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updated: 7/12/2014 3:15 PM

Sorting out World Cup winners and losers

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  • The World Cup watch parties in Chicago's Grant Park, Soldier Field and elsewhere around the country were a great move by U.S. Soccer to boost interest in the sport.

      The World Cup watch parties in Chicago's Grant Park, Soldier Field and elsewhere around the country were a great move by U.S. Soccer to boost interest in the sport.
    Associated Press

 
 

Every once in a while a big event lives up to the hype.

Take a bow, World Cup 2014. Forgetting about the Argentina-Netherlands semifinal for a minute, this tournament has been fantastic, ranking as perhaps the best ever.

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The games have been exciting, with new players becoming stars before our eyes. There has been enough drama to earn ESPN an Emmy. Sorry, Game of Thrones. The winner here is The Beautiful Game.

Without further ado the envelope, please.

Winners

Brazil: No, not the team. The country. There were doubts Brazil could successfully host this month-long party, considering all the stories about problems constructing the stadiums. Unlike the Sochi Olympics, however, those stories disappeared once the athletes took the field. This bodes well for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Jurgen Klinsmann: Drawn into the Group of Death, Klinsmann also benefitted from low expectations, exceeding them when the United States team he coaches advanced to the Round of 16. He is under contract through the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but he will be under pressure to live up to his promise to develop the U.S. attack. The way the Americans sat back and defended in their final match against Belgium might have been their best chance, but it was a step backward.

U.S. Soccer: The watch parties were a huge hit, and its logo was everywhere as apparel sales soared. Sunil Gulati and Dan Flynn have a lot to build on, and they have money from a new TV contract to help.

ESPN: Record-setting ratings? Check. Quality broadcasts, both of games and studio shows? Check.

Major League Soccer: The league won't get all of those World Cup fans into its stadiums and watching TV broadcasts of its games, but it should get some. Coming on the heels of a new TV contract that goes into effect next season, this is an opportunity the league can't afford to squander.

James Rodriguez: The Colombia forward had as many "Did you see that?!?!" moments as anyone. He's a YouTube sensation.

Besler and Gonzalez: If recent reports are true, U.S. defenders Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez will parlay their strong World Cup showings into bigger paychecks. Reports say Gonzalez could move to Mexico from the L.A. Galaxy, and Besler could get a raise from Sporting Kansas City or transfer to a European team.

CONCACAF: The federation of North American, Central American and Caribbean countries saw three of its four teams in the 32-team tournament advance to the Round of 16, even as powers England, Italy, Portugal and defending champion Spain went home. Costa Rica was the World Cup's surprise team. Mexico nearly upset the Netherlands in knockout play, a great recovery after coming seconds from failing to qualify for the final 32. The United States earned respect by escaping the Group of Death.

Losers

Brazil: Yes, this time we're talking about the team. The Brazilians were exposed as Neymar and a bunch of other guys. Brazil never looked like the world power we're accustomed to seeing, even as it squeaked into the semifinals. Then came the 7-1 embarrassment to Germany. That game won't be forgotten for decades.

Luis Suarez: Instead of being known for his feet, he's known for his incisors. And he catches blame at home for not being around to help Uruguay advance past the Round of 16 because FIFA suspended him for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini during their match. At least it won't stop his transfer to Barcelona.

Jozy Altidore: The U.S. forward never got a chance to show what he can do, playing just 30 minutes before a hamstring injury ended his tournament. His status with English Premier League side Sunderland remains uncertain.

Arjen Robben: The Dutch midfielder truly is one of the world's top players, with speed, skill and endurance. Too bad he's best known for flopping.

Asian teams: Four teams, zero victories.

Final prediction:

No team has looked better throughout this World Cup than Germany. If you're not impressed, check with any team from a Portuguese-speaking country.

Having predicted an Argentina championship during a radio interview in early June, however, for the sake of consistency I must stick with Argentina as my pick.

Argentina 2, Germany 1. Extra time, of course.

• Follow Orrin's soccer reports on Twitter@Orrin_Schwarz.

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