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Goodbye Brazil, Hello Russia

Famous sport extravaganza takes a break, but the game goes on

What stands out after the curtain falls on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil? Germany's humiliation of Brazil seems to have eclipsed anything else including the crowning of a new world champion and the Luis Suarez bite that led to a financial saga worth billions of baht. Many will say we shall not forget the heroic goalkeeping exploits of the likes of the United States' Tim Howard and Costa Rica's Keylor Navas. And there are the super stars' "moments of magic" that prove "form is temporary but class is permanent."

Arjen Robben and Lionel Messi, it appeared, carry Holland and Argentina on their respective shoulders.

All the minnows fought well including those who didn't make it past the group stage. Iran were seconds away from registering a shock draw against Argentina. Chile helped send 2010 champions Spain home early. Costa Rica almost reached the semi-final but for a heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat at the hands of Holland. And without any star, the United States joined all the underdogs in their convincing attempts to underline that football is a team game.

To all the fans and lovers of the sport, a major inspiration must have come from Japan. Knocked out of the tournament in the group stage, Japanese players returned home to a heroic welcome. It was a big contrast from a controversial scene in South Korea, whose national players were bombarded with candies on arriving back home. Japan's national "discipline" has always been praised, but not without occasional skepticism, but there was no doubt how the country's players must have felt on their arrival at their international airport.

There have been expected controversies on and off the pitch. Live telecast rights became thorny issues in many countries including Thailand. But all have come to past and the world has had a new champion. FIFA, the governing body of the sport, has recorded another "success" but questions remain about its competence and sincerity in making football a fairer game. The introduction of the goal-line technology is at best a lukewarm effort to aid refereeing and at worst a clueless or hypocritical attempt to bring about fairness. There have been wrong offsides called, wrong penalties awarded and wrong red cards given - most, if not all, of them could have been preventable had FIFA decided to give the use of video replays a shot.

Injuries cruelly barred some stars partly or entirely from the World Cup. Brazil's Neymar missed the final stages, drawing tears nationwide. France's campaign could have been a lot different if Ribery had not been ruled out of the tournament. If Falcao had been able to play for Colombia, which bowed out in the quarter-finals, losing heartbreakingly to Brazil, who knows what would have happened? Also, a fully-fit Cristiano Ronaldo should have been able to do much more for Portugal.

But, for World Cup's sake, mega-stars should be just ones who add the colours and not provide the essence. Football should be more about team spirit or collective efforts to do the impossible. The World Cup should be a marathon, not a 100-meter dash. Of course, the final tournament is arranged in such a way that the champions are ones who play the best seven matches of their lives, in a spate of one month, but the real World Cup starts long before all the hype, the flashy anthem, and the commercial frenzy. Football never sleeps. In other words, the next World Cup ideally begins after the curtain falls in Brazil.


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