Monday 16 June 2014
Germany versus Portugal did not disappoint. Unless you happen to be Portuguese or your name was Cristiano Ronaldo or Pepe. Germany steamrolled their opponents 4-0 to cap a dismal couple of days for the Iberian peninsula. All the headlines post match centred on Thomas Muller scoring a hat-trick and the Germans in complete control of the game from beginning to end. The Portuguese were not helped by a moment of madness from their emotionally charged defender, Pepe. Muller went down somewhat theatrically challenging for the ball with Pepe, who decided to have a word with the German by using his head. He was promptly red carded and Germany made them pay. Crisitiano Ronaldo was unable to impose himself on the game in any way and Portugal got off to the worst possible start.
Arguably the worst game of the World Cup to date was the encounter between Iran and Nigeria. You know how sometimes you get a 0-0 game, that is full of entertaining end-to-end football with lots of chances at either end? This was not that game – not even close. Not only did it end in a goalless draw, but it was a stale and drab encounter. Nigeria started fairly brightly attempting to force the pace and had a couple of shots, but none were on target. The Iranians defended solidly, and the Nigerians seemed to lack patience or guile as they resorted to hoofing the ball from distance. A horrible encounter, but both teams lived to fight another day as they shared the spoils.
The last game of the night was Ghana vs USA! USA! USA! Billed as a grudge match as the Americans looked to get revenge for their 2010 tournament exit at the hands of the Black Stars. Ghana got off to the worst possible start as Clint Dempsey scored in under a minute. Ghana managed to claw their way back into the game with an Andre Ayew goal in the 82nd minute. USA would not be denied, however, and they grabbed a winner in the 86th minute. Things look dark for the Black Stars after their first game.
Tuesday 17 June 2014
Belgium against Algeria was an anticipated match from my side as I had drawn the Europeans in the office pool. So many people have spoken about Belgium being the dark horses of the tournament due to the number of talented individuals in their squad. The Red Devils took this moniker to heart as Algeria took a shock 25th minute lead through a penalty by Feghouli – this ended Algeria’s long wait for a goal (they last scored in the 1986 World Cup). The much-vaunted Belgians were struggling to impose themselves on the game and seemed to lack penetration and ideas. Ultimately, the Belgians were rescued by their subs with the much-criticised Manchester United player Fellaini and Napoli’s Dries Mertens providing the goals. Not a great game, but perfect result for the Belgians.
Hosts Brazil played Mexico in their second group game and we had the second goalless draw of the tournament. This was not for a lack of effort from the Brazilians. Mexican keeper Memo Ochoa put in a man-of-the-match performance to deny the host country. What was worrying for Brazil though, was that the only creativity in attack seemed to come from Neymar, who has thus far lived up to the pre-tournament hype as one of the players to watch. His fellow attackers, particularly Hulk and Fred both put in listless performances and Oscar didn’t manage to involve himself in the game following an impressive outing against Croatia. Great result for Mexico, but some potentially alarming signs for the hosts.
Russia versus South Korea in the last game of the night. I didn’t watch this one, and the highlights were not inspirational. 1-1 at the end.