Twentieth FIFA World Cup 2014 over fifteen days in 12 modern venues of lovely fun loving cities of Brazil in 36 absorbing contests witnessed major surprises, few unbelievable upsets, plenty of entertainments and lots of excitements.
136 goals including many spectacular ones were scored as an average of 2.83 per match.
Seven teams won the last 19 world Cup titles. This world cup has already witnessed the exit of three of them Italy, England and Spain in the first round who between them won six championship in the past.
World Cup also witnessed few controversies, some poor referring.
Nine Red Cards were shown. Uruguay and Liverpool Star Luiz Suarez got a four months ban from all FIFA approved soccer related activities including Nine International Matches for biting the shoulder of Italian defender Georgio Chielini.
Netherlands with ten goals could put the maximum number of goals in the opponents net.
Lionel Messi of Argentina, Neymar of Brazil and Thomas Muller with four goals each are jointing holding the position of top scorer in the tournament.
Their teams are well in the race of the championship and more goals are expected from them.
Mirloslav Klose of Germany has already equaled the all-time record of Brazils “Phenomenon “Ronaldo of the highest (15) goals in the world Cup.
The tournament will enter the business session from Sunday 29th June with sixteen teams fighting out in the pre quarter finals.
This write up will attempt to briefly analyze the events of the tournament so far and try to forecast possible outcome.
Pre-quarter line up reads--
Brazil Vs Chile, Mexico vs Holland, Colombia vs Uruguay, Costa Rica vs Greece, France vs Nigeria, Argentina vs Switzerland, Germany vs Algeria and Belgium vs USA.
It appears from above that the group of sixteen comprises of 6 from Europe, 5 from South America, 3CONACAF region, 2 from Africa. Unfortunately none of the four teams from Asia Oceania zone could join the elite group. Four teams Australia, South Korea, Iran and Japan playing 12 matches lost 9 and could earn 3 draws only.
This exposed the marked difference of class and quality of the football of the region with the world standard.
As expected, 5 out of the 6 South American teams moved into the second round with the lone exception being Ecuador. Major European teams which missed out were Champions of 2010 and one of the rated favorite and top FIFA ranked team Spain, Champions of the past Italy and England, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, Croatia, Russia, debutant Bosnia & Herzegovina. Africans could not do justice to their reputation as only two out of five nations -Algeria and Nigeria could advance into the second round.
CONACAF can claim 75% success as 3 out of four team USA, Mexico and Costa Rica qualified from the region. The most surprise package is Central America team Costa Rica which not only qualified from the Group of death but also topped the group knocking out Italy and England from the group.
Group “A” Matches:
As expected hosts and all-time favorite Brazil with two wins ( 3-1) against Croatia and (4-1) against Cameroon and a goal less drawn match against Mexico topped the group and Mexico after a tough tussle with impressive Croatia came second. Favorite Brazil although not yet appeared in its brilliant best appeared to have moved into second gear from the last match of the group.
They were deprived of a win against Mexico due to outstanding goal keeping of Mexican Goal keeper Guillemo Ochoa. One of the goals he saved off a Neymar header was compared with the spectacular full length flying save of English Goal Keeper Gordon Banks in 1966 of maestro Pele header.
Rising star Neymar has already started glittering and may be seen blooming more and more as Brazil starts pressing the pedal in the business sessions. Fred, Oscar and co are expected to grow more in confidence as tournament progresses. Mexico is also a dynamic team which may prove a difficult team to beat for any opponent.
Group “B” Matches:
This was another very difficult group having last tournaments Champions Spain and Runners up Netherlands, South American Strong Challenger Chile and team with “Never Say die “attitude Australia.
The Golden generation of Spanish footballers having several stalwarts of Real Madrid and Barcelona were almost invincible over the last few years winning almost everything that came their way.
They started positively against Netherlands in the first match and went ahead scoring a goal through penalty but after that was caught in the Dutch strategy so smartly executed by master craftsmen Arjen Roben , Robin Van Perise .
Impregnable Iker Cassius surprisingly became vulnerable. Vibrant Netherlands playing flowing football bruised, battered, embarrassed and humiliated Spain into total submission in 5-1 drubbing.
Holland surprisingly struggled in the second match against a very spirited Australia and managed to beat them but only just 3-2. They comfortably went past Chile in third match 2-0 and topped the group with maximum possible points winning all three matches.
Netherlands will be a strong contender for the trophy. Perhaps this will break their jinx as World Cup has somehow eluded them so far.
They look well equipped this time with right strategy and necessary armories’ and weapons. Chile dazzled Australia with some early goals but later had to play out of their skins in containing the angry Kangaroos with 1-3, the last goals scored at the dying minutes when Socceroos’ went all out pressing Chile deep into their territory.
Chile knocked a demoralized Spain still leaking their wounds from the battering they got from Netherlands with a smart 2-0 victory.
Vanquished Spain never looked the side that played so wonderfully well in the last few years against all opposition. They could also show some glimses of the skills in the last match against Australia with a 3-0 win which was too little too late. Netherlands and Chile qualified from the group. Few of the Spanish footballers perhaps played their last international drawing curtains to a wonderful era.
