Image Credits: Reuters
2014, like all even years, possessed two of the biggest sporting events, both the Olympic Games and a major football tournament. While the Winter Olympics doesn’t necessarily possess the same appeal as it’s Summer counterpart. This one, held in Sochi, came at a very interesting time from a geopolitical point of view, as Russia and Russia’s government would be under the microscope due to recent events between Ukraine and Russia. Meanwhile, the Summer brought an especially exciting World Cup, with Brazil hosting their first World Cup since 1950 – where they were embarrassed by a shock defeat to Uruguay. The decision to hand Brazil the World Cup came under criticism from those inside and out who felt Brazil could have spent the money more wisely, with over 5 million in extreme poverty – according to World Bank.
The Winter Olympics began with the opening ceremony which didn’t quite go to plan with a mechanical error leading to one of the rings not lighting up. Besides that opening mishap, the games were fairly smooth with the only other controversial moment occurring in the Women’s figure skating with Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova pipping reigning champion Kim Yu-Na to the gold, in a performance which many pundits and experts would have given to the South Korean. Russia would go on to top the medal’s table with 13 Gold, 11 Silver, and 9 Bronze.
While this may not fall under the remit of 2014’s year in sport, the Sochi Winter Olympic Games will not be remembered for much else beyond the state-sponsored doping covertly completed by the Russian Olympic team and the Russian government. The details and intricacies of the doping, which were performed through unbelievable organisation, are too long, complicated, and still heavily debated for me to go into the detail they deserve here. Although I would urge those interested to watch Icarus on Netflix, which won an Academy Award, as this explains the detail in proper measure.
Come summer, and all the talk was about the Brazil World Cup – football was coming home – fans were emblazoned with images of Glenn Hoddle and Ian Wright playing football on the beaches of Rio. Brazil had re-hired Scolari, winner of the 2002 World Cup with Brazil, to try and bring back past glory. Going into the tournament Brazil, Germany, Argentina, and reigning champions Spain were all favourites. The tournament, as a whole, was packed with memorable moments: James Rodriguez lighting up on the world stage; the world champions being demolished by Van Gaal’s high flying Dutch side in a 5-1 trouncing; Suarez biting the third player of his career, Chiellini the unlucky recipient this time.
Although none are more memorable than that of Brazi’s utter collapse to Germany in the World Cup semi-final. 7-1 was the final score. 7-1. In a World Cup semi-final; by the hosts, and not just any hosts – Brazil, the Samba-Kings. Eleven players from their twenty-three man squad would retire after the tournament, only six of the twenty-three would go to Russia four years later. This game is imprinted into not only Brazil’s history, but the history of football – never has there been a bigger shock than this. The game exposed how a combination of Dante and Luiz at centre-half amalgamated with Maicon and Marcelo, two of most attacking full-backs in world football, is simply a recipe for disaster. It must be mentioned that this defeat was more than just a defensive collapse, Germany seemed to outnumber the Brazilians all over the pitch. Fred, Brazil’s often ridiculed No. 9, made the majority of his touches from the kick-off spot, failed to make a single tackle, cross, run, or interception during his seventy minutes on the pitch.
The most poignant moment was that of the reaction at the end, Brazilians on and off the pitch in tears, while the Germans look embarrassed by the humiliation they had caused. Mats Hummels later admitted that the German side at half-time, with the score 5-0, did discuss how they wanted to limit the humiliation for Brazil. Lahm would later comment that he didn’t enjoy the game at all. Germany would go on to win the tournament in extra-time against Argentina, but that will always be of second note when mentioning this tournament, after such a catastrophic defeat.