Tuesday, June 17, 2014

World Cup 2014 review (First Round)

Hey everyone,

it's been a while! My old monitor stopped working for a week now there was no chance for me to write anything new, let alone type endless walls of text from an ipad mini. Even i am not that crazy!

Today marks the conclusion of the first round of the World Cup that kicked off in Brazil last Friday! This article is a personal review of what i saw so far. It's not like the next article i will publish, that tackles important subjects that FIFA tries to conceil and people are ignorant baboons that follow the masses so they don't care or they have no idea what happens behind the scenes in poverty stricken Brazil.

Apparently they have all flocked to see their favorite team take the juggernauts from Iran or Honduras. No disrespect here. Oh wait, have they?

Loads of empty seats in Spain vs Netherlands (the independant).
A continuing trend from South Africa in 2010 without the aid of the vuvuzela's (thank god), as in games such as Switzerland vs Ecuador there were so many empty seats that the stadium (Arena Brasilia) looked, at best, 2/3's full. According to the Independant Fifa gave an official attendance of 68,351/72,500. Yeah right. Then i am Dakotta Scott, famous explorer, conqueror of the seven sea's and i drag race in a Prius. I don't win a lot.

Story of my life.
This has to do with the allocation of tickets into foreign fans and local residents. Brazilians have a meagre pay, live in tragic conditions, their country spent over 7 Billion $ to prepare for the World Cup and they expect them to buy tickets that cost 150 $ to see Iran vs Nigeria, a match that was so boring i wanted to gouge my eyes out with a fork?

But let's move on to the actual games. Compared to South Africa, this is a high scoring tournament so far. Over 40 goals have been scored in the build up to the last game of the first round, with Belgium vs Algeria and Russia vs South Korea playing today. That's good for anyone that likes football!

However everything has controversy written all over it. In the opening game the referee, who is well known for his bad decision-making caused a stirr by being biased towards the hosts, breaking a resilient Croatia team that until the equaliser looked solid and composed. Fred diving, neymar not getting dismissed, goal disallowed, bla bla bla.

Then we have Pepe doing his usual temperament outbursts during the match against Germany, my Nation failing miserably against a superior Colombia team, a boring stalemate with Nigeria, the Ghanaian Witch Doctor focusing too much in his Ronaldo voodoo rather than his own team, Netherlands dismantling the reigning World and European champions, Mexico losing a truckload of chances, Uruguay losing fair and square, England being England and of course, there can be no World Cup with some Lionel Messi controversy huh?

I am a Messi and Barcelona fan. But over the years i learned to respect Ronaldo and all the great players in this generation. I do prefer his seemingly more modest and humble personality and the way he talks with respect about everyone. But on the match vs Bosnia a little boy tried to shake his hand and was left bitter because Messi ignored him. Why do they have to accuse all the big players for stupid things? I am sure he didn't see him, knowing how he treats little children and fans. Before i wrote this article i was watching the Greek coverage of the World Cup right before Belgium's kick-off and the journalist told the audience the same. He recalled how he met Messi for an interview in Germany 2006 and then met him again. When he passed by he greeted him and said:

"Please give me a signed shirt for my 10 year old nephew".

Messi stopped, told one of the bodyguards or whatever that man that following him was to go and fetch a shirt from the locker room. The man returned, Messi signed the shirt and gave it to the journalist. I do not see how he would do this and ignore a little child that was part of the show.

Common media propaganda.
Well this is the same with Brazil. They try to make Neymar their star and savior, when clearly Oscar was the best player on the pitch. Equally they are trying to uncover or fashion stories to keep tabloids and readers busy and away from more important matters like the protests and the deaths outside the stadiums.

Now i will give a small overview of each team, though i will only speak of the ones i have personally saw, since some matches are played at 01:00 am Greece time and i work at 05:00 am, so....

