The World Cup – What has happened so far!

Posted: June 19, 2014 in Football, Soccer
Tags: , , , ,

Group A
Brazil disposed of Croatia and were joined in the winners circle by Mexico in the opening Group A fixtures. Mexico “only” defeated Cameroon 1-0 but Giovanni Dos Santos had two legitimate goals ruled out for offside as Mexico put in one of their best performances in recent time. The second set of games saw a 0-0 between Mexico and Brazil and a thumping win for Croatia over Cameroon. Mexico had goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa to thank for keeping Brazil at bay. For Croatia the returning Mario Mandzukic scored twice in a 4-0 romp.
Brazil look likely to finish top of the group while Mexico and Croatia will face off in a winner takes all match. Mexico have the added advantage of knowing that a draw will be enough but I think Croatia has the edge in what should be a tight affair.

Group B
Brazil may have opened the World Cup but it was the Netherlands who really bought it to life with a 5-1 thrashing of reigning champions Spain. It was Spain’s biggest defeat in more than half a century and a day when not a single one of their players enhanced their reputation. In such a commanding win highlighting one incident as a turning point is difficult but with his side leading one nil and only minutes of the first half remaining David Silva was through on goal with only the keeper to beat. Rather than picking his spot he unforgivably tried to chip the Dutch keeper who gleefully parried it away. Moments later the Orange were level. That was as good as things got for Spain, who are now out of the World Cup after a second loss, 2-0, to Chile. They created some unwanted history as they became the first team to exit the World Cup after only two games.
Australia lost 3-1 to Chile in their opening group game. It was an encouraging display but ultimately they were punished for two lapses of concentration. They were given little hope for their second match against a confident Dutch side, with odds of up to $17 on Australia to win being offered. Ange Postecoglu stayed true to his word and from the start Australia looked to control possession, pressing their Dutch counterparts and trying to force mistakes. In a keenly contested and open match there were plenty of chances as both sides made mistakes in dangerous positions. Australia fell behind to Arjen Robben’s third of the tournament before a stunning volley from Tim Cahill levelled the scores and then a Mile Jedinak penalty gave them the lead. But the Orange improved as the second half wore on and secured the win with goals from Van Persie and substitute Memphis. The result was somewhat harsh on Australia who created the better chances, especially in the opening seventy minutes, but ultimately it was the better finishing of the Netherlands forwards that decided the game.
The Netherlands and Chile have now won their opening two games and will play off for top spot, knowing that the loser will likely face Brazil in the Round of 16. The Netherlands superior goal difference means a draw will be enough for them to top the group. Spain and Australia are the first teams officially eliminated from the World Cup and will play for pride in their final game.

The remaining groups have only played one game so far.

Group C
The goals continued to flow as Colombia eased to a 3-0 win over a completely outclassed Greek outfit. As mentioned in the preview, this Colombian side is one blessed with plenty of attacking talent and has numerous avenues to goal, these were on show in their opening game. Sterner tests await but Colombia did what was required in the opening game. The second game in group C saw a much tighter affair. Japan took an early lead against the Ivory Coast through Keisuke Honda. After going behind the Ivory Coast dominated and were finally rewarded as two headed goals in quick succession secured the win.
The Ivory Coast now play Colombia in a match that is likely to determine the winners of Group C, while Japan play Greece in a must win match for both sides.

Group D
Italy versus England was one of the most anticipated matches of the group stage. Italy went in front but were pegged back almost immediately as Daniel Sturridge slammed home a Wayne Rooney cross after a quick break. Mario Balotelli ultimately scored the winner with a neat header at the back post but it was the peerless Andre Pirlo who was the star for the Azurri. He dictated the control and tempo of the match and almost put an exclamation mark on his performance with a late free kick that rattled the cross bar. The conditions played their part, as they are likely to do all tournament, and both teams looked exhausted for much of the second half. The quality deteriorated and there were very few chances from about seventy minutes on. It was a disappointing finish to a match that had promised plenty.
Uruguay entered their match against Costa Rica without the injured Luis Suarez but still as favourites and confident of securing the win. When Cavani scored from the spot everything was going to plan. But things fell apart in the second half as Joel Campbell inspired a fight back that culminated in a 3-1 win for Costa Rica. A great result for the footballing minnows and it makes what was a tough group even tighter. As in group C, the victors will now play one another while England and Uruguay will look to avoid a second defeat and almost definite elimination.