Socceroos’ must take great heart as they gave a good account of them against world class opposition. They will grow from strength to strength from here on. They were by far the most impressive side from Asia Oceania zone.
Group C Matches:
This was a relatively easy group with South American team Colombia playing to their potentials topped the group with three straight wins. Greece and Japan could not create any headache at all for them.
Only they had to stretch a bit in hurdling across impressive Ivory Coast. Greece must consider them lucky to qualify behind Colombia as Ivory Coast was better than them. Greece applying tight defence and relying on counter attacks managed a hard fought win against Ivory Coast.
Japan was the weakest team of the group and could only manage a scoreless draw against Greece. Colombia has the potential go deep in the tournament. The chances have now become brighter as Uruguay will now have to play without their star performer Suarez.
Group D Matches:
Group of death Caused demise of two champions of the past Italy and England. The Central American team Costa Rica initially through of easy prey for the three champions turned the table on the favorites beating Uruguay 3-1 and Italy 1-0.
They also drew with third past Champion England 0-0. Playing quality football Costa Rica topped the table. Uruguay which played the first match without inured Suarez beat England in their second match 2-1 mainly through brilliance of Suarez.
They qualified beating Italy in the all-important third match 1-0. But that match also witnessed the ugly incident of Suarez biting on the neck of Italian defender.
FIFA imposed ban on him making him unavailable for Uruguay in the next round. Costa Rica will have easier opposition Greece in the second round and will be expected to win but whether they can go further will depend on their ability of playing consistently. Uruguay may not survive the contest against Colombia without Suarez. One can have sympathy for Italy but England did not look like wining and did not win any match.
Group E Matches:
Another relatively easier group where four time past Champions France was definitely way over the rest. They deservedly topped the group with two wins and a draw.
There was hardly anything to choose between Switzerland and South American team Ecuador. But Switzerland could utilize their opportunities and managed to qualify behind France. Honduras was the weakest team in the group which lost all their matches. Ecuador was the only team of South America which failed to advance. France will be up against strong African team Super Eagles Nigeria. If they can manage to overcome that challenge may find Germany in the Quarter Final which my turn into anybody’s game. Switzerland will not withstand hot favorite Argentina.
Group F Matches:
Hot favorite Argentina started slowly looking not in their self and relying heavily on Super Star Messi in the first two matches. Debutant Bosnia have run for the money and almost caused an upset but for Messi magic in 1-2 defeat.
Even Iran caused major problem till Messi magic again rescued them fabulous four appeared like lonely Missies as other three were well below their best. Finally in the last match Argentina appeared to play to their potential but again Nigeria proved a very strong competitor.
Messi scored two spectacular goals. Especially the reverse Banana Free Kick must be rated one of the best of the tournament.
That match saw a world record with either team scoring within the first five minutes of the match. Musa also scored two equally wonderful goals and threatened to score more.
Messi was taken off in the second half of the match for more of a preventive measure. De Maria in the match found his touch. But Aguero got injured and may not play in the tournament further. Argentina defence gets rattled in counter attack and needs lot of improvement.
Few other players must also step up beside Messi as one off day of the maestro may cause Argentina get knocked out . Otherwise the team looks championship material. Nigera will have to come across inform France. But can also cause them huge problem with dangerous strikers.
Group G Matches:
European Power house Germany deservedly went through topping the list with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal being one of the major causality in the tournament.
Germany destroyed Portugal 4-0 in the first match with Thomas Muller scoring a hat trick. This German team is a galaxy of very high class footballers without any super star like Missie, Neymar or Ronaldo They have possibly the strongest bench strength and have some multipurpose players.
They do not rely on one or two players and few can raise their hands when required and deliver. Germany however was extended by a good looking Ghana team in their second match and was held to a 2-2 draw.
Miroslav Klose equaled Ronado’s all-time goal scoring record in the match. USA played steadily to qualify from the group ahead of Portugal and deservedly so. Portugal did not deserve. Ronaldo was perhaps not match fit and in the first match they had to play a long time with 10 men as Pepe got a red card early on.
I though Ghana was a bit unlucky not to make the grade. Germany plays Algeria in the group of 16 which may not be a problem. But in quarter final they may have to play their best football to get across France. If that happens Semi Final with Brazil and who knows. USA may not survive a very talented Belgium team and may not survive.
Group H Matches:
Belgium topped the group without fuss almost unnoticed with three straight wins. A very talented team and is a product of very organized football development of the country over the last decade or so. They almost did not have to move into second gear in disposing off opponents like Russia, Algeria and South Korea .Algeria qualified behind Belgium looking steadier than Russia the host of 2018 world Cup.
South Korea was miserably poor and failed to impress. They could only manage a 1-1 draw with Russia. If any team under values Belgium they will pay the price. That may apply to Argentina even which may play them in the quarter final. Alegeria may not survive against Germany.
Our Prediction for Quarter Finals:
Brazil Vs Colimbia , Netherlands vs Costa Rica , France vs Germany and Argentina vs Belgium.
Our Prediction for Semi Finals
Brazil vs Germany and Argentina vs Netherlands
Prediction for Final
Brazil vs Argentina
Let us not predict who wins now…
BDST: 1332 HRS, JUNE 27, 2014