It’s taken all week for me to get around to posting any world cup updates, and that’s largely been because the football has been unrelentingly entertaining! Last time we were waiting for Round 2 to finish with Italy vs Costa Rica, Switzerland vs France and Honduras vs Ecuador. What a week we’ve had since then! So much to cover… Let’s do this in the same way one would drink a nice cold beer – from top to bottom!
In Group A, Hometown team Brazil thrashed Cameroon 4-1 with a superb double from current icon & boy wonder Neymar, while Mexico made it through with a comprehensive 3-1 win over Croatia with Javier “Chicarito” Hernandez back among the goals. Holland proved their wily dismantling of Spain was no fluke with a solid 2-0 win over Chile in Group B, with Arjen Robben and Memphis Depay in starring roles. The defeated Chileans follow them into the next round, while Spain ensured finally discovered their form in a 3-0 win over the Aussies – too little too late. Group C saw Colombia continue to brandish their title credentials with a clinical 2-1 win vs pre-tournament favourites Cote d’Ivoire, followed by a comprehensive 4-1 dismantling of a disappointing Japan, with a Jackson Martinez double and the wily James Rodriguez running the show. Greece meanwhile resurrected the Spirit of Euro 2004 with a staunch defensive 0-0 vs Japan followed by a thrilling 2-1 win over the Côte d’Ivoire, joining the Colombians in the next round.
The last time we saw Group D, Italy looked certain to get at least draw with Costa Rica to send Uruguay & England out. Well that didn’t happen! Instead Italy lost to Los Ticos 1-0 and Honduras we saw Englands’s Three Lions stuttering out of Brazil with a tame 0-0 draw vs the already-qualified Costa Rica, and Italy still in shock after losing not only their game and a place in the last 16 courtesy of a header from Uruguay’s Diego Godin, but also a pound of flesh! The Celeste not only won, but also stole all the headlines with Luis Suarez proving again he knows how to take a bite out of the competition! That story will take a whole other blog so let’s leave it at that for now!
Group E saw Switzerland, fresh off a 5-2 humbling from France, give out their own pasting in a 3-0 win vs the win-less Honduras with Xherdan Shaqiri completing the second hat-trick of the finals. This ensured the Swiss edged out Ecuador who, down to 10 men after captain Antonio Valencia’s dismissal, were held to a 0-0 draw by a misfiring France, despite beating Honduras 2-1 in their previous match. Bosnia & Herzegovina exited Group F with their heads high after beating Iran 3-1, with Miralem Pjanić and Edin Džeko helping their country to a first win in their first finals appearance. This meant Nigeria, who earlier beat the BIH 1-0, went through after their colossal match vs Argentina, who edged the Super Eagles 3-2 with doubles from Lionel Messi and Ahmed Musa! It was bye-bye for Iran who had also lost their 2nd game 1-0 to Messi’s Albiceleste.
In Group G Portugal, despite coming up roses against Ghana 2-1, also look to book passage back home to the Iberian peninsula with Captain Cristiano at least notching a world cup goal in the process. The Black Stars join them, having lost both that game, and the tussle for 2nd place when they drew with Germany 2-2 previously. Sulley Muntari & Kevin Prince-Boateng both got head-starts after being expelled from the Ghanian camp before the game for altercations with coaching staff! The U.S.A. despite earlier also drawing 2-2 with the Portuguese, go through with the Germans after a closely contested 1-0 win for Chancellor Merkel’s group-topping men. This means three out of the four CONCACAF qualifiers – Costa Rica, Mexico & America – make it through with Honduras being the only disappointment. Finally Group H concluded with Belgium grinding to yet another narrow win, this time 1-0 over the Korean Republic courtesy of a late Jan Vertoghen goal. Algeria, following up on their 4-2 thrashing of Korea Republic, came from behind to draw 1-1 with Russia, joining Nigeria as one of only two African teams qualifying for the second round with the impressive Islam Slimani scoring yet another header.
Well they’ve given us tomorrow off to rest and recharge before the next stage of this adrenaline ride begins on Saturday June 28th. We can look forward to some tasty contests in the next week. The first day sees favourites Brazil come up against a familiar foe in the exciting Chile, while a Suarez-less Uruguay face neighbors Colombia in a clash of South American dark horses. On Sunday Louis van Gaal’s ever-fluid Netherlands will try to conquer a resurrected Mexico, while surprise package Costa Rica faces the efficient Greeks. After that it’s a France looking for redemption vs African Nations champions Nigeria, the ruthless Germans vs brave Algeria, and on the final day a mercurial Argentina vs the determined Swiss and European dark horse Belgium vs the Leaders of the Free (Market) World U.S.A. What more can you ask for?? I’ll be back next week with a wrap-up of the Round of 16!