World Cup Review.
So far, it has been a great tournament for CONCACAF-teams. Aside from their own version of Stoke (Honduras), all other teams have done well so far, especially comparing to Africa and Asia.
South-American teams have been better than European ones so far as well (Brazil vs Croatia, Argentina vs Bosnia, Colombia vs Greece, Uruguay vs England, Chile vs Spain…with a humble exception of Switzerland beating Ecuador with an injury-time strike) and that might be a clue who is going to win the title.
Group A: Brazil haven’t shown a lot of class and the referee gave them the edge against Croatia, but I have a feeling that they get underestimated too much. They have world-class defenders and midfielders who might lack magical skills of Ronaldinho, Kaka’ or Rivaldo but have a high work-rate (remember, Scolari has won a World Cup already, and it happened with our very own Gilberto Silva and Manure’s failure Kleberson in the middle). They don’t have a world-class striker though, as Neymar plays on the wing – Scolari sticks to Fred while Hulk was crap against Croatia.
Mexico have impressed so far, especially given how poor they had been during qualifications. They’ve done well in defending (Marquez’s swan-song and Ochoa’s brilliance in crucial moments) but their attack can be improved. They should’ve had much better goal-difference if the referee had known his job against Cameroon, but Spuds’ flop Dos Santos was robbed for two goals.
Croatia have problems in the middle of the pitch where they should be the best given they have Rakitić, Modrić and talented Kovačić. However, they suffer from the same problem Arsenal have had – Croatia don’t have a ball-winning-midfielder to match the quality of his creative colleagues. Another problem is Stipe Pletikosa who conceded goals against Brazil that some better keeper would have saved. Finally, their left full-back position has been patched so far and that’s where they might suffer a lot against teams with a good right winger. On the positive note, Ivan Perišić has done well so far and we might look after him as well for our left-wing-position. He has scored against Arsenal once – for those who remember, he had played for Borussia Dortmund back then and it was a late equalizer. Mandžukić’s debut at World Cup was capped with a brace and he will be a huge asset for the Croats.
Cameroon have been the worst bunch I’ve ever seen at World Cup – no organization, no harmony…nothing. What Alex Song did to Mandžukić (a really idiotic elbowing) and the row between Assou-Ekotto and his team-mate suggest in what kind of mess Cameroonian football has been in lately. Vincent Aboubakar gave a solid performance against Croatia though – he looked mobile, lively and with an actual desire to win the game. I think that he might be a Wenger-esque signing: he is 22, plays for FC Lorient (we have signed Koscielny from there and apparently kept a close relationship with them), has some pace and reached double-digits (16 goals in 35 matches) in terms of goals in Ligue 1 last season.
Group B: both Holland and Chile have shown quality and pace in the attack to burn their opponents. However, both sides have looked more or less fragile at the back (which isn’t surprising given how free-scoring this tournament has been so far). Holland could have conceded even more than two goals against Australia and Chile suffered a lot against Australia from Tim Cahill’s aerial prowess. If somehow Chile face Croatia in the knock-out stages, Mario Mandžukić might have a feast. Of course, there are plenty of things to like at both Holland and Chile. Van Gaal has used Robben and Van Judas much better than anyone on international level before had; there is fresh blood in their team (hopefully Indi will return before the tournament ends) with players like Blind, Wijnaldum (I liked his cameo against Spain) and Memphis Depay making crucial moves when things got tough.
Spain have been in a real mess – Casillas came to this tournament after being benched for two years, no Puyol-like presence in the defence (Pique and Ramos were horrendous), Xabi and Xavi past their prime, lack of width and creativity in their flat attack and no Villa-like striker to bail them out. We might see a reform to tiki-taka that will start in Spain.
Australia have done more than anyone expected with Cahill scoring two great goals to conclude his World Cup story (he is suspended for the match against Spain). They put a heroic battle against Holland and were in the game against Chile until injury-time. Spirit is the word and Oz Gunner can be proud of the Australian team.
Group C: Colombia have been a joy to watch. Cuadrado has been immense in both matches and totally owned the right flank, James Rodriguez has proven his class in the middle and 38-year-old Mario Yepes has commanded his defence properly so far. They also have a very decent goalkeeper, Ospina, who has pulled a few great saves so far against both Greece and Ivory Coast. Alleged Arsenal target Jackson Martinez has been on the bench due to issues with Jose Pekerman. Another player to watch is Quintero.
Ivory Coast have to find the way to survive huge personal losses that have hit them: Ibrahim Toure, Kolo’s and Yaya’s brother who used to play for Monaco, died and he was only 28; and Die’s father died before the match against Colombia. Serge Aurier has been a real threat down the right flank, Gervinho scored two goals including a marvelous solo-effort against Colombia…but Yaya Toure and Drogba haven’t been on the score-sheet yet. They’ll need just a draw against the Greeks (provided that Japan don’t beat Colombia with two-goal-margin or more), and it might be more difficult than it sounds, especially with all problems Ivory Coast have.
