Tuesday, June 17, 2014

World Cup Opening Round Recap

The World Cup is off and running with the first round of games concluding with South Korea and Russia playing to a 1-1 draw. There were no draws through the first 12 games in Brazil, but there have been 3 in the last 5. There have been thrilling finishes and two players dismissed with red cards. Here's a look back at the first 5 days of action. I added standings for each group into my blog header as a quick reference.

Group A

 3 1

Brazil and Croatia kicked off the World Cup on Thursday with a tightly played first half that ended even at 1 after an own goal by Brazil. Brazil dominated the game from the 20 minute mark into the second half when they were awarded a penalty kick after a questionable call. Neymar converted, giving Brazil the lead. Croatia would mount some pressure, but Brazil would tack on one more to take early control of Group A.

 1  0

Both teams had goals taken away on offsides calls in the first half before Mexico finally broke through in the second and scored. This was a big 3 points for Mexico as they get a leg up on Croatia and Cameroon for 2nd place.

Next Games

Brazil 0, Mexico 0

Brazil and Mexico played the most thrilling 0-0 draw you will ever see in the first game of the second round of the round robin.

Croatia vs Cameroon
6:00 Wednesday

If this game ends in a draw, both teams will need big wins to overcome their goal differential. If the game doesn't end in a draw, the winner of this game will put themselves into a win-and-advance position heading into the third and final game while the loser will be eliminated.

Group B

 5 1

The death of tiki taka. The Dutch came out with revenge on their minds for the 2010 final and delivered a message loud and clear. Spanish keeper Iker Casillas, widely regarded as one of the best keepers in the world, had an awful outing. The Dutch look to be in command of this group and have the opportunity to avoid Brazil in the Round of 16 as long as they don't have an emotional let-down after this match. Spain will need to right the ship quickly as they face a dangerous Chile team next. 

 3 1

Chile was in total control of the game early, taking a quick 2-0 lead. To their credit, Australia battled back and were pressing hard to get an equalizer late in the game before Chile scored in stoppage time to stretch the lead to 2. Chile showed some vulnerability at the back, but they certainly have the attacking talent to play with anyone. 

Next Games

Netherlands vs Australia
noon Wednesday

Wednesday's action will kick off with the most impressive team from the opening round - the Dutch. The Netherlands will need to avoid an emotional let-down after conquering World Champion Spain in the opening round. 

Spain vs Chile
3:00 Wednesday

This is a big game for both teams, possibly one of the biggest of the second set of games. Spain is reeling after being manhandled by the Dutch and Chile is in perfect position to steal a spot in the knockout stage. Only two teams from this group will advance and assuming the Netherlands defeats Australia, this game may decide who that second team is that moves on in the tournament. 

Group C

 3 0

There were some questions surrounding how Colombia would fare without striker Radamel Falcao, but those fears were quickly allayed against Greece. For the Greeks, it was more of the same. Their style is based on playing defense to the extreme and they are incapable of playing from behind. Colombia took advantage and put on a show.

 2 1

The Drogba Effect is real. The legendary forward from the Ivory Coast came on late in the match as a substitute with Japan leading 1-0. Immediately, Drogba generated two scoring chances before the Elephants broke through with two headers in a matter of 100 seconds that found the back of the net and gave the Ivory Coast a chance to advance to the Round of 16 for the first time ever.

Next Games

Colombia vs Ivory Coast
noon Thursday

The winner will assume control of first place in Group C. Can Colombia continue their offensive excellence? Does Drogba start for the Ivory Coast or do they hold him back as a sub once again to keep him fresh? Both of these teams are incredibly talented up front and this should be an enjoyable match.

Japan vs Greece
6:00 Thursday

Both teams will be hoping for a definitive result in the early game so that the winner here can draw even for second place. If the early game ends in a draw, the loser of this game will be eliminated. Japan has some talented forwards and could present a challenge to Colombia in the group finale. Greece is just boring.

Group D

 3 1

In the shock of the tournament so far, Costa Rica upset a Luis Suarez-less Uruguay team. Uruguay held an early lead but Costa Rica scored twice in a matter of minutes in the second half before adding an exquisite third goal in the 90th minute to bury Uruguay. With two harder games remaining, Uruguay will need a victory over England or Italy and have to make up goal differential somewhere along the line in order to advance. If Costa Rica can muster a draw against Italy or England they might be able to shock the world by advancing to the knockout stage for only the second time in national team history (1990).

 2 1

My family's ancestry is Italian, German and Scotch-Irish. There was a lot for me to like about this game. Italy won. England lost. Wayne Rooney sucks. Mario Balotelli is awesome. Andrea Pirlo did this:

 All is well. Viva Italia.

Next Games

Uruguay vs England
3:00 Thursday

Both of these teams need points in the worst way with Italy and Costa Rica sitting atop the group. If Italy and Costa Rica were to draw, the loser of this game would be eliminated. Both of these sides had high expectations entering the tournament and one will be on the verge of elimination after this game.

