Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie were brilliant in The Netherlands big win over Spain, each bagging a brace in the 5-1 drubbing. Photo: Getty Images.With the first round of matches of the group stage done and dusted, Tribune sports journalist Joe McDonough took time to sharehis thoughts on the2014 FIFA World Cup thus far.
Undoubtedly the most significant result in the tournament thus far has been the Dutch conquest of Spain. The Netherlands 5-1 thumping of the world champions not only shocked the football world but has left Spain requiring a win against the dangerous Chileans to even make the knockout phase. The result has many believing the tiki-taka style which catapulted Spain to recent world cup and euro success has found its use-by date. It will be interesting to see how the Socceroos handle the likes of Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie when they meet the ‘Oranje’ tomorrow morning at 2am.
The other major upset during the first round was Costa Rica’s 3-1 win over the highly rated Uruguayans. With many experts expecting a South American team to claim world cup glory, Uruguay was one of those teams well fancied yet were undone by the plucky Costa Ricans. In a group containing England and Italy it is now hard to see them progressing.
Portugal were dismantled by the Germans on Tuesday morning, and although not an upset, the 4-0 drubbing has put enormous pressure on Cristiano Ronaldo and his men in their two remaining matches against the USA and Ghana. Germany’s performance was clinical and they will be brimming with confidence as they look toward the knockout phase and a possible match-up against either Russia or Korea, who played out a 1-1 draw this morning.
England and Italy both had their chances in their Group D clash but a powerful header from enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli handed the ‘Azzurri’ a very important 2-1 win. They will be looking to top their group and avoid the likely winners of Group C, Columbia, who showed their class in a 3-0 whitewash of Greece.
The bookmakers’ singled out Brazil as the team most likely at the start of the tournament. With a history of invincibility on home soil, and the class of key players Neymar,Oscar and Hulk, they were deserved favouritesbut two indifferent performances has seen them driftslightly in betting to be joint favourites with Argentina and Germany. They were very fortunate to get away with the three points against Croatia, with a very dubious penalty being awarded to the home nation at a crucial time late in the match. They followed that up with an even less convincing effort against the Mexicans this morning with‘El Tri’ at least matching the Brazilians for most of the match and holding them to a nil-all draw.
Brazil should still finish in first-place of Group A considering their final hit out is against a struggling Cameroon team plagued by internal fueding, but Mexico can mathematically overtake them with a good win against Croatia. Of course in saying that, any team can still qualify from the group. Mexico and Brazil have the best chance to claim top spot though, and they will be pushing to do so as the second-place team will probably face The Netherlands in the round of 16. So expect plenty of goals in the final three games of Group A.
Argentina is the other South American superpower and although only scraping past Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1, Lionel Messi, in particular, showed enough to suggest he and his teammates should get comfortable at their Belo Horizonte base. Looking to replicate Maradona’s feat in 1986 and lead his country to glory, ‘Albiceleste’ captain Messi is under immense pressure but eased it somewhat with a lovely goal in their opening fixture.
But for now all ourattention turns to the Socceroos, who will need to play the match of their lives against the form team of the finals so far.
Best and worst so far…
Robin Van Persie’s flying header against Spain.
Guillermo Ochoa keeping out Neymar’s header.
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