1) Germany: For obvious reasons. The best team in the tournament and improved all the way through. Perhaps the most important word there is ‘team’, because it was a true group effort from the Germans. Eleven players win matches but squads win tournaments, they’ve proven that truism once again.
2) Argentina: For reaching the final, for playing great football, for playing hard but fair, for the team’s humility and grounding (that last one a particularly refreshing change). In Sabella, a world-class man manager and footballing brain is born.
3) Costa Rica: For being the surprise package. The tiny country drawn with three previous World Cup winners in its group (Italy, England, Uruguay) topped them all and reached the quarter-finals, only losing on penalties to Holland
4) Colombia: For its attractive, bright and attacking football, which was a pleasure while it lasted. In James Rodriguez the World Cup has thrown out its new star player to the world.
5) Brazil the organizers: Some of the stadiums weren’t finished and the infrastructure too, plus prices for transport, hotels and tickets bordered on the insane at times, but overall it was a well run and smoothly executed tournament that didn’t see the threatened disruptions from protesters materialize in force.
1) Brazil the football team: They’d already creaked and looked suspect against the lesser footballing nations. Then they weren’t just beaten but humiliated by the first serious team they came across. Brazil was found tactically and animically wanting and its game strategies looked 20 years out of date. Added to the overwhelming arrogance the nation had about its chances on home soil and the only thing that could have been worse for them would have been to watch Argentina win the final.
2) Spain: The defending champions were an unmitigated disaster, the team that had tried one year too long on old legs. Spain’s Del Bosque brought in little new blood to his team in the intervening four years and paid a heavy price for that error.
3) Uruguay: The Suárez incident was bad, the team’s blanket defence of the indefensible was worse. The South American champions of two years ago guilty of the same “old legs” mistake as Spain, without Suárez they looked ordinary.
4) Arjen Robben: For being a cheating piece of shit. He couldn’t stop himself from diving even in the non-event 3rd/4th place play-off. Such footballing talent, such an asshole.
5) England: But at least it wasn’t a surprise. This final place of the losers list was nip-and-tuck with Italy, but in the end the total no-show attitude of the English made the difference. The world’s most expensive and arguably exciting league and it can’t throw a squad of 23 together to beat Costa Rica.