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World Cup Review

It only comes around every four years and it always delivers something special. What stood out this time around?

Australia was early in a rebuilding phase and little was expected of them. Most pundits tipped three losses and no goals for. In some ways we turned this on its head, playing with purpose and verve and testing our opponents (well, the first two anyway). We pushed Chile all the way before a late goal left us with an unflattering scoreline of 1-3. We gave the Netherlands a fright, coming from 0-1 down to lead 2-1, before succumbing 2-3 after a golden chance to win it at 2-2. The 0-3 result against Spain was probably more what most expected. Overall, it was an encouraging tournament in that we showed potential and impressed many observers. However, only Tim Cahill scored from free play and we have much to improve on. Further, we came away with three losses and were eliminated after just two matches.

There were some wonderful goals during the tournament. My top three: (3) James Rodriguez (Colombia) with a volley on the turn against Uruguay; (2) Tim Cahill (Australia) with a stunning volley against the Netherlands; and (1) for sheer athleticism and an eye for goal - Robin van Persie's header against Spain.

Team performances threw up quite a few surprises. Portugal were disappointing with Ronaldo failing to do much. Also disappointing were the teams from the Asian Confederation. Australia lost all three, while Japan, South Korea and Iran could only manage a single draw each. Surprisingly for mine, not one of us made the round of 16.

Costa Rica were positive and lively and deserved their success. Belgium did well, but probably could have done better if they had been more positive. France showed great attacking promise but couldn't get past Germany in the quarter-finals. Colombia were excellent and unlucky against Brazil. The Netherlands had a great tournament finishing third.

Spain - who had shown a few hints they were no longer at the top of the game - were blown away. The rout against the Netherlands where they went down 1-5, conceding 4 in the second half, seemed to completely upend the whole tournament. Brazil never looked like tournament winners but made it through to the semi-finals on the back of some individual brilliance and some dubious tactics. Then came four minutes of football that astonished the world and devastated the Brazilian public. Down 0-1 early against Germany in the semi-final, they were struggling but still had hope. And then they conceded three goals in four minutes and were out. In truth, at 0-2 it was probably all over, but the Germans put it beyond doubt with ease. 0-5 at half-time - who would have believed it. The matched ended 1-7. I never confirmed it it properly, but I saw reports that one lucky punter somewhere in the world had bet on that result. Brazil were also easily beaten into fourth place by the Netherlands. They'll take a while to come back from that.

Argentina played well given their limitations. Messi and di Maria played big roles in getting them to the final, but they never quite looked the finished product. Germany, on the other hand, were simply the best team at the tournament. Other teams had their stars: Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo, etc. but no other country had the team. The Germans were simply too good in all aspects of the game - a reflection of the planning, attention to detail, strong domestic league and teamwork. Worthy winners.

Another great tournament. We're off to Russia for the next one - could prove to be an interesting venue. Looking forward to it. I wonder where Australia will be at the time. On the back of 2014's results, we've dropped out of the top 100 for the first time ever. It's a long road back. We've got the Asian Cup next month to start showing something in front of our home crowds. Whereto after that, I've no idea. We should qualify for the next World Cup finals, but it's going to take a lot of work.