Heroes & Villains : Five villains of the World Cup
No World Cup villain piece would be complete without the inclusion of a certain Mr Suarez. A national hero for Uruguay, returning from injury to sweep in and save his nation from the prospect of elimination in the group stage, he promptly destroyed their hopes of progressing past the last 16.
Banned for his now infamous bite on an opponent, for the third time in his competitive football career, Suarez could only look on with a sense of ‘injustice’ as his country’s World Cup hopes crumbled against Colombia.
Like any villain worth their salt, comparisons to movie monsters such as Jaws, Dracula or The Walking Dead aside, temptations of the flesh seem to prevent Suarez from realising his potential as a hero to many.
Fans watched in disbelief as he dined out on Italy tough man Giorgio Chiellini with an unsporting chomp, but it is one of many incidents in a long-line of disciplinary issues for Suarez, who could so easily have been a hero.
Questions remain over whether he will have learnt his lesson, though, with the superstar punished for his behaviour by FIFA, but reportedly ‘rewarded’ with the support of the Uruguay team, and a welcome fit for a King in his home country.
He rides out the wave of the scandal, having found a new sanctuary in Barcelona, ready to regroup and begin the next chapter of his story, as every competent cartoon villain does.
Brazil the football team, of course, not the vibrant and welcoming country that hosted this memorable World Cup.
It is difficult to villainize an entire squad, particularly one that cries en masse in public but, after their dismal defeat to Germany, which is putting it kindly, the country came out in full force to support the Samba Boys.
Surely then, they deserved more than to see their heroes endure another battering at the hands of the Netherlands? However, Phil Scolari’s demoralised side failed to sign off in style. To put it in perspective, their woeful defence conceded 10 goals in their last two games.
With a slapstick back-line, it was no surprise to see the hosts falter in the knockout stages, but nobody expected such a devastating dismantling.
Whilst sympathy could be extended for a team who will be etched in history for embarrassing their nation on home soil, the Samba Boys, who repeatedly hacked down Colombia’s James Rodriguez, had evidently used up all their luck.
Croatia, Chile and Colombia would certainly attest to feeling hard done by, as they crashed out of the competition to a home nation who appeared to be favoured by the footballing gods. Karma, then, was served.
World Cup bonuses
The unsavoury shadow of World Cup bonuses loomed large over the tournament, a faceless villain in the background, as both the Ghana and Cameroon squads were involved in disputes over pay.
Cameroon began the tournament in controversial style, reportedly having initially refused to board the plane to Brazil until financial issues were resolved.
A place in the World Cup villain hall of fame must be reserved for anyone who assaults a teammate, and Spurs star Assou-Ekotto’s head-butt on Benjamin Moukandjo was caught on camera. With one action, the Indomitable Lions left back encapsulated his squad’s internal problems and frustration.
This, coupled with Alex Song’s dismissal against Croatia for striker Mario Mandzukic on the back, meant Cameroon, who failed to win in Brazil, probably wish they had stayed at home.
Ghana also exited at the group stage, following an extraordinary decision by their national government to deliver around £1.8m in cash to the team to prevent players boycotting training.
Former Premier League stars Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng were then suspended from the Black Stars’ squad indefinitely, reportedly for a physical assault and verbal assault during training respectively, capping off a poor tournament for Ghana. Money, again, was the root of problems in sport.
FIFA and the media
After FIFA, like a predictable and glib old-boys network, crowned an incredibly underwhelming Lionel Messi best player of the World Cup, by awarding him the Golden Ball, questions have to be asked.
The award is determined by a FIFA technical committee shortlist, and then voted for by representatives of the media. In a decision comparable to any of the most famous Oscar-snubs, Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez and Thomas Muller could both be forgiven for failing to fake a smile at the camera after this decision.
Messi shone in the opening games, but his performances and influence dipped considerably as Argentina entered the knockout phase, culminating in a muted appearance in the final. To his credit, media darling Messi looked less than thrilled with the trophy, but that will not ease the disappointment for Rodriguez and Muller, who have a right to feel vexed.
In a World Cup that, on reflection, was chock full of indiscipline, Pepe began Portugal’s tournament in all the wrong ways. The tempestuous defender chanelled his inner Mr Hyde, and saw red for violent conduct against Muller in the Navigator’s opening game.
This heat of the moment action had repercussions for his adoptive nation past their subsequent drubbing at the hands of Germany, as Portugal departed the finals at the group stage after conceding seven goals, unable to call upon centre back Pepe until their last game.