With the World Cup Group Stages now drawing to a close, we can now quietly reflect on what has been a stellar first half of the tournament. So many nations have done themselves proud with notable mentions to Costa Rica, Algeria and Greece. There’s also been the usual England letdown, but misery loves company and Spain and Italy have joined the English on the early flight home from Brazil to Europe. We’ve been treated to a real footballing gift as far as the games have gone with 3 goals averaged per game, 126 goals scored and late goals to satisfy everyone’s needs.
Here, we’ll discuss the highs and lows of the tournament so far with categories such as the best goal, the best player and biggest controversy considered.
James Rodriguez, vs Japan (4-1)
James Rodriguez has had a splendid tournament so far and he capped his fine Group Stage with a magical goal against the Asian Champions, Japan. With Japan chasing the game, Rodriguez seized the moment by helping his side to put three more goals past the Japanese with his beautiful goal bringing the scoreline to 4-1. Rodriguez put one defender on the floor before dinking the flailing keeper with exquisite ease, he also supplied two assists for Jackson Martinez to give Colombia three wins out of three in Group C.
Honourable Mentions: Robin van Persie vs Spain (5-1, Goal 1), Tim Cahill vs Netherlands (1-1), Lionel Messi vs Iran (1-0)
There was a lot of pressure on this player heading into this tournament and, in some ways, an entire nation has heaped it’s hopes and dreams on his shoulders. The man I’m talking about is of course Brazil’s star man, Neymar. The prodigal son has delivered whilst the rest of his Brazilian teammates have stuttered, for the most part. Neymar has scored 4 goals in 3 appearances at this World Cup which puts him at the top of goalscoring charts alongside Lionel Messi. Neymar has posted some very competitive stats to accompany these goalscoring exploits with a fantastic shooting accuracy of 89% and a passing accuracy of 82% – these two examples show precise Neymar is and both sets of figures are great for a forward.
Honourable Mentions: Arjen Robben, Lionel Messi, Thiago Silva
I don’t know if you can go much further than England and Spain for this one. Spain have absolutely no excuses, they came in as the reigning world and European champions and a squad stronger than anyone elses at the Finals but a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of the Netherlands left them shellshocked before a 2-0 defeat to Chile ended their hopes of defending their crown. An aging squad could have been a factor with temperatures regularly touching 30 degrees Celsius. England on the other hand arrived with a squad full of youthful excitement but poor management and low experience meant England failed to a win a single game at the World Cup – with England going out at the group stage for the first time since 1958.
(Dis)Honourable Mentions: Roy Hodgson, Italy, Diego Costa
There can only be one: Luis Suárez and his teeth. The Uruguayan frontman has once again made sure he’s the centre of the footballing universe for the wrong reasons by biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder during their Group D qualification decider. Suárez took a chunk out of Chiellini when the two bumped into each other inside the area – the collision inexplicably causing Suárez to retaliate with a running bite. Despite the behavioural improvement during the last year a lengthy ban will surely follow for the repeat offender.
Honourable Mentions: Godin’s second foul vs England, Mexico receiving TWO wrongly disallowed goals vs Cameroon, Iran’s missing penalty vs Argentina, Fred’s penalty earning dive vs Croatia, Neymar’s elbow vs Croatia, Benzema’s disallowed goal vs Switzerland
Dark Horses for the Tournament
There have been quite a few teams performing better than expected at this tournament and with so many big nations falling out of the tournament at the first hurdle there is now an abundance of dark horses roaming the knockout stages. France are one to look out for because they seem to have got everything together at just the right time with Benzema back in form and Giroud scoring when called upon. Sakho is also performing well at the heart of the defence whilst the French also have able deputies in the shapes of Laurent Koscielny and Morgan Schneiderlin. Despite the squad missing talents such as Franck Ribery, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri, Les Bleus look strong.
Another dark horse is Colombia, the South Americans have waltzed through Group C with 9 points acquired from 9 available – all this without the world class talents of Radamel Falcao to call upon. Colombia will be looking to James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez to lead them deep into the knockout stages.
Honourable Mentions: Chile, Costa Rica
The Group Stages of the 2014 World Cup have been nothing short of amazing with late goals, drama and huge skill on show every single day. Here’s to more of the same from here on in.