The Greeks managed to stay undefeated against Japan despite being reduced to ten men before the break, and they should’ve scored at least once against Colombians. If they want to go through, they need a victory over Ivory Coast and Colombia not to lose to Japan. Mitroglu, Samaras and Gekkas haven’t had their shooting boots on so far, but it can change in their last fixture. Japan have spilled a lead against Ivory Coast – they could have won that match but crumbled in just two minutes – and couldn’t break the Greek 10-men-side. The good news for them is the fact Colombia have qualified for The Knockout Stage already.
Group D: Costa Rica have shown the world that miracles can happen and secured the next round. Their recipe for success: great defending, fast counter-attacks and no fear against more reputable teams. And our Joel. Italy have looked very beatable against England and very poor against Costa Rica. They need just a draw against Uruguay but their defence hasn’t been the one that goes together with Italian football. Uruguay have been a different team with Suarez and without him. Their defence hasn’t been on the level from the last World Cup and their midfield doesn’t have a creative guy – Cavani and Suarez are there to make things happen and that’s it. England…well, I’ve already said everything about England. They should get rid of Hodgson and find a manager who knows how to use all that potential.
Group E: France have been really impressive, especially Benzema and Matuidi. Giroud – who has scored more goals at this World Cup than Cristiano Ronaldo has – gave a great performance against Switzerland. Pogba is going to be a huge player as well, and Valbuena has shown why there is such a hype about him. Their defence is yet to face a serious test but they look like challengers to me: they have shown passion, hunger, pace and quality.
Ecuador could have booked their place in the last 16 had they done better with their last attack against Switzerland instead of conceding a late punch. They have issues with their defence as even Honduras gave them a hard-time. They have to get the same result as Switzerland in the last match to progress from their group, and it’s not so unlikely to happen. Cabaye won’t play for France due to yellow cards and Deschamps will probably give a rest to some of his players, given that the top spot is all but secured.
Switzerland haven’t been a typical Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team at this competition – their defence looked pathetic when two ex-Arsenal players teamed up (Djourou and Senderos) in the heart of defence. They might suffer an early exit with six points in their pocket, if they beat Honduras with less than three-goal-margin and Ecuador beat France. They should’ve had even worse goal-difference but Benzema’s goal was cut with a referee’s whistle (even the score-board had shown 6:2 for France), and Blatter is Swiss. Honduras – they have a slim hope of going through the next round but for the sake of football, they shouldn’t get out of the group.
Group F: Argentina didn’t look at their very best against us. Their attacking game improved after Higuan had been introduced and their football should be all about attacking with Messi, Di Maria, Agüero and Higuain in their ranks. Against teams with more pace in the attack they might get punished a lot though.
We weren’t poor in that match but I guess the fact we are the only debutant on this tournament was too much of a burden against the Argentinians. Džeko wasn’t mobile enough to create space for Lulić and Hajrović – our attack got some life with Ibišević next to Džeko in the final stage of the match. Pjanić and Misimović did their job well but the former had to play in more defensive role and the latter is a 33-year-old who has stamina for 60 minutes tops. Nigeria can be dangerous opponents – they are reigning champions of Africa and have pacey strikers that can cause trouble from the counter-attacks. We need to beat them in order to keep things under our control before the last match against Iran. Iranians won’t be pushovers either: they held Nigeria to a goal-less draw. Given the quality of our, Nigerians and Iranian players, we should beat both of them but football doesn’t work that way.
Group G: Germany have brushed Portugal aside and shouldn’t have any problems to get top spot in this group. They had some problems in the defence at the beginning of the match but with such a great goal-scorer like Müller they should beat everyone in this group.
USA and Klinsmann got their big victory against unlucky Ghanian side. Portugal are still favourites for the clash against them but let’s not forget they have a lot of injuries (Hugo Almeida, Coentrao) and Pepe’s suspension to deal with. Plus, USA have already beaten Portugal once at World Cup (2002) and Klinsmann has done the same with Germany (2006).
Ghana probably missed a huge chance to qualify from this group with that unlucky defeat to the Americans. Portugal must shake off the stress of huge defeat, and it’s not that simple (remember how we had reacted after our big defeats last season?). A defeat or even a draw to USA would mean Portugal’s failure to progress from the group, and it will be the last Cristiano Ronaldo’s World Cup while he is still in twenties.
Group H: Belgium had a slow start against Algeria and looked like a real team only after Fellaini, and especially, Mertens had entered the pitch. They have a problem with width as they don’t have full-backs to match the quality of their other players. Lukaku gave a poor performance as well: Origi was better than the giant striker.
Russia should have enough to go through the next round but Capello’s experiments with Džagoev and Keržakov on the bench might hurt their chances to go through. Also, Akinfeev was terrible between the sticks. Koreans might miss a chance to beat the Russians, but if they beat Algeria they are still in the game.
Algeria looked very disciplined which is not a surprise given that Vahid Halilhodžić is their manager. They gave a good scare to Belgium and looked much more dangerous than four years ago.
Written by: Admir.