Italy vs Costa Rica
noon Friday

A week ago, no one would have guessed Italy and Costa Rica would be playing with first place in Group D on the line. If Uruguay and England draw, the winner here will clinch a spot in the knockout stage. Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon could be on track to play.

Group E

 2 1

Aside from the USA-Ghana game, the Switzerland-Ecuador match may have had the most exciting conclusion of the opening round. With the game tied at 1 in stoppage time, Ecuador had an opportunity at the top of the box but turned the ball over. The Swiss stormed back and scored on a deflection just as stoppage time was about to expire. This win puts the Swiss in great position to advance from this group

 3 0

Honduras was hit with a red card in the first half of the match. Honduras has never won a game at the World Cup, and they might leave Brazil with that streak continued. They mustered no offense against the French and took numerous bad penalties. The French have an advantage in goal differential over the Swiss and are in good position to avoid a matchup with Argentina in the Round of 16.

Next Games

Switzerland vs France
3:00 Friday

This is the game will likely decide first place in the group. Both teams are riding high after their opening round games and winning the group is essential to avoiding powerhouse Argentina in the Round of 16.

Ecuador vs Honduras
6:00 Friday

Will Ecuador finally shake the mantle of not being able to win away from home? In qualifying they mustered just 4 draws and 5 losses and had draws in their friendlies against quality opposition leading up to the World Cup. Honduras looked like the worst team in the tournament against France and may not muster a point out of their trip to Brazil.

Group F

 2 1

Argentina jumped out to an early lead on an own goal off a Lionel Messi free kick. Messi would break free again in the second half and put Argentina up 2-0 before Bosnia would add a late goal. Argentina is in clear control of the group with this win and should coast through their next two games and into the knockout stage. Even with the loss, Bosnia still looks like the second best team in the group and should be able to pick up at least one win in their next two games to put them through to the knockout stage.

 0 0

The first draw of the World Cup and probably the most boring game yet. Iran lacked any kind of finishing ability on the front line and Nigeria's attack was often derailed in the midfield before their strikers could get the ball. Both of these teams earned a point but neither looked potent enough to compete with the other teams in the group.

Next Games

Argentina vs Iran
noon Saturday

Argentina can clinch a spot in the next round with a victory over Iran. Iran did not look great defensively against Nigeria, despite the clean sheet and this has all the makings of one of those prototypical 6-goal games from Argentina.

Bosnia-Herzegovina vs Nigeria
6:00 Saturday

If Bosnia is going to advance, they need to get points from this game. A victory would put them in the catbird's seat for the second position heading into their game with Iran. A draw does not eliminate them, but would make it necessary to beat Iran. Nigeria's defense will have their work cut out for them against a talented Bosnia front line.

Group G

 2  1

The US scored early. Ghana scored in the 80th minute. John Brooks struck back. I wrote a recap of sorts.

 4 0

Germany converted a penalty early then got a huge boost when Portugal defender and super-douche Pepe was sent off for a head butt. Thomas Muller ended the game with a hat trick as Germany dissected the shorthanded Portuguese defense. 

Next Games

Germany vs Ghana
3:00 Saturday

After taking apart Portugal in the opener, Germany looks to continue to roll against Ghana. A German victory would be the best possible result for the United States as it would give us an opportunity to secure a spot in the knockout stage with a win over Portugal.

USA vs Portugal
6:00 Sunday

If the Germans defeat Ghana, the US can clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a win over Portugal. This will be a tall task as the US struggled to defend in the areas where giant crybaby Christiano Ronaldo likes to lurk. Mark your calendars for this one. Go America.

Group H

 2  1

Algeria carried a 1-0 lead into halftime after converting a penalty kick, but the Belgian substitutes produced two highlight-reel goals to give the young and talented Belgium team commanding control of Group H.

 1  1

As I mentioned at the outset, Russia and South Korea played to a 1-1 draw after the Russian keeper gave up a terrible goal that bounced off his hands and in to the net. Russia was able to salvage a draw. Both teams are still in the thick of the race to advance, but have their work cut out for them against a Belgian team that started to come together in the second half and a defensively strong Algerian side that could steal a draw and alter the complexion of the group.

Next Games

Belgium vs Russia
noon Sunday

Russia has the difficult task of trying to salvage points against a Belgium side that started clicking in the last 30 minutes against Algeria in order to stay in contention should South Korea defeat Algeria. Belgium is clearly the class of this group but needs to build on their momentum from the Algeria game.

South Korea vs Algeria
3:00 Sunday

South Korea can eliminate Algeria from contention with a win, but a draw or a loss would keep both teams eligible heading into the third game. Algeria looked strong defensively against Belgium but didn't have the height to match the Belgians in the air, which might not be as big of a problem against South Korea.

1 comment:

Nicardo McLean said...

Really enjoyed all of the games contested during the first week of the Cup - except the Iran-Nigeria match, which was a total snooze fest. Nice, tight, comprehensive review of everything. Stumbled upon this detailed recap of the first weekend of games that might be worth a read as well: http://www.dishtvsignup.com/blog/world-cup-recap-brazil-got-winning-start/.