Group A
Brazil: For a nation tipped as favorites to lift the cup, they look like average joes so far. They rely too much on the individual brilliance of Neymar and the vision of Oscar, with a strong backbone of Thiago Silva and PSG-bound Davil Luiz. Their defense seemed shaky, with Croatia exploiting them a lot in counter attacks and Dani Alves beyond his best years. For the first time in years they do not have a real centre-forward. I don't like Fred. Luis Fabiano did a better job, but there is no Ronaldo, Romario, Pele, Rivaldo anymore. They do have Felipe Scolari though, who is a tactical mastermind, the team and the crowd love him and is capable of dragging this team far. With the aid of the referee's and a little push i expect them to reach at least the semi's. Some said that after the controversial match against Croatia they should hand them the trophy already.

Croatia: Strong, resolute team with good counter-attacking qualities. I expect them to crash out of the group stage 3rd. It depends how their spirit is after the way the first game unfolded and if they have the required willpower to overcome the deficit. After all the defeat against Brazil was expected. I still have fond memories of their fantastic run in the 1998 World Cup. I can't see them getting past the second round as they will probably meet Spain there.

Mexico: I like this team. I feel excited watching their young players link up and create chances. They do have to be more clinical, though they were met with hostile referee decisions with 2 goals disallowed when they should stand. I highly anticipate the match vs fierce rivals Brazil and i do expect them to qualify as they have the advantage so far against Croatia. I see them finishing runner's up in group A and setting up a meeting with Spain or the Netherlands before going home. I would love them to upset Brazil tonight but i think the hosts have the edge.

Cameroon: What to say about this team first. They know how to cause controversy. They will probably crash out of the tournament with 0 points. Endless fights over bonuses and paychecks, losing flights and players getting lost in the city before taking selfies. Let's not forget that star striker Samuel Eto'o is injured. And when you see Alex Song dressed like this you know you can't take them seriously.

The fashion police is coming!
Group B
Spain: The defending champions looked devoid of ideas and their collapse against a spirited Netherlands team. Diego Costa does not look at ease with his teammates so far and Atletico's style is more robust and physical compared to Barcelona's. They do have exciting talent to compliment their more experienced players and a master tactician such as Del Bosque will surely make changes to progress. Let's not forget that in 2010 they lost against Switzerland on the opening game. Still there is a big difference from a 2-1 to a 1-5 scoreline. Pedro, Villa, Martinez can inject something different to the team. I do expect Spain to qualify second, make easy work of the second round. Their experience will see them through the quarter finals and i believe they will finish from places 1 to 4. However teams with fast counter-attacking football and fast players will exploit them, so there is potential for a surprise!

Netherlands: They have a stronger team than the one that you see on paper. They demolished Spain in style in a fantastic collective performance, the fail of Saint Iker and the individual brilliance of RvP and Robben. They deserve to finish first in the group, which will probably happen with their superior head to head versus Spain. They looked sharp, but that could also be the Van Gaal effect from the bench. Controversy always follows the Oranje though in major tournaments and while i do not consider them favorites, i do think they will make it to place 4-8. I think they will lost at the round of 8 but that's just me.

Chile: I only saw the highlights of Chile's game but with Alexis Sanchez in the form of his life and his knowledge of Spain and Barcelona i can see them causing trouble and maybe spring a surprise. I wouldn't see them advance from the group stage but they did look sharp and more of a team than Spain.

Australia: They lack a leader and a player that can help them make the next step. They will finish rock bottom and go an win (as usual) the next 50 qualifiers in the Oceania-Zone for the next World Cups.

Group C
Colombia: Good all around team that however lacks the experience to go far in the tournament. They miss Falcao and now Bacca but they have a good squad to fill up for those gaps. They did look vulnerable at times even thought they dominated possesion and seem prone to lapses of concentration. Their inexperience might be their downfall. They will finish first in group C and they will probably meet England there. If the stars align the ceilling will be crashing out at the round of 8.

