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World Cup 2014: Recap Of Week One

worldcup (easports)

The first week of World Cup 2014 is now behind us, and there has been plenty of talking points and memorable moments. Here is our recap of all the action that has taken place so far.

Thursday:

The opening game between Croatia and the host nation Brazil was the sole game on Thursday, and provided no end of controversy. Croatia had taken a well deserved early lead against a sluggish Brazillian outfit, before Neymar conjured an equaliser out of very little to get the home fans on their feet. Yet they failed to get the upper hand in the contest, until the referee awarded a very controversial penalty to Fred as he tumbled under Dejan Lovren’s presence in the penalty area. Neymar converted, and Oscar wrapped up the 3-1 win with a good finish from outside the box, although there was strong suspicion that Ramires had fouled the Croat player in possession before moving the ball to his Chelsea teammate. The home side were very unconvincing throughout, however.

Friday:

The standard of the officials continued to be brought into question during Friday’s first game, as the linesman ruled out two seemingly good goals for Mexico’s Giovanni Dos Santos in their game against Cameroon. Mexico did eventually get the breakthrough when Oribe Peralta turned in a rebound after Charles Itandje failed to hold Dos Santos’ shot. That was the only goal of the game, securing the win for the lively Mexicans, with Cameroon looking very poor.

There was a real need to get away from refereeing blunders by the second game on Friday, so what better way to do that than having the Netherlands trounce defending World Champions Spain 5-1. The Spanish had taken an early lead through a Xabi Alonso penalty after Diego Costa went down under Stefan de Vrij’s challenge. Things looked relatively comfortable for the experienced Spanish side, but Robin Van Persie scored a sublime header just before half-time, following Daryl Janmaat’s delightful cross. Van Persie looped the header over the stranded Iker Casillas, without a defender in sight, and the flow of the game changed completely. The Dutch outfought the Spaniards in the second half, and exposed their high defensive line with goals from Arjen Robben and another Van Persie effort, with de Vrij also slotting past Casillas, as the Netherlands gained revenge on Spain for their defeat in the 2010 World Cup final.

Chile got off to a fantastic start in the other game in group B, as they were 2-0 up on Australia after fourteen minutes, with goals for Alexis Sanchez first, shortly followed up by Jorge Valdivia. The Australians were obviously shellshocked, but settled after this. They were very competitive, and even got a goal back before half-time through Tim Cahill. They could never quite squeak out the equaliser though, and Jean Beausejour killed the game off in injury time, although truthfully it had been a long way towards finished after the second early Chile goal.
Saturday:

Saturday was a busy day of action, with four games taking place. First up, we saw Colombia pick apart a lacklustre Greece side in group C’s opening game. Left-back Pablo Armero opened the scoring after just five minutes as the trend of early goals continued. Teofilo Gutierrez made it two just before the hour, and James Rodriguez completed the rout late in stoppage time. The Colombians packed a punch, but Greece really offered minimal attacking threat.

Next up was another shock result, as the supposed pushovers of Group D, Costa Rica, failed to live up to their role and turned Uruguay over 3-1 to blow the group wide open. The Uruguayan’s had even taken the lead early through and Edinson Cavani penalty, before Costa Rica’s second-half revival shook them, with two goals in three minutes landing before the hour mark. First, Joel Campbell broke onto a ball in the box to blast past the Fernando Muslera in the Uruguay goal, before Oscar Duarte got the second a few minutes later. Marco Urena nailed the Uruguayan coffin shut in the eighty-fourth minute with a third goal, after Maxi Pereira had been sent off. Uruguay clearly missed the presence of Luis Suarez, and Costa Rica really impressed by overloading them, and really running their more prestiguous opponents off the park.

England’s first outing came next, as they travelled to the jungle to play Italy in Manaus. In extremely humid conditions, the English side were spirited during their fleeting moments of possession, but succumbed to a Claudio Marchisio strike from outside the box from a clever Italian move. Daniel Sturridge hit back with an almost instant reply, finishing from the back post following good play from Raheem Sterling and Wayne Rooney. The Italians got the winner early in the second-half, as Mario Balotelli turned in Antonio Candreva’s cross at the back post. Italy were content to maintain possession from then on, as England’s charge wilted in the conditions.

The late game on Saturday saw Japan take on the Ivory Coast, to finish off Group C’s opening fixtures. Japan took an early lead through Keisuke Honda’s powerful strike in the sixteenth minute, and they looked comfortable for the first half. The introduction of Didier Drogba seemed to unsettle them, however, and they gave up two goals in quick succession to Wilfried Bony and Gervinho, which gave the African side the valuable three points.

worldcup2014
Sunday:

Sunday’s first game saw Switzerland take on Ecuador in Group E’s first battle. Enner Valencia turned in a corner in the twenty-second minute to give Ecuador the lead, although it must be said the Swiss defence was very loose for that. It was a close encounter throughout, as two even teams went at it. Swiss boss Ottmar Hitzfeld made a change at half-time, bringing on Admir Mehmedi, who rewarded him by scoring with his first touch, nodding in a corner as the Ecuadorian defence returned the favour the Swiss had afforded them earlier, with sloppy marking. The game looked set for a stalemate, before a late Swiss counter-attack saw Haris Seferovic turn home a late winner for Switzerland, which could be invalauble by the group’s end.

Next up was what appeared on paper to be a comfortable 3-0 win for France over Honduras, although it must be said that the Hondurans were quite game and put it up the French team for a long time, until captain Wilson Palacios was sent off for two bookable offences, conceding a penalty with the second clumsy challenge. Both tackles were on Paul Pogba, who could have seen red himself for his kick out at Palacios in the first skirmish. Nonetheless, Karim Benzema converted the spot kick as France kicked on to an easy win, but bigger tests lie ahead in this group.

