(WFI) FIFA president Sepp Blatter hails the “quality of football” as the reason for the success of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Germany won the tournament on Sunday after a closely-fought match with Argentina at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium. Mario Goetze’s fine volleyed strike in extra time gave the Europeans a 1-0 victory and their fourth world title.
In FIFA’s final press briefing on Monday, Blatter enthused that he was a “happy man” following the dramatic conclusion to the month-long event.
“It was a very special World Cup,” he said. “And what makes this World Cup so very special this time, it’s the football, the quality of the football and the intensity of the games.
“They started this tournament with attacking football which was new – in previous World Cups, generally teams to begin with are just observing each other, not wanting to lose. This time, boom, boom.
“You cannot directly compare it to another World Cup because every World Cup has its own story. But this World Cup from the field of play was exceptional. They have set the bar very high for the next World Cup.”
The head of football’s governing body half-jokingly said that FIFA had spent all night calculating the score out of ten for the 2014 World Cup, eventually deciding on “9.25” – an improvement on the “9” he gave to South Africa 2010.
“Perfection does not exist,” he added.
Over the past six weeks, referees have come in for criticism for not being harsh enough on dangerous tackles. However, Blatter praised the officials for protecting the positive football shown.
“We have had less injuries. There has been criticism of the referees not using enough yellow cards, but this is not the case if you look at the results,” he said.
“The result is good – less injury, more intensity, more passion, and that’s what made these games so attractive.”
There were some concerns for the FIFA chief though, notably on racism.
No disciplinary action was taken over Mexican fans’ insults aimed at the Cameroon goalkeeper and also over a Nazi slogan banner displayed among Croatia supporters. Blatter admitted FIFA has work to do.
“We will give the same message in Russia. We have to fight racism,” he said. “I am not totally happy with the way we have fought against this racism. We spoke to president [Vladimir] Putin and insisted also that at the next World Cup we will fight against this racism.”
Brazil Silences Media Critics
Alongside Blatter was Brazilian sports minister Aldo Rebelo, who was proud of his country’s efforts in hosting the tournament and proving the doubters wrong – even if the national team disappointed.
“I am not challenging the role of the press,” Rebelo said, “but what happened in the case of the World Cup was that we had a state of pessimism and distrust on the part of the press – and the country managed to overcome all difficulties.”
A large part of the success was down to how the Brazilian infrastructure coped with the influx of supporters and visitors.
Official figures from the government stated that an average of 485 million passengers came through the airports in Brazil and that only 7.64 per cent of flights were delayed – below the global average of 15 per cent.
The technology also managed to cope with more than 11.2 million calls completed inside stadiums up until the quarterfinals, and 45 million photos sent from inside the venues up until the semi-finals.
The global digital sphere broke records during Sunday’s final with 280 million Facebook interactions and 618,000 tweets a minute.
Blatter even said that Pope Francis got in touch to send his congratulations and say “what a wonderful World Cup this was for connecting people.”
Ticketing Scandal Casts a Cloud
An issue that FIFA had to contend was the recent investigation by Rio police into hospitality tickets sold by partner Match AG.
General secretary Jerome Valcke was insistent that “no tickets that came out from FIFA were sold for a higher price than face value” but admitted that once tickets had gone to various commercial and public partners, they were helpless.
However, he did state that ticket regulations remained in place for partners and that FIFA would be “permanently fighting” against ticket touting in all its forms.
Another issue for FIFA was the disciplinary case of Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, who was found guilty of biting Italy defender Giorgi Chielllini in the group stage.
The striker was banned for four months from all footballing activities and also from nine international matches. But that didn’t hinder a £75 million move to La Liga giants Barcelona from Liverpool, and Blatter hopes to see the player back at his best in the future.
“I do hope this player will come back to football because on the pitch he has shown, before his elimination, his technical side, his tactics, and his smelling of the goal. I do hope he will be back, and he is now at one of the greatest clubs in the world, so I am sure he will confirm his position,” he said.
Now, the hosting rights and spotlight of the football community pass over to Russia, who will get ready to welcome the world in four years’ time.
Russia 2018 CEO Alexey Sorokin dropped in at the end of the briefing to invite people to his country.
“We’ve been working hard for the past three and a half years but now the work has to intensify,” he said. “I invite you all to come to the World Cup in Russia in 2018.”
By INSIDER’s Christian Radnedge
Homepage photo: Getty Images