Host nation should take pride in a great World Cup
Ahead of tomorrow's final, Brazil 2014 is being hailed as one of the great World Cups. Of course there has been the usual cynical ploys of diving and cheating and Luis Suarez's unforgivable bite on Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, but overall the atmosphere has been one of revelry.
The tournament has seen the second highest number of goals on record, with some exceptional strikes by the likes of Robin van Persie, James Rodriguez and Tim Cahill. Overall the standard of the teams has been more even than in the past and the progress of nations like the US, Costa Rica and Algeria has been quite eye-catching.
And then there were the shocks, starting with Holland humbling holders Spain 5-1 and that unbelievable 7-1 win by Germany over host nation Brazil. Unless something exceptional happens in either today's third place play-off or in tomorrow's final, that may well become the defining memory of the tournament.
The feared mass protests over social conditions in Brazil did not materialise and the host nation put on a tremendous show with gleaming new stadia. The fans also played their part, mixing happily without segregation and producing a riot of colour. This was football with a smile on its face.
Suspicions that Fifa is not fit for purpose continue to be harboured and the organisation has certainly done little to enhance its reputation this time around. Somehow the game seems to succeed in spite of, rather than because of, its governing body.
For Brazil the trick now is to ensure that the tournament has a legacy which reaches into every corner of this football-mad country. That includes the favelas, where people live in shameful conditions right next to multi-million pound stadia. Having seen what the country spent on hosting what is after all just a sporting event, discontent in that divided society will only grow unless they see a dividend.
It seems the football authorities there will have to widen their net after the poor showing of the national team. There is a certain irony in the host country being applauded for its staging of the tournament while its team has been roundly lambasted for its record semi-final defeat.