Wednesday 18 June 2014
An entertaining and pulsating game between Holland and Australia ended with the Dutch edging it 3-2 and sending the Socceroos out of the tournament. Arjen Robben burst from the halfway line and went all the way down the field to score. However, the goal of the game (and probably one of the tournament’s best) came a few minutes later as Tim Cahill unleashed an over-the-shoulder volley that flew into the roof of the net. Robin van Persie added his second of the tournament to equalise after Australia successfully converted a penalty. Substitute Memphis “Bleek” Depay made the Aussies pay for missing a golden opportunity just seconds before.
Farewell Spain. The defending champions were unceremoniously booted out of the tournament by an energetic Chile side that eased past them 2-0. Chile fully deserved the win as they actually forced clear-cut chances and took them when they arose. Spain, on the other hand, looked jaded and disinterested. The lynchpin of the tiki-taka system, Xavi, was omitted from the starting lineup and without him there was no tempo or rhythm to the Spanish side. Diego Costa floundered aimlessly upfront, whilst Iker Casillas seemed to play even worse than he did in the opening game against Holland. Six years of world domination were meekly surrendered in this game.
Cameroon went from bad to dismal as they shipped in four goals against Croatia. They become the first African team to leave the tournament.
Thursday 19 June 2014
I missed all of Thursday’s action, and so only caught the highlights.
Cote d’Ivoire were edged out 1-2 by Colombia. The South Americans have two victories and are assured of a place in the last 16. Ivory Coast are still in pole position to take a spot, but need to ensure they get a positive result against the Greeks in their last game.
Inger-lund! Roy “what were you thinking?” Hodgson must have been drunk when he made that comment about Luis Suarez “not being world-class”. Surprisingly enough, the Uruguayan used Hodgson’s comments as motivation to fire the South American side to a 2-1 victory over England. Suarez was not even 100% fit for the game, but even a 75% fit Suarez was too much for the English to handle. Another tournament ends with the English heading home and as the post-mortems and hand-wringing begin, it should perhaps be a good time for the powers-that-be to consider a fresh approach to England’s consistent failings. The biggest failing is that England’s players are just not good enough as Barney Ronay indicates in this piece for the Guardian:
A record of one semi-final overseas in 64 years since points to the absence of any coherent remedial measures. The same flaws are there, chiefly the simple failure to produce high-quality, tactically state-of-the-art players, the result of a combination of societal neglect – we play too little; we have too little space to play – and an enduringly inadequate coaching culture, backed higher up by a failure to nurture and show patience with what talent does emerge.
Japan and Greece seemed determined to outdo Iran-Nigeria as they played to a goalless draw.
Friday 20 June 2014
Another TV-less day for me.
Costa Rica claimed their second scalp of the tournament by edging Italy 1-0, and so confirmed their place in the last 16. A result that nobody would have predicted at the start of the World Cup also served to ensure that England would have no hope of qualifying for the next round.
France spanked Switzerland 5-2 in their second match. Les Bleus were pretty much perfect as they rained goals in from all corners, and Karim Benzema even spurned a penalty as the French ran amok. Switzerland scored two fantastic consolation goals but were simply outplayed by the French who fired on all cynlinders. The French looking ominously united in the group games thus far.
Ecuador took the 3 points in their 2-1 victory over Honduras, with Enner Valencia bagging both goals.
Saturday 21 June 2014
What a game by Iran! Argentina rolled into the stadium and expected the Iranians to roll over and play dead. Vociferous home support urged the Argentinians on, but they struggled to break down a resolute defence. In fact, the longer the game went on the more it seemed that Iran might snatch an unlikely win. They attacked the Argentinian defence on the counter as well as proving difficult to contain at set pieces. The much-vaunted Argentine attackers proved toothless and both Higuain and Aguero were subbed in the second half. In the end, it was a moment of magic from Messi that broke Iranian (and neutral) hearts as the Barcelona player jinked past two defenders and curled an unstoppable shot past the despairing Haghighi. Yet another unconvincing win for the South Americans but they have moved to the next round and that’s all that matters.
Germany and Ghana played to a 2-2 draw in arguably one of the games of the tournament thus far. Everyone expected Germany to continue in the same vein as they did against Portugal, but the Black Stars played an outstanding game. In the end, a deserved draw and Miroslav Klose draws level with the original Ronaldo in scoring the most World Cup goals.
Nigeria redeemed themselves with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina. They West Africans were much more purposeful going forward and the powerful and hard-running Emmanuel Emenike proving to be a constant threat. Peter Odemwingie scored the only goal of the game, having been set up after great work by Emenike. The Europeans never stopped running and trying to score but were unable to find a way past the Nigerian goalkeeper. Nigeria maintain a record of clean sheets in the two games they have played so far.
Sunday 22 June 2014
Belgium won 1-0 in a tough game against Russia. This game failed to spring into life as the Belgians struggled to break down the Russian defence. The Belgians again looked bereft of ideas and guile in the final third with both Hazard and Lukaku failing to impose themselves on the game. Substitute Divock Origi scored the winner with 120 seconds left to play. Like Argentina, an unconvincing performance by the Belgians but they have qualified for the last 16.
I certainly didn’t see this one coming. Algeria blew South Korea off the park with a 4-2 victory. A highly entertaining game with the North Africans setting the tempo from the start and playing some very good football as well. Yacine Brahimi was the star of the show as he put in an energetic performance in midfield and was involved in everything good for Algeria, who became the first African side to score four goals in a World Cup.
The late game (for us) was USA versus Portugal which I saw on the highlights. Another goal of the tournament contender from Jermaine Jones and a cross of the tournament contender for Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury time assist for Varela. Portugal still within sniffing distance of a potential qualifying spot.
Monday 23 June 2014
The final round of group games. A chance to salvage a little bit of pride for some, potential qualification for others and assurance of top spot for a privileged team.
Holland outplayed Chile 2-0 to clinch top spot and avoid playing Brazil (probably) in the next round. The Dutch were not as convincing as the scoreline suggests as they scored two late goals to wrap things up.
In the other game, Spain salvaged that pride by not ending as wooden spoon holders against Australia. The Spaniards won 3-0 with David Villa bagging his last international goal before an emotional substitution. The football gods were feeling generous as Fernando Torres even managed to score, with Juan “it doesn’t’ Mata scoring the third.
Brazil hammered hapless Cameroon 4-1 although the scoreline flattered the Brazilians somewhat. The irrepressible Neymar bagged a brace and was full of tricks and turns throughout his time on the pitch. Unfortunately, he was let down by some of his team mates like Hulk and Paulinho in particular. The linesman felt sorry enough for Fred that he didn’t raise his flag as the number 9 scored from an offside position. More question marks for Brazil as Neymar’s sparkle is barely covering the cracks in the rest of the host country. The defence is looking decidedly suspect particularly from aerial challenges and Oscar seems to have gone missing again. Cameroon were dismal throughout the tournament and their overly physical and brutish performance in this game will leave many happy that they have gone home.
Mexico had a mathematical chance of topping the group in their final game against Croatia. The Europeans lacked sparkle in the game and were overrun 3-1 by the North Americans.