The 2014 World Cup kicked off last Thursday with 32 teams battling to be world champions. The 4-week tournament with 64 games only produces 1 winner but many stories and sub-plots and 365.WorldSoccerShop.com looks at some of these moments in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.
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The Group stage opening round provided what all fans want…GOALS! In a reversal of recent history, teams went on the attack in their openers scoring 49 goals over 16 matches. And if you have watched any of the coverage or read any on the tournament you know (sorry we have to say it) this is the highest average goals per game since the 1958 World Cup.
The attacking mentality was a huge influence on what we like almost as much as goals…COMEBACKS! The Group Stage openers featured 6 comebacks.
The tournament got off to a surprise (some in Brazil will say shocking) start as the host were looking at a 1-0 deficit top Croatia in Group A after only 11 minutes. Not to worry the normal working order of the world was restored and the magic of Neymar once again revealed as the home side eventually pulled away with a 3-1 win, The Netherlands blitzed Spain 5-1 in Group B after going down 1-0 (silly Spanish fans, 1-0 doesn’t cut it in Brazil), Costa Rica were not fazed by a 1-0 deficit, the pre-tournament hype of Uruguay attacking prowess, or subtle hints that Uruguay and the Ghost of Maracana may be back in Brazil to repeat their 1950 run as the Ticos walked home 3-1 winners, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast from now-on) looked to be headed for another World Cup disappointment trailing Japan 1-0 in Group C only to have persistence pay off with 2 second half goals on the way to the -1 win, like a fine timepiece Switzerland knew exactly how much time was remaining in second-half stoppage time to erase their 1-0 deficit to Ecuador and go out 2-1 winners in Group E, Algeria was hoping to sidetrack the hopes of many pundits World Cup dark horse Belgium with a 1-0 lead in Group H courtesy of a PK but the European responded with 2 in the second half.
Germany easily ran past Portugal 4-0 and provided the first hat-trick of the tournament. Die Mannschaft’s Thomas Muller got the party started from the penalty spot in the 12th minute, added another in first-half injury time, and shut it down with the game’s final goal in the 78th minute. His biggest battle came from Portugal’s Pepe (more on that later) but the German won that battle as well.
The opening games also provided 4 braces – Brazil’s Neymar, The Netherland’s Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, and France’s Karim Benzema.
It is not all about scoring goals but also about getting it right and the Goal Line Technology is in place and making the calls. It is about time that tournaments and leagues called on technology to get it right. Each goal has 7-cameras (1 high above on stadium roofing, 2 cameras at halfway line, 2 midway between half line and goal line, and 1 behind the goal) keeping eyes on the goal line and can link up imagery to make a conclusive call. These calls brought to you by GoalControl.
Switzerland completed a dramatic comeback in record fashion as Haris Seferovic scored in the 3rd minute of second-half injury time, the latest goal in regular time in history. But it was the entire run of events that made it so special. Ecuador looked to have the upper hand with Michael Arroyo in possession in the Swiss 18-yard box and looking for the winner moments earlier. He was dispossessed by a perfect slide tackle from Valon Behrami, who started the Swiss counter-attack. Ecuador did it best with a ‘professional foul’ 15-yard in the Swiss end but the Switzerland player jumped up, the referee correctly allowed play to proceed, and 3 passes later the ball was in the back of the net.
The third time was the charm for the U.S. men’s national team. The Stars and Stripes denied their recent World Cup nemesis, Ghana, a chance to make it a 3-peat with their 2-1 win on Monday evening. In a reversal of form, the U.S. grabbed the early advantage. A very early advantage when Clint Dempsey scored 29 seconds into the match. The held nobly until the Black Stars equalized in the 82 minute and thoughts immediately turned to sharing the points. But second half substitute, John Brooks, who was earning his first cap in a competitive match headed in the winner off a Graham Zusi corner kick in the 86th minute.
For all the haters in the U.S. who like to criticize the beautiful game take this…ESPN averaged almost 11.1 million viewers for the match. Along with the 4.8 million viewers on Univision the game was watched by some 15.9 million which was more than double the 6 million who tuned in for Friday’s NHL Stanley Cup match between New York and Los Angeles and only a couple of viewers under the 17.9 million to watch Sunday’s final game between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat in the NBA Final.
The game also took to social media with 4.9 million tweets on the match, the 7th most thus far at this World Cup.
But possibly the biggest sensation on social media was the buzz about Colombia’s top fan…
And fortunately she appears to be a fan of the U.S. as well…
France is notorious for showing up at a World Cup and either playing some great soccer or imploding in a tragic manner. Fortunately Les Bleus appear to have left the circus back in Paris as they looked good in their 3-0 win over Honduras. Benzema was especially in form with a brace and in all truth probably has a good gripe that his hat-trick was denied by an own goal from the Honduran goalkeeper.
Lionel Messi has always been criticized for his World Cup performances. Coming in 2014, the little wizard only had 1 goal to his name, but he got off to a perfect start with the winner against Bosnia-Herzegovina. The finish was pure Messi building speed off a 1-2 25 yards from goal, cutting back to his left beating defenders, before hitting a perfectly placed left footed shot past the keeper, off the inside of the post and across the goal into the side-netting.
Brazil was eager to get their World Cup started and over the next 4-weeks erase the memories of 1950. But it could not have started worse for the host as Croatia took the lead in the 11th minute. Sadly it was not off a piece of magic but came from a Marcelo own goal. The Real Madrid defender’s face told the story and gave an insight into the pressure.
The referees got off to a bad start which could have set the tone but fortunately did not. Fred went down easily in the box in the opener and Brazil was gifted the game winning penalty. That call was huge in setting the Selecao on their way. The following day in Group A’s other opening match, Mexico was denied 2 legitimate goals due to incorrect offside calls. Fortunately, El Tri Colores scored a legitimate goal and had the referee agree.
