineptness returned to haunt England its defeat to Uruguay and its fate was sealed. A goalless draw in the final match against Costa Rica ensured optimism had to return to its bare minimum levels.


It seems churlish to say that a side that finished fourth was a flop at the World Cup. But Brazil failed to produce a convincing performance all tournament. Without Neymar, it had no goal-scorers. Without Neymar, it possessed little creativity. And without Neymar, it lacked spirit.

The 1-7 thrashing at the hands of Germany in the semifinals seemed like a deserved result for a side that had ridden its luck too far. Thiago Silva was an inspirational figure in defence; once he was suspended, Brazil crumbled.