Views of World Cup displays not helpful
7 July ~ World Cups make players cry – and vice versa. Yet much of the "emotion" displayed during Brazil 2014 could be more accurately described as emoting. David Luiz's wide-eyed screaming of the Brazilian national anthem; Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas prostrating himself before the Almighty during penalty shootouts. To us dour northern Europeans it's mawkish at best, downright cynical at worst. Yet Brazil remain on course for the final, Costa Rica are the sensation of the tournament and England's staid psychology contributed to an early exit. Perhaps it's better to ride a World Cup's wave of emotions than internally combust.
France's Antoine Griezmann and Colombia's James Rodríguez succumbed to their emotions after Friday's quarter-final eliminations by Germany and Brazil respectively. The consoling embraces of team-mates and rivals provided the classic image of big-game defeat. Yet they were indistinguishable from Neymar's reaction to his side's victory the previous weekend. He had to be helped up off the grass, distraught, when Chile missed the decisive penalty in Belo Horizonte.
Brazil players reduced to tears before matches are decided – or even begun – persuaded manager Phil Scolari to last week recall the team psychologist. Yet goalkeeper Júlio César saved two Chilean penalties for the hosts despite openly sobbing prior to the shootout. And, besides his animated love of god and country, Luiz scored in both their knockout victories.
Brazil changed their home strip forever after losing the 1950 World Cup on home soil. The crowd participation in their national anthem has an almost cultish ferocity. Players need to find some sort of emotional valve if they're to function under that level of pressure.
How emotions are managed – when they're contained and when they explode – is an essential part of tournament football. Bobby Charlton famously sobbed to his brother, Jack, that there was nothing left to win after England's 1966 World Cup final. But after 120 minutes covering the Wembley pitch, this was exhaustion speaking. Pelé collapsed in tears after the 1958 final; but scoring twice to seal Brazil's first World Cup should always be too much for a 17-year-old. Eusébio was inconsolable when Portugal lost the 1966 semi-final to England. The Portuguese still know this match as Jogo das Lágrimas – "The Game of Tears" – but it was Portugal's first World Cup and remains their best.
Before this summer's Group C match against Colombia, Ivory Coast's Serey Die was in pieces during his country's anthem. He was subbed three minutes after giving away the ball for Colombia's winner. Clint Dempsey was censured by BBC pundit Robbie Savage for not singing the Star-Spangled Banner prior to the USA's opening Group G match. Dempsey scored within 32 seconds of kick-off, proving himself as focused as he was motivated.
Luis Suárez's uncontained anger got him sent home early from this World Cup. Yet immediately prior to his goals giving Uruguay victory over England in São Paulo, his straight-faced Liverpool team-mates actively ignored him in the tunnel. This contrasted with the almost homoerotic fawning and stroking between Barcelona team-mates Dani Alves, Neymar and Alexis Sánchez when Brazil met Chile. Minutes later they contested a match of epic intensity. Be it a laugh or a sob, the successful modern footballer needs to do more than just sweat if he's to "leave it all on the pitch". Alex Anderson