World Cup review by Neil Montesclaros

Starting Grade 3, he began kicking the football. In high school, he represented Don Bosco as they emerged Region 7 champs. From 2003 to 2008, he sat as Secretary General of the Cebu Football Association. He also founded the Don Bosco Alumni (United) FC and emerged as one of the organizers of the Thirsty Cup, now on its 7th year. Football dribbles inside the beating heart of Neil Montesclaros. After 31 days of sleepless nights, Neil reflects on the WC with this commentary…

From 2:30 to 5 a.m. last Monday, majority of the citizens of Planet Earth were in anticipation to see history: the World Cup Finals of two football superpowers. Both have never won a WC, yet are regarded as dominant forces in the sport. It is a historic event. With the might of Brazil, Germany, Argentina, France, and Italy falling, Spain and Holland fight it out as the last nation standing.

No sport has a global impact like football. Both the BBC and CNN were giving live feeds. At that moment, nothing mattered but football. Heads of state, royalty, celebrities, and great athletes paid homage to the sport in South African.

I have been following the WC Finals since Mexico 1986. I found myself inquisitive about past WCs all together, especially when Pele entered the global stage in 1958. Brazil won their first WC. Let me share some reflections:

The World Cup before 2002 was predictable. Favorites and dominant nations hit their marks. The same countries reach the knockout stages—they just take turns to be on top. However, starting in 2002 and onwards, it came with a different flavor. The winds of change have come. Who could forget the early exit of the defending champs France in South Korea-Japan finals? They failed to make a single goal—defeated by newcomers Senegal in their opening game. Who could have predicted an Italy-France final in 2006? Switzerland slayed the European champions, Spain, in the group stages in 2010. Germany created a buzz by trashing Australia, 4-1, yet falling one goal down later against Serbia. What’s happening?

I believe the other nations have risen to the occasion. Football has become widespread and popular. Football “technology” has become available to many. There is a level playing field nowadays. It’s not that Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Italy are deteriorating. More countries are getting better. And this is exciting. When the competition is stiffer, quality improves. Today, no country can rest on its laurels and be complacent. Besides, it’s more thrilling when nobody knows with who will win. All have chances. Game on!

The World Cup of 2010 highlighted perennial truths in football, especially in the quarterfinals: BRAZIL: talent and skill without discipline can only get you so far. NETHERLANDS: Lady luck can have the sweetest of kisses at times. GHANA: when opportunity presents itself, make full use of it. URUGUAY: taking risks can come “handy” on tight moments. GERMANY: discipline, focus and organization count a lot (four goals). ARGENTINA: Do not underestimate your opponents and be too confident. SPAIN: failure is staying down, we can recover from a loss and go miles more. PARAGUAY: teamwork and determination even without stars can be a threat.

We look forward to the next four years. Brazil cannot underperform in its home soil… the young German team that impressed us all will improve… Messi and Argentina will fight for lost pride… Spain will retain at least 80 percent of its present squad… the under-20 Ghanaian world champions would have matured… it’s Ronaldo’s last chance to put Portugal on top and justify his million-dollar value. But no matter what the future will hold, in WC 2010, nobody will dare label Spain as the perennial underachievers. Their technical skill, team movement, precise passing and bursts of accelerating attack will be the gold standard. Spain is a joy to watch, totally deserving to be world champs. I can’t wait for 2014. I can’t wait to see them defend their crown in South America.

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