World Cup 2014: The Story So Far…


So we’ve now had the first round of group matches at this years World Cup… And what can I say, it’s been fantastic so far. I’ve said for weeks, if not months, that I couldn’t wait for this competition to get started in Brazil and it hasn’t let me down!

It all kicked off with a poor opening ceremony but then we had the hosts smash out their national anthem. Players such as David Luiz and Dani Alves bursting with pride and passion as they belted out the song along with huge home support.

Brazil would go on and beat Croatia with Neymar and Oscar standing out but it was good to see Croatia go toe to toe with ‘A Seleção’ and giving them a bloody nose early on in the tournament. But as I said Brazil would survive the scare and send their fans home happy.

The officials have been heavily criticised but I think we sometimes ask too much from them. Also lets not forget we’ve always had these controversial decisions at World Cups, remember 1966, 1986 and 2010? They are given a split second to make a decision and don’t have the constant replays we get on telly.

Talking of TV replays, goal-line technology has finally been introduced and has already worked. Even if the BBC’s Jonathan Pearce still hasn’t managed to get his head round it, the French goal was correctly given. Another new tool brought in to help out the refs has been the vanishing spray. Its so simple, the ref sprays a foam line where the ball should be and then walks ten yards and sprays a line where the wall should stand. It may seem simple but that kind of exercise is something players can understand and adhere to.

The Netherlands got revenge on current holders Spain, humiliating the champions by thumping them 5-1 in Salvador. It certainly wasn’t a Friday the 13th for the Spanish to remember, with their horror show defending taking centre stage. Maybe, just maybe, Spain golden era is over and they need to bring in a new age. The Dutch totally outclassed their opponents and weren’t for letting them off lightly either, clinically taking them to task. Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique would have been more use on Copacabana beach.

Mexico were unlucky not to be credited with more goals against Cameroon. But the Mexicans were certainly the better side and deserved their victory. Giovani Dos Santos has once again proved he can be a world beater on the international stage. Cameroon need to up the gears or face early elimination from this tournament after an uninspired display.

Spain’s next problem will be Chile, who were quick at introducing themselves to this years competition. The flashy boys in red were two up inside fifteen minutes and were carving open the Australians with ease. Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdívia were the main creative forces and both got on the scoresheet with fine goals. To be fair to the Aussie’s they fought hard to get themselves back into the game and on the 35th minute veteran Tim Cahill rolled back the years as he leapt into the air and perfectly guiding a header beyond Chile’s captain Claudio Bravo. The Chileans then became a bit more nervy and conservative and that will give the Spaniard’s hope for their next encounter. The game was ended when Jean Beausejour scored in the 90th minute, sealing a 3-1 victory. But the Socceroos showed they wont give up on games easily and could have a big say on who goes through from Group B.

Colombia were in scintillating form as they took apart Greece. The form of James Rodriguez showed the world that Colombia weren’t a one man team that were void of inspiration just because Radamel Falcao couldn’t recover from his injury problems. James dummy for  Pablo Armero’s opener was sublime and the Monaco man deservedly scored the final goal too. It was awesome to see the Colombians reach for the stars with their goal celebration, not enough S Club 7 fans out there. The Greeks are also too defensive in these encounters and never threatened going forward. By the way you need to say Hamez not James. he doesn’t like James.

In the other match in Group C, Japan struck first inside sixteen minutes when AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda smashed home. The Ivory Coast or Cote d’Ivoire if you listen to FIFA’s live feed were sorely missing Didier Drogba, who started the game on the bench. Yaya Toure looked lost and Wilfried Bony became the king of stinking shoulder shots rather than a decent big striker who could head the ball. But once Drogba stepped onto the pitch, the Elephants started to get back into their stride. He wasn’t directly involved in the goals but the whole team gained inspiration by his mere presence. Bony would finally find the net with his head and Serge Aurier showed he could cross the ball too. The Africans will need to learn to play without Drogba or he’ll be playing into his fifties.

