Every four years, the world stops and watches as 32 of the best (but not the 32 best, I’m looking at you, Iran) soccer nations gather together in one country for the World Cup. While the US Men’s National Team faces a stiff challenge in looking to escape Group G, that won’t stop us from looking at the biggest sporting event (I’m not counting the Olympics because there’s more than one sport there) in the world. Now that the games have started, we’ll be giving you all some of our thoughts on how the tournament has progressed and what to watch for as the teams start finishing up their first round of games.
While no one should be surprised that Brazil won the opening game of the tournament on home soil, I was very impressed with Croatia’s performance, despite the 3-1 scoreline. The penalty drawn to give Brazil its second goal was a little iffy, but almost no one wearing yellow in Sao Paulo seemed to mind. Let’s hope we don’t see too many controversial calls decide games in the rest of the tournament.
— Carl Yedor
Cameroon is as offensively inept as any team I can remember watching in the World Cup. They mishit the simplest of passes and were consistently incapable of switching the field even when given inviting opportunities from the Mexican defense. After Oribe Peralta put Mexico up in the 61st minute, you couldn’t help but feel that the outcome of the game was certain.
Very interesting to hear the Brazil fans cheering Spain’s demise as Robben and Van Persie began piling it on. I understand it’s fun to watch your team’s biggest threat go down in historical fashion, but be careful what you wish for. If (and likely when) Brazil win Group A, they now could very well be looking at La Roja in the Round of 16. I’m looking forward to a Confederations Cup Final rematch as much as the next guy, but would much rather see it deeper in the tournament.
Fernando Torres’ late gaffe in front of goal could have huge tiebreaker implications moving forward. I still expect Spain to thoroughly throttle Australia and close the differential gap, but especially after seeing Chile come out firing against Australia, every goal matters. A single Tim Cahill header could decide who advances in this group and who goes home early.
— Matt Bell
Player of the Day: Joel Campbell, FW, Costa Rica.
The Ticos seemed surely overmatched entering their contest against reigning Copa America champions Uruguay, but from the very beginning, Campbell terrorized the aging light blue backline. In the first half, an early turn into space highlighted his elusiveness and a sizzling shot from distance that flew just wide of the Uruguayan post showcased the forward’s eye for goal. Campbell was able to build on these flashes and turn in a tremendous second half, equalizing after a terrific control in the 54th minute and threading an incisive through ball to teammate Marcos Urena to assist on the kill-shot goal. For the majority of the game, Campbell was on an island in Costa Rica playing five defenders instead of the typical four. But what a picturesque island it was, one the Costa Ricans will hope to keep returning to if they are hoping for a deep run into the knockout stages.
Word of the Day: Diverse
Weather (perfection in Belo Horizonte; oppressive in the Amazon; downpour in Recife). Goals (superb strikes by the likes of Marchisio and Honda, meet the less-than-stellar marks put down by Pablo Armero and Gervinho, who have the opposing keeper to thank for helping get their names on the score sheet). Results (Poor Greece. Content Italy. Happy Ivory Coast. Elated Costa Rica). Whatever you like, this World Cup can provide it in bunches.
Goal of the Day: Wilfried Bony, Ivory Coast, against Japan, 64’, 1-1 (2-1).
Bony, who had struggled to make much of the chances presented to him up to his equalizer (just one of his four shots would wind up on frame), made no mistake with this exquisitely placed glancing header off an even sweeter cross from Serge Aurier. Bony’s tally would be followed up by a Gervinho near-post header a mere 100 seconds later. It was emblematic of the superior physical advantage that the Ivorians used to overcome an early deficit and take all three points from the Japanese.
Reigning Goal of the Tourney: Robin Van Persie, Netherlands, against Spain, 44’, 1-1 (5-1). C’mon. Top this. No really. Please top this!
— Peter Barston
Ecuador and Switzerland both made glaring mistakes that good teams cannot afford to make (with Ecuador’s costing them points in Brasilia) in a World Cup Final. Ecuador and Switzerland both scored goals off headers because of poor set piece defense. With the score 1-1 for a majority of the second half, neither team could find the back of the net despite creating great opportunities for themselves, but Haris Seferović bailed the Swiss out with a goal in the 93rd minute after Ecuador couldn’t get a shot off inside the box. It was an exciting game, to say the least, but Switzerland will be breathing a sigh of relief tonight while Ecuador will regret not taking advantage of the chance, leaving points on the field, and disappointing the stadium packed with Ecuadorians.
Two players stood out in this game for France. Karim Benzema, who missed the 2010 World Cup, made a penalty kick, shot the ball that rolled in for the second goal, and scored the third goal as well. Antoine Griezmann, Franck Ribéry’s replacement, also put forth a great game for Les Bleus by creating opportunities and almost scoring himself on several occasions. Overall, France dominated Honduras as expected, but it is still difficult to gauge how talented this French team is, given the quality of the opposition.
For the fourth time in this tournament, a team has opted to start five defensive players in the back. Mexico, The Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Argentina have all won by making this tactical decision, outscoring their opposition 11-3. Argentina especially had the most to give up offensively as Higuaín had to start the game of the bench. As the tournament progresses, it will become evident whether or not this is just a random string of results in favor of a five-man back line. That being said, Bosnia-Herzegovina fought well and positioned themselves for possible points after the former St. Louis Billiken Vedad Ibišević scored late in the game by nutmegging Sergio Romero. Bosnia-Herzegovina certainly looked like a team that could make some noise in the knockout stages.
— Nick Barton
Stay tuned for more of our coverage of the tournament, and Go! Go! USA
Images courtesy of BBC, the Telegraph, the Daily Star, the Daily Mail, o.Canada.com
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