Warning bells at World Cup 2014
Biggest disappointment at World Cup Brazil is the elimination of defending champions Spain. The Spaniards fell at their first two hurdles, going down 5-1 to the Netherlands and then 2-nil to Chile. Spain's remaining group match is against Australia, and winning this will get them nowhere. They can only resort to thinking what might have been. For the Spanish hierarchy it is possible, to assess that their team proved to be inferior to both the better European sides as well as the top Latin-American units.
The Natal venue greeted Spain and Netherlands with a fair amount of rain. The 27th minute brought Spain a fair amount of luck, via a penalty but this did not last. Netherlands equalized just before half time. Robin Van Persie capitalized beautifully on a difficult opportunity. His run was brilliantly timed to receive a high through ball requiring him to get past an advancing goal keeper and at the same time to avoid squandering his header over the bar.
It was an excellent piece of finesse which seemed to inspire the Dutch. From the interval score of 1-1 they led 2-1 in the 53rd minute, 3-1 in the 64th and put the icing on the cake 4-1 ten minutes later. It was only left for Robbens to effect the final humiliation by rounding the Spanish keeper to post 5-1.
Not only were Spain beaten, they were tactically defeated and had no answer to the spirited running of their opponents. Every time they attempted to engage in some front running their defense was solidly exposed by potent counter attacks. There was the consolation that Spain had opened in South Africa four years ago with a loss to Switzerland, and eventually went on to win the tournament. This time around there was to be no reprieve whatever. Just as the Netherlands had prised apart the Spanish defense, Chile learned lessons that were demoralizingly effective against the defending World Champions. Chile countered well to go up 2– nil in the first half and spent the rest of the time keeping their opponents effectively unbalanced.
Outcome of Group 'B' sees Netherlands and Chile going into the elimination stage and Spain taking an early trip home. In Group 'A' there were no upheavals. Mexico the No. 19 ranked team executed a workmanlike job to shut out Cameroon 1– nil. Similarly the host country Brazil romped 3-1 over Croatia. Colombia snuffed out Greece 3-nil in Group 'C' and Ivory Coast came back from 1– love down at the half to earn a 2-1 victory over Japan. It was Japan's first defeat at the hands of an African nation.
When it came to two time World Champions Uruguay they were beneficiary of a penalty in the 24th minute against fellow Latin Americans Costa Rica who scored three times in the space of 11 minutes. The other members of Group 'D' saw Italy holding out 2-1 over England. This does not bode well for England whose fitness left much to be desired particularly in the closing phases.
Switzerland in Group 'E' managed to shut out Ecuador 2-1, Switzerland coming back from 1-love down in the second half. France had no such trouble against Honduras who they beat 3-nil.
Leadership in Group 'F' proved a useful opportunity for Lionel Messi to put Argentina up 2-0 in the 66th minute with a shot from outside the box for a 2-1 wins.
Front runners in the World Rankings Germany and Portugal did not provide the type of match up expected in Group 'G'. The Germans showed why they are likely to win the Cup, providing an emphatic 4-0 win over the Portuguese. For the USA it was a 2-1 ding dong affair with Ghana and raises their hopes of going through to the next round.
Group 'H' saw Belgium 2-1 winners over Algeria and the general impression is that the Belgians will have their own way alongside Russia, Argentina, Germany, Switzerland, France, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Netherlands, Chile, Brazil and Mexico in making it to the round of sixteen.
Much as it has proved disappointing for some of the teams in Brazil's fantastic extravaganza, it must be admitted the tournament has been an exhilarating spectacle. Neighboring countries like Uruguay, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and Honduras have all added to the sense of colour and make Brazil 2014 the best World Cup in history. Whether it will provide the biggest bonanza of Brazil winning it is left to be seen.