The Brazil World Cup has been a timely reminder of how some of the game’s biggest stars have fallen since we last saw them on the international stage. While some players are setting the competition alight with incredible goals and wonderful performances, others are leaving the competition with their tails between their legs. Below are some of the stars who have so far failed to live up to their billing.
Steven Gerrard: The Liverpool captain took up where he left off against Chelsea few days to the end of the past English Premiership season; a calamity that all but ended the Merseysiders’ quest for a first league title in the Premier League era. This World Cup was supposed to be some sort of redemption for the Englishman as he led a brand-new, promising young England squad to Brazil. He, along with fellow veteran Frank Lampard and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, were the only survivors from a talented, but failed Golden Generation. His role, along with the other two, was to be an inspiration and leader to the younger generation, but in the end it turned out to be another nightmare campaign for Captain Fantastic and the Three Lions in the big events.
England was never really expected to go far in the competition, but to bow out in such an inglorious and horrendous fashion, courtesy of their much-loved skipper, was not something anyone bargained for. Mirroring the infamous Anfield slip, Gerrard let his guards down again in the midfield and was culpable for not one, but two of Uruguay’s two goals against England last night. This might just be the end of the road for England and Gerrard – a player who manager Roy Hodgson had put so much trust in to deliver. Some sections of the British press are calling for his retirement already, but what is certain is that England needs to rebuild from here and get rid of its aged stars and the underachieving technical staff.
Diego Costa: The Chelsea-bound Atletico Madrid hitman, nicknamed the “Beast” by "el Cholo" Diego Simeone, did nothing to live up to expectations. Much was expected of the reigning World champions to the extent that bookmakers had predicted a dream final between hosts, Brazil, and la Furia Roja before the first ball was kicked, thanks to the inclusion of the fiery Brazilian-born Spaniard. All that has gone up in smoke now; Spain has been knocked out. En route their exit, they managed to score just one goal: a Xabi Alonso penalty. Since then, they have conceded 7 goals! Though it was no fault of his, Costa did not do nearly enough to justify his place in the team. In the end, his first World Cup did not go as planned. He made no impact whatsoever and the world champions disappeared without a trace.
Iker Casilas: Once the world’s best goalkeeper, Casillas’ fall from grace is well documented. Right from the time he began to run into problems with Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid till date, he has been in questionable form. In the 2013-14 season, he was constantly dropped for league matches in favour of Diego Lopez by coach Carlo Ancelotti. His selection for UEFA Champions League games and his inclusion in the Spanish squad for the World Cup (at the expense of Diego Lopez) were decisions that had more to do with backroom politics than merit. And the result? His frailties were mercilessly exposed by a pitiless, vengeful Dutch side in the first match where he was culpable for at least two of the incredible five goals that hit the back of his net. In the second game, he could have done more to prevent the two goals scored by a disciplined Chilean side.
In fairness to all, he, like Steven Gerrard and Diego Costa, should be dropped to the bench for his side’s next match. If this is not a prompt warning to Spain of the need to retire most of the remnants of their all-conquering Golden Generation in favour of younger, hungrier stars, I don’t think anything will.
Cristiano Ronaldo: The world has gotten accustomed to the no-show of the World’s Footballer of the Year in international assignments when it matters most. Though this time around, we may just have to forgive him. Monday afternoon’s whitewash by Germany was only the latest in a string of disappointing results for the averagely talented Portuguese national team. This crop of stars is a far cry from the dominant Portuguese team of the Figo and Deco era ten years ago. Like Diego Costa, his talents are limitless, but he is not getting the needed assistance from the supporting cast. A nagging fitness problem carried over from the past European club season has compounded the situation. But all those details will not matter when he calls time on national duties and his performance for the team is evaluated. To the Portuguese fans, he will never be a Figo or a Rui Costa or an Eusebio, should things continue this way. Unlike the others in the list, though, he still has two matches to redeem himself and become the player we all know from the 2013-14 season.