The World Cup's worst awards
As Germany celebrates, it's time to look back at the World Cup. Sure, there are Golden Balls, Boots and Gloves, but what about some of the more dubious achievements? For a look at the "worst of," it's over to Iain Macintosh.
Worst refereeing performance
For a time, it seemed that no referee would rival Yuichi Nishimura's calamitous opening night in charge of Brazil vs. Croatia, but then Carlos Velasco Carballo stepped up during the host nation's quarterfinal vs. Colombia. The Spaniard's reluctance to take action against a rising tide of violence from both teams inevitably resulted in injury. Neymar paid the price, but it might just as easily have been James Rodriguez. Carballo let the players down.
Worst career move
Like someone who arrives at a party just as the last guests are leaving, Diego Costa really needs some work on his timing. Chelsea's new signing jumped ship, deserting Brazil for Spain, and it's hard to understand what on earth he was thinking. While Brazil fielded the likes of Fred and Jo, Costa chose to toil lethargically at the top of a tired Spanish team. And he was booed mercilessly for every minute of it.
Worst set piece
At 28, this was probably Wayne Rooney's final chance to make an unforgettable World Cup memory. He certainly managed that. His corner against Italy was a delight for connoisseurs of calamity, a sort of deft lob that went immediately out of play and then carried on rising, much like all of England's hope and dreams, drifting out in the night sky to be lost forever.
Worst goalkeeping error
Iker Casillas certainly endured the worst tournament as a goalkeeper, but no one could match Igor Akinfeev for a straight-up howler. A rather unthreatening shot by South Korea's Lee Keun-ho was aimed straight at the Russian, but Akinfeev somehow contrived to slap it in over his own head. In many ways, it was actually impressive, not that manager Fabio Capello was inclined to agree.
Worst red card
Pepe, 31, should be old enough to know that there are occasions when you can get away with a sneaky head-butt, but never when you're standing right in front of the referee. Yes, Thomas Muller made a meal of the contact, but Pepe's planet-busting idiocy was unforgivable. He stomped off, and Portugal, already wobbling, collapsed.
Worst choice of fighting move
There were lots of ways in which Alex Song could have assailed Mario Mandzukic, if he really was intent on doing so. He could have punched him, he could have tripped him, he could have kicked him hard in the bottom. Instead, in full view of the officials, he chose to try to stab the Croatian striker between the shoulder blades with the back of his elbow. It was original but very stupid.
The funny thing is that, for 13 minutes, Iran's clash with Nigeria was actually quite entertaining. And then, as if someone had turned off the entertainment tap, the game just flatlined and couldn't be revived. Iran fell back to the edge of their box, and Nigeria forgot how to string passes together. Time passed, seasons changed, children grew up, and mountains crashed into the sea. Then, mercifully, it was over.
Worst choice of snack
Among the countless moments of hilarity derived from Luis Suarez's ill-fated chomp on Giorgio Chiellini, the highlight had to be watching his apologists insist that it was "only a little bite." They were correct, of course, but the fact that it was any kind of bite at all was really the point worth focusing on. What kind of grown-up bites people? Seriously. Who does that?
"I hit my face against the player leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth." Oh my goodness, Luis! Your poor teeth! Was that really the best that Suarez and his entourage could come up with? The equivalent of, "I was swinging my arm and he walked into my fist?" No. No, it wasn't. More was to come.
"The truth is," said Suarez, getting off to bad start, "that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me." Yes, Luis. That will happen when you bite people.
You don't get many chances in a World Cup final, and you certainly don't get many as good as the one that Gonzalo Higuain squandered in the first half in the Maracana. Toni Kroos' uncharacteristic moment of carelessness left the Napoli striker one-on-one with Manuel Neuer and with time to consider his options. Perhaps that was the problem. Dragging it wide was not the right option.
James Rodriguez is still alive, but the public needs to know what on earth, if indeed it is of this earth, that giant green thing was on his arm. It can't have been an insect; it was the size of a child's bike. It had visibly bulging muscles, for heaven's sake. What does it eat? Can it talk? FIFA's refusal to mount a full investigation is just another reason why the organisation should be immediately disbanded.
Brazilian poet Nelson Rodrigues once described his nation's 2-1 World Cup defeat to Uruguay in 1950 as being his country's "Hiroshima," which, as well as being a little distasteful, also painted him into something of a creative corner. If a 2-1 defeat equates to that, what is a 7-1 defeat the equivalent of? What kind of force brings four goals in six minutes in a World Cup semifinal? We're working on the "Ballad of Big Phil's Celestial Impact Event" right now.