Sunday’s late game saw Argentina’s World Cup bow, as they took on Bosnia and Herzegovina, who were playing their first ever World Cup game. Unfortunately for them, they gave up an unlucky own goal early in the game, as Sead Kolasinac saw the ball hit him and roll into his own net after three minutes. The first half was tame enough, with Bosnia looking very comfortable. Argentina threw on an extra attacker for the second half, and looked far better for it. Lionel Messi scored a marvelous goal to double his sides lead, before Vedad Ibisevic scored an eighty-fifth minute consolation that briefly frightened the Argentinians. Bosnia gave a good account of themselves though, and will feel good about their chances of progression from the group.
Monday:

Germany kicked off Group G by giving Portugal a 4-0 hammering. It was an interesting game, with spectators curious to see what both European sides were capable of, and as much as the Germans were quite good and took their chances, it was strange to see such a shambolic performance from Portugal, a team who are always hard to beat in these competitions. Thomas Muller got the first goal in the twelfth minute from the penalty spot, after Mario Gotze was pulled down. Mats Hummels added a second, before Pepe was sent off for Portugal for a headbutt. It was an easy game for Germany after that, with Muller adding two further goals to complete his hat-trick, aided by poor goalkeeping from Rui Patricio. Bright start from our pick to go all the way and win the World Cup.

Iran versus Nigeria came next, which was surely the dullest affair of the week. The first goalless draw of the World Cup, Iran came with a gameplan to defend deep and work hard, and this nullified a very average Nigerian side, who lacked any cutting edge. It is hard to envision either side qualifying ahead of Bosnia in second spot in Group F.

Monday’s late game saw the USA take on Ghana in group G. Both sides will have been buoyed by seeing Portugal’s capitualation to the Germans earlier, and knew a win could push them a long way towards qualifying for the knockout stages. Clint Dempsey struck a very early blow for the Americans, scoring the tournaments fastest goal after twenty-nine seconds. Ghana dominated possesion throughout, but America defended manfully. Ghana finally equalised with a great team goal, put away by Andre Ayew in the end. But John Brooks headed in a corner four minutes later to secure the precious points for the dogged US side.
Tuesday:

The much-hyped Belgium side lined out first on Tuesday, taking on a young Algerian side in group H. Belgium have a squad packed full of talented, big name players from across Europe, but it was Algeria who struck first after Jan Vertonghen pulled down Sofiane Feghouli in the box. The Valencia man got up and stroked the penalty past Thibaut Cortouis, and Algeria held a well-deserved lead at half-time. Belgium introduced Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens in the second-half, with the subs making the difference both on the pitch and the scoresheet, with both getting a goal. Belgium held on for the win, but looked poor for long spells in the game.

Our Brazilian hosts were back out again on Tuesday evening, and failed to improve on their performance in the Croatia game, as Mexico held them to a goalless draw. Brazil brought in Ramires for the injured Hulk, but lacked the guile or creativity to break down a solid Mexico side. The Mexicans themselves kept themselves mostly to long-range efforts, and can thank Guillermo Ochoa for keeping them in the game with some great saves. But Brazil really need to find a new gear fast if they are to meet their fans lofty expectations this year.

Russia and South Korea were the last teams to kick off their World Cup adventure, playing out a one-one draw in Group H. The Russians sat back for large portions of the game, and really only came out to play after the South Koreans took the lead, following Igor Akinfeev’s dreadful handling error in the Russian goal, dropping Lee Keun-Ho’s tame shot into the back of the net. Russian sub Alexander Kerzhakov knocked in a scrappy equaliser, but the Fabio Capello may need to reconsider his game plan if they are to get anywhere. The South Koreans were very fast and frenetic, but failed to carve out any clear-cut chances to get them the win they probably deserved.

Wednesday

Australia regrouped ahead of their vital second group game against the Netherlands, where they needed a result to keep themselves in contention. Although Arjen Robben scored in the twentieth minute for the Dutch, they replied immediately through Tim Cahill’s magnificent volley. The sides went in level at the break, with Australia tackling hard and shutting down the Dutch. They took the lead in the second-half, albeit through a debatable penalty. Mile Jedinak slammed home to give the Aussies a lead, but it was short lived. Robin Van Persie finished immaculately just four minutes later, before Memphis Depay scored a long-range winner that will sunk the Aussies, making them the first side to be eliminated from the competition.

Spain were next up, in a do-or-die encounter against Chile. The Spanish only made two changes from their first game humiliation against the Dutch, and Chile went after them early here, having two good chances in the first minute. They eventually took the lead in the twentieth minute through Eduardo Vargas, as a sloppy Spanish side were clearly second-best to the hungry South Americans. Their lead was doubled after another Iker Casillas goalkeeping error just before half-time, as he parried Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick right into the path of Charles Aranguiz, who smashed it home beautifully. Spain were shambolic and only Andres Iniesta offered any threat in the second half, as Spain were eliminated. Their last group game against Australia is meaningless, while Chile and the Netherlands duke it out for top spot in the group.

The final game of a busy first week’s action saw Croatia decimate a woeful Cameroon side. After going behind to an Ivica Olic goal within a quarter of an hour, a disinterested Cameroon side failed to react in any meaningful way. Alex Song was sent off just before half-time for a petulant elbow in the back of Mario Mandzukic, effectively ending their challenge. The Croatians were bright throughout, and added three further goals in the second-half from Ivan Perisic and a brace by Mandzukic, but this was more a case of awful opposition. Cameroon are out, while Croatia and Mexico will face off in the group’s final game, with the winner guaranteed passeg to the first knockout round.

That’s all the action we’ve had so far, but we’ll be back next week to report on all the exciting happenings of Brazil 2014.

Image courtesy of EA Sports

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