Throughout the current 2014 World Cup, TV presenters, pundits and commentators have been referring to the tournament as one of the best in history.
Those opinions provoke the obvious question “what makes a good World Cup”?
If a ‘good’ World Cup is judged solely on goals, France ’98 would come top of the pile with 171. Brazil 2014 is currently on target to smash that with 140 goals scored and a healthy 14 games remaining.
Goals, though important to the enjoyment of a football match, are not the lone gauges of whether a World Cup is ‘good’ or not.
Historically, World Cups with a large dose of controversy are often remembered more than those that pass without incident.
For instance, would the 2010 World Cup in South Africa be as memorable had it not been for a tetchy final marked by Nigel de Jong’s ‘kung-fu’ kick on Xabi Alonso and referee Howard Webb’s decision to show a yellow card instead of red?
Or will Luis Suarez’s bite at Brazil 2014 be the defining memory of the current tournament?
A ‘good’ World Cup could also be measured by the amount of magical and dramatic moments, such as Gordon Banks’ incredible save from Pele at Mexico ’70 or Roberto Baggio’s penalty shoot-out miss against Brazil in the 1994 final.
There are obviously hundreds of similar moments that won’t get a mention, but viewers will often point towards a perfect storm of goals, controversy, super saves and drama as being a good indicator of whether a World Cup has been ‘good’ or not.
But, despite all those components, the most telling aspect of a ‘good’ World Cup is the atmosphere.
If the fans are not enjoying themselves, if there is a lack of singing in the stands or if the host nation is eliminated in the group stage then history dictates that that World Cup would be deemed an anti-climax.
For instance Spain ’82 would be a candidate for a forgettable World Cup as it is rarely mentioned by experts as being anything other than ordinary.
Spain were knocked out in the second phase, while reigning champions Argentina and their arch-rivals Brazil also fell at the second hurdle.
The Spanish heat may have been a direct cause of a lack of action on the pitch, but also an uninspiring set of fixtures coupled with a shortage of excitement did not help the tournament in any way – only Paolo Rossi could realistically claim to have created any lasting World Cup memories.
Perhaps no atmosphere of a World Cup however, is as intense as the one in Brazil this summer.
For months before it started and in some parts while it is still running, Brazil had witnessed dozens of angry protests about the excessiveness of the spending of money allocated to accommodate the World Cup.
Yet the football-loving people of Brazil have combined to mask those protests and channel positivity through the veins of the country with their passion and love of the game.
Some 200,000 people crowded along Copacabana beach yesterday to watch Brazil defeat Chile on penalties to reach the quarter-finals.
The World Cup is the greatest prize for the majority of Brazilians in a continent which sees football as a religion.
The result is a festival-like environment at almost every World Cup match to have been played so far, and by any reckoning Brazil 2014 will be remembered as a ‘good’ World Cup – and potentially the best of them all – no matter what happens in Rio on 13 July.
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