Some of the best rivalries at the World Cup are those we can imagine among individual players from the same club
This World Cup has given us some great rivalry games: Netherlands-Spain, Italy-Uruguay, France-Germany, and USA-Ghana come to mind. There have also been some great personal rivalries between players who share a locker room on a day-to-day basis with their club teams but have faced each other while representing their nations, as Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Luka Modric did in the opening match.
Matchup #1: Chelsea
Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon) vs. Willian, Oscar, Ramires, David Luiz (Brazil)
This one was over before it began, because Eto’o failed to get off the bench against Brazil. Sure, he was injured, and besides, the Chelsea players—those that remain with Chelsea, anyway—will likely be Eto’o’s former teammates quite soon. Even though his Brazilian teammates were heavily favored, Eto’o wouldn’t have been afraid; after all, this is the man who mocked his coach, Jose Mourinho, with a goal celebration in which he acted like an old man—and lived to tell the story.
Pre-match wager: Champions League football. The players of whoever’s team loses should forfeit playing the most prestigious club football competition on Earth and be exiled to Qatar for a year, where they will win an astonishing amount of money and be treated like kings.
Bragging rights go to… Willian, Oscar, Ramires and David Luiz. A couple of assists, one for Willian and one for David Luiz are more than enough for them to go back to Stamford Bridge and boast in front of Eto’o’s locker before the start of every match, dancing and chanting “4-1! 4-1!” for all eternity. Except that they won’t because Luiz and Eto’o won’t be Chelsea players next season. Sad.
Matchup # 2: Liverpool
Luis Suárez (Uruguay) vs. Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Glen Johnson (England)
If this were an actual fight, Gerrard, Sturridge, Sterling, Henderson and Johnson would have fled for their lives. There is no way the English would have dared stand up against a man who had bitten not one, not two, but three footballers during a match. (Okay, he had only bitten two players as of this game).
Suárez scored two goals, celebrating with the physio who nursed him back to health after a minor knee surgery less than a month before the tournament started. Instead of using the pain of losing the Premier League to move forward, it was one of Suarez’s Liverpool teammates who ended up setting him up for the second Uruguay goal, which practically eliminated England. This game posed the question of what wins: cunning—sometimes evil—mischievousness, or revenge? The answer was both. On Suarez’s side.
Pre-match wager: Loser(s) must wear the Liverpool 2013/2014 away kit in a public place for more than four hours.
Bragging rights go to… Luis Suárez. Not that he’ll be able to do much gloating in the next four months.
Matchup #3: Juventus
Martín Cáceres (Uruguay) vs. Giorgio Chiellini, Gianluigi Buffon, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Barzagli, Leandro Bonucci and Andrea Pirlo (ie, most of Italy)
It looked like a gargantuan task for the South Americans seeing as how they needed to win against Italy when they couldn’t beat a side that has only participated in four World Cups—cheers Costa Rica—but they did it. With the help of Luis Suárez’s antics and a controversial red card, Uruguay and Cáceres stepped over the Italians and sent Pirlo’s majestic facial hair home.
Pre-match wager: Pirlo vs. Cáceres shaved head. Have you ever seen Martín Cáceres without his long mane? Have you ever seen Pirlo without his vibrant coat of fur? Who knows what it would do to Cáceres but Pirlo would probably lose all his footballing abilities, which almost certainly originate from his spectacular hair.
Bragging rights go to… Martín Cáceres. He will now wear a t-shirt that reads: “Chi ride ora?” (Who’s laughing now?) before, during and after every single Juventus match. Cáceres will take over their lockers, knock down the walls between them and form the biggest locker in the room, always displaying a Uruguayan flag and a picture of Suárez “falling” into Chiellini.
Matchup #4: Alexis Sánchez vs. Neymar and Dani Alves—Barcelona
Alexis Sánchez was one of Barcelona’s best players in the final third of last season, but it was still a year in which he suffered a constant stream of headlines speculating about his departure from the club. Against Brazil in the Round of 16, Sánchez scored the equalizer and was one dangerous throughout the game. However, he missed his penalty, and when Pinilla thumped his off the post, Chile was out.
Pre-match wager: Taunting José Mourinho at his home while wearing a “UNICEF loves F.C. Barcelona” shirt. If there’s something this World Cup has been missing, it’s Mourinho. The Portuguese strategist and mind-controller is one of football’s most colorful characters and watching the sport without him there just isn’t the same.
Bragging rights go to… Neymar and Dani Alves. They are such good sports that they will accompany Sánchez on his English endeavor to find and mock The Special One, wearing multiple GoPro cameras so to capture footage they’ll later post on Instagram. Mourinho will not take kindly to this, and now that Sanchez’s transfer to Arsenal has gone through, he will knee-slide while screaming, “Alexis! Alexis!” after each of the six goals Chelsea scores in its first game against the Gunners next season. Not like something of that magnitude would ever happen. Oh, wait….