What can you say about the Spanish defense? After going up 1-0 and apparently thinking the game was won, the Netherlands put 5 goals past Iker Casillas. The tally was more goals in a game allowed by a defending champion in tournament history. La Furia Roja only conceded 2 goals in the 2010 march to the World Cup title. It could be a quick exit for the 2-time European Champions and 2010 World Cup champions but let’s not forget that Spain dropped their opener in 2010.
Uruguay was primed to improve on their 4th place finish in 2010. They had it planned out with a relatively easy Group D to contend with on the way to the elimination rounds and an opener against a CONCACAF minnow. The script was playing out with Edinson Cavani scoring the opener in the 24th minute from the penalty spot and taking the 1-0 advantage to the halftime break. But someone did not tell the Ticos and they came out and scored 3 second half goals and certainly leave Uruguay fans wondering where that Ghost of Maracana is when they need him.
After a great start to the World Cup with goals and winners, Iran and Nigeria took the field at the Arena da Baixada and put in the most boring performance of the tournament with a 0-0 draw. It was not even an interesting 0-0 draw but must have given Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina something to smile about. Fortunately, it can’t get worse than this match.
Portugal was down 0-2 when the wheels fell off the bus. Pepe took objection to how easily Germany’s Thomas Muller went down and the Real Madrid defender went over to the German on the ground and gave him gentle head butt. Pepe certainly thought it was just a little love tap but the referee was rightly not having any to do with it.
The reaction of Pepe was bad but the action of Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was possible worse. Ronaldo reportedly exchanged jersey with Real Madrid teammate and Germany midfielder Sami Khedira. Everyone watching knew the game was over but maybe the team captain of the losing side should show some faith.
The U.S. must be smiling from ear-to-ear after downing Ghana in their opener. They now face a depleted Portugal side with 3 starters out, Pepe for his red card suspension and Fabio Coentrao and Hugo Almeida out with injuries. Ronaldo is also a question mark with rumors indicating his knee injury is worse than thought and could rule the Real Madrid player out for the remainder of the tournament. But it is not all roses as key to the Stars and Stripes attack Jozy Altidore pulled up with a hamstring injury in the first half and was forced to be subbed out.
Own goals always make players, coaches, and fans cringe. Marcelo stepped up and took responsibility for his and the team responded. The other 2 own goals of the round did not have similar happy endings. Honduras’ goalkeeper Noel Valladares knocked 1 in his own net in their 3-0 loss to France. Bosnia-Herzegovina was eager to make a great World Cup debut but it was not to be as Sead Kolasinac out one in his own net 3 minutes after the opening whistle against Argentina. The South American side went on to win 2-1.
After an impressive Opening Ceremony in South Africa in 2010, Brazil had huge cleats to fill but their efforts did not show up. The event included 660 performers paying tribute to Brazil’s nature, people, and football which is great and all but the main event never came up, literally. Singers Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, and Claudia Leitte were being raised to start the performance of the World Cup song ‘We Are One’ but apparently the trio were over the weight limit as the lift did not make it all the way up forcing them to climb out. To add injury to insult the sound was probably even worse.
Brazil legend Pele was forced to listen to the first half of the Brazil v Croatia match on the radio. It was only the second time the greatest player of all-time had listened to a Brazil match on the radio. The last time was when Brazil and Uruguay played in the 1950 World Cup final. Why did Pele skip the game? Well actually he got stuck in traffic on the way to the match. “I suffered a lot — I listened to the first half in the car. There was so much traffic, the car just wasn’t moving. It was the second time I heard a Brazil World Cup match on the radio … in 1950 and today.”
Marcelo knocked in the opening goal of the tournament but unfortunately it was an own goal. His face told the story as he had an expression hoping that someone would tell him he had not just knocked in an own goal.
The Ghost of Maracana or more accurately the Brazilian Agriculture Department could come back to haunt Uruguay. The Brazilian authority confiscated 86 lbs of Uruguay’s dulche de leche at the border. The spread, made by cooking down milk with sugar, baking soda, and vanilla, is being blamed for the side’s poor performance in their opener. The South African government allowed Uruguay to bring in their dulche de leche 4 years ago.
England and Italy traveled into the heart of the Amazon for their opener at the Arena Da Amazonia in Manaus. The novice would think that plants (grass) would grow easily in a rainforest but not so. The field crew was forced to use some green spray paint on bare spots on the field to make it look presentable. It was just one of the problems with the ill-conceived arena in the heart of darkness. We can only be thankful that England manager Roy Hodgson was not heard saying ‘The Grass. The Grass’ in his post game interview. But maybe that will come in time.
Clint Dempsey scored the opener for the U.S. in a mere 29 seconds which changed the face of the game. Shortly afterwards Ghana’s John Boye changed the face of Dempsey. The defender kicked the Seattle Sounders player in the face leaving him with a noticeably broken and crooked nose.
Social media has changed how companies converse with customers. The challenge with the new dialogue on social media is to be effective you have to be clever and quick and Delta came up a little short with their tweet congratulating the U.S. on their win over Ghana. The U.S. airline include the congratulations and then an image with the Statue of Liberty (and a 2) and a giraffe (and a 1). The problem is that there are no giraffes in Ghana. Delta apologized and took tweet down.
Russia and South Korea closed out the Group openers when they played on Tuesday afternoon. Apparently Russia’s goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev did not have time to visual how to be successful for catch the soccer ball. He gifted South Korea and Lee Keunho the opening goal in the 68th minute when he let a long-range speculative shot slip through his hands into the net.