The biggest upset came as Costa Rica overturned a one goal deficit against Uruguay and won 3-1. The win didn’t flatter the Central Americans who showed the world they could turn up and prove tough to beat with this gutsy performance. Arsenal’s Joel Campbell had a superb game and was a standout player. Uruguay once again returned to type when they started losing and used dirty tackles to spoil the game. Edison Cavani and co need to buck up their ideas and quickly because a defeat to England could see them go home early.

England and Italy surprised us all by providing us with an entertaining fixture. Andrea Pirlo gave a masterclass in ball retention and helped his side win 2-1. Mario Balotelli stood up and came to his teams aid when he was needed most. If the Italians can improved with each game then they will be there and there abouts in the knockout rounds. England meet Uruguay on Thursday in what looks to be a must not lose game, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard will need to do what Pirlo and Balotelli did and stand up when they are needed the most. Youngster Raheem Sterling impressed throughout and it was refreshing to see him take the game to the Italians.

The French impressed as Honduras lost their heads at the Porto Algre stadium. Karim Benzema has often been criticised by the French fans but he has finally delivered for Les Bleus with a storming game and two superb strikes. Paul Pogba will have to keep his head and not to react to silly situations if he wants to see out a full game. Honduras will need to refine their rough-house tactics if they want to get any points in Brazil this summer.

Switzerland and Ecuador fought out a decent game knowing the victors will be favourites to join France in the Second round. Both sides were defensively sound but it was the Swiss side that just edged it was an inspired substitution from wily coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.

The Argentines come into the tournament as many peoples favourites, what with Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria, Sergio Aguero and the likes in the squad. They got off to a flier against Bosnia but then sat back and struggled to close the game. Finally Messi lit up a match at a World Cup, scoring a fantastic goal past Asmir Begovic. Bosnia fought hard to stifle Argentina and did get a goal back. Messi will hope it can only get better in Brazil for himself and his side. They certainly looked better when they flung on another Gonzalo Higuain.

The Nigeria Iran game was awful. I don’t think I’ve seen a game that had so many misplaced passes! Honestly the least said about this dire game the better.

You can’t write off the Germans, I’m sure that is a cliche right? They started with a very efficient performance against the Portuguese (Another cliche?). Thomas Muller bagged a sensational hat-trick and made the rest of the world take note, the Germans aren’t just here for the beach towels. Portugal were disappointing. They rely too much on Cristiano Ronaldo who cannot carry them against such illustrious opponents. Pepe was terrible and again got sent off due to his own lack of restraint.

USA got off to a wonderful start when Clint Dempsey smartly finished in the first 30 seconds against Ghana. The African side took time but finally started to find their feet in the second half. They would eventually get past Tim Howard in the 82nd minute but alas they couldn’t see out the game with American sub John Brooks heading his side back in front four minutes later. The U.S. star’s ‘Oh my god’ celebration was spine tingling!

Heavily backed ‘dark horses’ Belgium struggled again as a team against Algeria in the first half of their opening match. It didn’t surprise me to see the Algerian’s take the lead as the Belgians still need to impress me as a cohesive unit. But the ‘red devils’ finally found some form in the second half when Marc Wilmots flung on Marouane Fellaini, Dries Mertens and Divock Origi. All three made an instant impact and got Belgium the 2-1 win. The Belgians will need to up their game if they want to be seriously considered dark horses. The good news is that Eden Hazard has already showed in flashes that he can inspire them. Algeria will still fancy their chances of advancing after a solid display.

In the Russian South Korea tie, we had average football without too much of a creative spark. Fabio Capello always seems to send out teams not to lose rather than giving them some attacking freedom, it does get boring (Play Alan Dzagoev from the start next time!). Korea in particular need a top-class striker. The game did give us a goalkeeping blunder and was the first that I noticed a water break, which didn’t affect the game. Still all to play for, for everyone in Group H.

All in all, in the first round of fixtures we have seen forty-nine goals in sixteen matches. The colour, flair and excitement from these finals has been euphoric and has reminded me of France 98 or USA 94! Long may that continue. South Africa was dull but so far Brazil is buzzing, thank you Brazil.

The fact I did this report on memory shows just how much I’ve been enthralled by this World Cup!

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