Group E
European neighbours France and Switzerland secured contrasting victories in their opening games. The Swiss scored in the 92nd minute to beat Ecuador 2-1 while France cruised to a 3-0 win over Honduras. The most notable incident was the first real test for goal line technology after a Karem Benzema effort hit the post, rolled along the line, was fumbled and then cleared by the Honduras goal keeper. While there was some confusion ultimately technology got it right and the goal was awarded. Switzerland and France meet next in another game that is likely to determine the group winners.

Group F
Iran and Nigeria played out the first goalless game of the World Cup. After a bright start by Nigeria the game was largely devoid of highlights. A good one for the neutral supporters on the other side of the world to have missed, where managing sleep deprivation is a tactical battle and choices have to be made.
Argentina made a winning start to their World Cup as Lionel Messi took his first step towards remedying what is a relatively poor World Cup record. But Argentina were made to work hard against a compact and talented Bosnian side. Despite the 2-1 loss Bosnia will still be confident that they can progress. They face Nigeria next up in a vital match for both sides.

Group G
Germany started their World Cup campaign with a commanding 4-0 win over Portugal. Thomas Muller, who won the golden boot four years ago, started where he left off in South Africa with his first international hat-trick. There was nothing spectacular about any of his goals as he scored from the penalty spot and found himself in the right spot at the right time to score from a couple of rebounds. Germany dominated following the dismissal of Pepe and could easily have scored six or seven as Goetze and Ozil failed to convert a number of opportunities.
Elsewhere Clint Dempsey scored the fifth fastest goal in World Cup history as he opened the scoring after 31 seconds in the United States’ match against Ghana. Ghana toiled away and eventually got the reward their hard work deserved as they equalised with less than ten minutes to go. But after being on the back foot for most of the match the US executed the perfect smash and grab victory with an 86th minute winner.
Germany and the US will both be looking to secure their progress to the Round of 16 as they host Ghana and Portugal respectively in their second matches.

Group H
Belgium entered the tournament with high expectations and a young team brimming with talent. But that counts for little on the World Cup stage. Against an unfancied Algerian side Belgium found themselves a goal behind at the break. Over the first 15 minutes of the second half Marc Wilmots made three substitutions, replacing the ineffective and disappointing Lukaku, Dembele and Chadli with Mertens, Fellaini and young striker Origi. Mertens and Fellaini scored the goals to secure the comeback and all three looked dangerous and pushed their cases for a starting position. Dries Mertens caused problems for the Algerian defence throughout the second half and it would be especially surprising if he wasn’t rewarded with a starting berth next match. Eden Hazard had a very quiet game and is one of the players Belgium will look to for improvement in their next game against Russia. Russia and South Korea played out a cagey one all draw in a game that never reached any great heights but left both with a chance of reaching the knock-out stages.

Some other comments:
Best goal: Robin Van Persie’s diving header against Spain had the lead until Tim Cahill’s exquisite volley against the Netherlands. He executed one of the most difficult football skills with aplomb. If you haven’t seen it you can watch it here
Worst goal keeping mistake: A tie between two of the most experienced custodians in Igor Akinfeev and Iker Casillas. Casillas miss controlled to allow Van Persie in while Akinfeev fumbled the kind of shot he has saved a thousand times.
Least surprising red card: Portugal’s Pepe is a ticking time bomb and seeing him lose his temper and head-butt Germany’s Thomas Muller with his side already two behind was, sadly, quite predictable.
Biggest upset: The Netherlands win over Spain was a surprise but they were upstaged by Costa Rico whose come from behind win over Uruguay was nothing short of a fairy tale.
Most dominant performance: Germany. Disposed of a strong Portuguese side easily and still look the team to beat.
Comebacks: Scoring first has been anything but a guarantee in this World Cup. Six sides have managed to win after going behind, one has drawn and eleven have gone on to win.
Attacking football: Commentators are raving about the attacking football on display and are already comparing it to some of the other famous World Cups. Four years ago in South Africa dour football won out but this edition has seen a refreshing focus on attack. It wasn’t until the thirteenth match that we had a scoreless match, which also happened to be the first draw.
Game changing substitutes: Whether it has been the heat or the high tempo many sides have suffered late in their games. This means there is more space and more opportunities for substitutes to make their mark. Substitutes have been responsible for plenty of late drama, with numerous managers being praised for making game changing substitutions.

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