Brazil’s defeat to a mesmerising Belgium tore down the South American flag so vibrant four years ago in the previous World Cup.
On this occasion, not a single representative from a continent with such colour and footballing heritage made the semi-finals.
The final four had complete European dominance. Unfortunately the lasting memory of South America, especially in the knockouts, will be their petulance and cunning tricks.
First shown by an ill-tempered Colombia against England, Uruguay and Brazil went on to display the same needless tactics, which fortunately failed in their purpose of riling up their opponents.
Carlos Sanchez’s obvious grappling, Neymar’s frustrating play-acting and Uruguay’s subtle hints of violence were all emblematic of South America in this tournament.
A superb following from the entire continent—as most matches were domineered by South American fans—wasn’t transferred onto the pitch.
Peru, despite their gung-ho tactics, crashed out in the group stages. Argentina were next to fall alongside Colombia, before Uruguay and Brazil couldn’t handle the talent of France and Belgium respectively.
It is a sad end to the World Cup for a continent who often make it their own festival. However, scratch the surface and perhaps some nations only have themselves to blame.
Petulance doesn’t pay off
There was plenty to take from England’s historic win over Colombia in the Round of 16.
Perhaps most prominent, however, was the devious strategy the South Americans employed to try and garner a psychological advantage.
The actual scoreline, it seemed, never mattered to Colombia. It didn’t stop them trying to infuriate the Three Lions who, in the most part, remained unprovoked.
At times it was elusive to the public eye, however Jose Pekerman’s side didn’t help themselves. Exploding in front of referee Mark Geiger—a frail official in the circumstances—exaggerating reactions after fouls and notching up the heat of the occasion were all part of Colombia’s plan.
Unfortunately a similar pattern ensued in matches involving Brazil and Uruguay. It doesn’t take too much intelligence to notice a common theme.
Oscar Tabarez’s Uruguay, impressive up to their quarter final, dealt with a quality France side in a questionable manner.
Admittedly Les Bleus possessed more flair, but the crafty elbows and provocative fouls didn’t paint the Uruguayans in the best light.
Brazil adopted a different style of vexing tactics, mostly through pantomime villain Neymar.
His inexplicable theatrics tainted any ingenuity he produced at this World Cup. His pain tolerance threshold was either inconceivably low, or he had a calculated method to try and cause trouble for the opposition.
It didn’t happen. Instead some savagely criticised the Brazilian—for good reason—and the ‘pathetic’ labels attached to him were justified.
Hopefully his exaggeration doesn’t seep into domestic football. Otherwise Neymar could quickly fall from one of the world’s best to the world’s most despised.
An undesirable transformation
Four years ago, South America commanded the World Cup.
Brazil 2014 didn’t have the storybook ending the continent craved, as Argentina lost marginally in the final. But it was noticeably more optimistic than this tournament.
The emergence of James Rodriguez in Brazil has long been forgotten. He was recently pictured in tears after England dismissed Colombia.
And his conversion from a potential star to a despondent man somewhat epitomises the harsh fall in South American grace.
Even Brazil, who exited their own tournament in the most humiliating circumstances, failed to fully avenge that fateful day.
Argentina were plagued by Sampaoli’s defective tactics, Uruguay couldn’t survive on their seemingly flawless strategy and Peru were unable to convert their opportunities at crucial moments.
Each individual South American country has a rebuilding project to venture on, ahead of the next World Cup.
An effervescent, multicoloured juggernaut is unlikely to be tamed for too much longer. This disappointment should spur them to produce far better in 2022.