World Cup 2014

The Real Winners and Losers

The last pass has been kicked, the last goal has been scored, and the trophy has been awarded to the victor, Germany. We know who won the matches, who won the awards, and who won the Cup. But who were the people, on and off the field, that had a World Cup to remember…or a World Cup to forget?

VOA breaks down the real winners and losers of the 2014 World Cup:

Winner: Adidas

There was a lot of talk this World Cup – including on this blog – about Nike’s move into the world of soccer traditionally dominated by Adidas. Well, after all the matches, not only where both finalists Germany and Argentina sponsored by Adidas, but so are Golden Ball winner Lionel Messi of Argentina, Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez of Colombia, and Golden Glove winner Manuel Neuer of Germany. Even the game ball was made by Adidas. Nike may have made some inroads at the Cup this year, but clearly, Adidas still has its hold on the World Cup.

Illustrations by Steve Fuchs

Winner: The Meme Makers

There were no shortage of memorable moments in this year’s World Cup, from van Persie’s header to Tim Howard’s saves, and from Robben’s dive to Suarez’s bite. No matter what the event, within minutes, the hive mind of the Internet created memes shared around the world, from the “Flying Dutchman” van Persie gliding over Rio, to Suarez in a mask a la Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs.

Winner: The Lucky Betters

Brazil certainly didn’t expect to get blown out 7-1 in their semifinal match against Germany. But a few faithful fans did, and as a result, were handsomely rewarded. One man in London bet £5 on Germany winning the match 7-1 after having a “premonition” the day before the match; sure enough, he was right. The winnings from his lucky bet? £2,500. But that wasn’t even the biggest payoff: one lucky Dutchman put down a €200 bet on Germany winning 7-1, and won € 1.3 million. Perhaps the best part is that he didn’t even mean to place the bet – as the man told German newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, the bet “was made during a too alcoholic party.”

Winner: VOA’s World Cup Correspondent Nicolas Pinault

The video says it all.

Loser: Brazil’s Poor

Many already considered Brazil’s poor to be the biggest losers from this World Cup, with billions that could have been spent on infrastructure and public services going towards stadiums and hotels. After Brazil lost in the semifinals, these feelings must have been even stronger: not only did the country spend all of that public money, but they couldn’t even win the championship that everyone expected they would. When Brazil couldn’t even muster a third place finish, it’s likely those feelings only grew stronger.

Loser: The Sacked Coaches

When a team wins, everyone takes credit – players, trainers, fans, and even sponsors. But when a team loses, the blame usually falls on the shoulders of one specific person: the coach. And that means that after a loss, it’s not just the team that’s out – it mean the coach is out as well. After their teams’ early exits, Italy’s Cesare Prandelli, Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi, and Ivory Coast’s Sabri Lamouchi resigned from their positions. At least they had the dignity of resigning: after Brazil’s humiliation in both the semifinals and the third place match, the country’s football confederation fired coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Winner & Loser: Luis Suarez

Obviously Luis Suarez comes out of the World Cup as a loser after his infamous bite earned him a four-month suspension from FIFA and the ire of fans around the world. But is he a winner as well? A couple of week removed from the incident, though, and Suarez is moving on in a big way: Suarez apparently used the publicity from the bite incident as leverage to leave Liverpool for Barcelona, saying that “playing and living in Spain, where my wife’s family live, is a lifelong dream and ambition.” Maybe the bite worked out for the best after all.

Loser: Small Sporting Companies

With Adidas as one of our winners, one would assume that Nike would be a World Cup loser. But it’s not Nike that’s the loser, or for that matter Puma (the other major World Cup team sponsor). No, the losers here are the small sporting companies. Of the 32 teams in the Cup this year, only five were sponsored by companies other than Nike, Adidas, or Puma: Belgium, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, and Iran. And small companies that were sponsoring teams are being abandoned for the so-called “big three” – Le Coq Sportif, which sponsored the French national team for years, was dropped in favor of Nike;

Winner & Loser: Axelle Despiegelaere

You may not know her name, but if you’ve been watching the World Cup, you may have seen her face. Axelle Despiegelaere was cheering on Team Belgium in their match against Russia when a photographer caught her face in the crowd. Within hours, her image had gone viral, and within days, she had been offered a modeling contract from L’Oreal. But less than a week later, her contract was cancelled after photos emerged of her hunting wild game in Africa. It just goes to show that not all the winners and losers of the World Cup were on the field – some were in the stands as well.

Mario Madness!

Mario Balotelli’s 5 Craziest Moments

Illustration of Mario Balotelli setting off fireworks in his bathroom.

Illustrations par Steve Fuchs | VOA

As many football fans know, Mario Balotelli of Italy is quite the character. Here are five of his craziest moments on and off the field – a list that only scratches the surface of his many exploits and adventures:

5. Use fireworks in his bathroom

In 2011, Mario Balotelli was on fire as a star player for Manchester City. Unfortunately for him, his house in Cheshire was also on fire one night…and it was entirely his own fault. When firefighters arrived at his house to put out the blaze, he told them that four of his friends were playing with fireworks from the window of his bathroom. The fireworks caused some towels to catch fire, which spread to an entire floor of his house.

4. Trying to break into a women’s prison

In 2010, Balotelli and his brother decided to make an impromptu visit to, of all places, a women’s prison in Bresica, Italy. When stopped by police in their Mercedes at the entrance, Balotelli explained, in all seriousness, that he and his brother wanted to see the prison and decided to go on a whim. Unfortunately for them, the authorities turned them away.

3. Using his karate skills…on an opponent

Italians can have a reputation for being hot headed, and Balotelli is apparently no exception. But Balotelli takes his anger to a whole new level. In a crucial match between Manchester City and Kiev in March 2011, Balotelli’s frustrations got the best of him when he delivered a ninja kick to one of his opponents. In response to this blow, the referee dealt Balotelli a blow of his own: a red card.

2. Dueling with rolling pins in a restaurant

In 2011, before an important match against Chelsea, Balotelli went to an Indian restaurant for dinner. One thing led to another, and somehow, by the end of the night, he and a friend were playfully dueling… using rolling pins. His amateur swordfight cost him a week’s worth of wages – £150,000 – but didn’t seem to affect his playing: Balotelli would go on to score two goals the next day, as Manchester City beat Chelsea 6-1.

1. Earn over $10,000 in parking fines

Mario Balotelli loves Italians…Italian cars, that is. He also apparently loves racking up parking and traffic fines. He racked up an impressive $10,000-plus in parking fines; as a result, his Maserati was impounded 27 times. Not that the fines are any burden: one time, when stopped by the police, Balotelli had over $25,000 next to him on the passenger seat. When they asked him why he was carrying so much money on the front seat of his car, he simply replied: “Because I can.”

(this post courtesy VOA’s French language World Cup blog. Check it out at