Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Inspiring, hard-fought World Cup

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer column published 7 July 2014

This is the week when we gear for the grand finale of the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the flags of favourite countries are flying on cars all over Jamaica. The two countries of choice in our family were Argentina (Hubie is a die-hard Messi fan), and mine, Brazil – because that country sacrificed much to stage this huge event. At our office, these and two other flags flying atop cubicle dividers are Germany and the Netherlands. So this is going to be an exciting week: our four favourites made it to the semi-finals!

We all agree that this has been the hardest-fought World Cup that we have ever seen in our lifetime.  Spain and France were also sentimental choices and we were sad to see their exit. We have witnessed skill and talent, teamwork and heartbreak, as several matches went into extra time and penalties.  
The injury to Neymar has been a strike to the hearts of Brazilian fans and even as we celebrated Brazil’s win on Friday, we felt the tears of that brilliant young Colombian player James Rodriquez who scored five World Cup goals. 

Kudos to CONCACAF member Costa Rica (pop. 4.3 million): they took the mighty Netherlands (pop. 16.7m) starring top footballers Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder through extra time and into penalties. The Netherlands changed their goalkeeper for the penalties, triggering a rumour that they may have specially trained him for this eventuality, having lost so painfully in a similar episode in the South Africa 2010 World Cup. 

Rising starts in football, USA (my US friends – this is real football) learned from their match with Portugal  that you don’t start celebrating until the big whistle sounds – they were 2-1 ahead and while celebrating Portugal levelled the game. Happily, they made it to the round of 16, and despite their loss to Belgium, held their own with goalkeeper Tim Howard emerging a star for his record number of saves heralding a new respect for the beautiful game in the USA. 

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