Greece: I was eating pasta when i was watching my nation play and i saw a picture that said pretty much "Risk everything". Imagine a team playing with 8 defensively minded players showcasing a logo about taking risks. Defense and set-pieces is the name of the game for Greece and in 1000 years god will sleep again and the piracy will succeed again. My friend actually plays in the team as a center back, you have probably seen Sokratis playing for Dortmund. He is a solid defender and a good player. I saw a weak team incapable of overcoming the group stages once more, as we have to win Ivory Coast and Japan to finish 2nd. I can see us snatching a draw and hopefully a win but i think we will finish bottom or 3rd. Don't get me wrong, i do want them to progress though!
Come on, it is a bit ironic even if you are a supporter.
Ivory Coast - Japan: I did not see that game. I heard Honda was good, a different player than the AC Milan version. Drogba is a man for the big occasion and could make a difference in the upcoming matches if he is in the starting line-up. Japan were leading 0-1 then conceded two quick-fire goals in the 64th and 66th minute. It's a mix up really, i expect both teams to lose or draw vs Colombia. One of them will finish bottom and one probably will go home in the next round.

Group D
Uruguay: Uruguay seem to lack the Forlan of 2010 and Luis Suarez so far. They were undone by a resilient and prolific Costa Rica side that attacked with vigour and efficiency. They lacked the killer touch and creativity, the robust physical play they had during the last World Cup. I believe though their experience can carry them untill the next round if they can beat England. I am not sure about their position it seems like a tricky group of death.

Costa Rica: hmmm. Could they be the surprise of the group stages? Who knows! I covered most of what i saw on the above paragraph, they were led by a wonderful Joel Campbell and everything is at stake now with 3 points. I have a feeling they will end up last though.

Italy: I am not really a fan of italian football or the national team, i do not know why. I do like Andrea Pirlo though. What an elegant player he is! They did seem vulnerable at fast counters but they are a solid experienced group with the core that reached the 2012 final. They will meet their recent bane - Spain - in the quarter finals most likely but if they overcome then i don't see why they can't go all the way.

England: From the most overpaid human footballer to the funniest coach on the planet, i think England will fail once more. If they actually beat Uruguay they have a chance to make it to the last 8 where things get serious and they will probably lose on penalties again. I don't like Rooney nor his attitude. Hope is on Sturridge, Sterling and young players looking to gain experience and enjoy the tournament. This looks like a tour for England.

Gotta love Gargamel!
Group E
Switzerland - Ecuador: I was watching this match and i saw two things. An empty stadium and the team that will qualify second. Valiant effort by Ecuador and horrible defending by the usually solid Swiss defence, but i believe Ecuador will finish 3rd beating only Honduras and Switzerland will lose to Argentina in the next round. Boring group.

France - Honduras: France is an exciting team to watch so far. One-touch football, incisive passes and good finishing by the usually unreliable Benzema, plus the usual energetic approach from Valbuena. They have a good draw, i think they will make it to the semi final of the World Cup. Honduras are the beating boys and one of the poorest teams of the tournament. At least let me teach you something. They speak spanish, their capital is Tegucigalpa and their currency is Lempira!

Group F
Iran - Nigeria: For the love of god i give you my right arm and my left leg if you can make me forget this game. Not much to say, Nigeria had all the possesion but always failed in the final third, while i admire Iran for being resolute and composed against the flurry of attacks from the green shirts. The Super Eagles could not soar and they will finish 3rd and 4th, as this match was their only chance to get all 3 points probably. Iran did park the bus though and maybe their airplane and i can't see them win a point unless Bosnia faulter miserably.

Way to go!
Argentina - Bosnia: I did not see this game only the highlights due to the time difference. What i saw was an argentina team with more tricks and potential than shown. They will probably meet Belgium in the next round or Russia and i believe they can make the semi's or even the final. I expect Messi to make an impact on the later rounds having benefited from a bigger rest and his knowledge of the climate in Brazil. Bosnia was a good team for a first timer and i do think they will qualify for the next round if they beat Nigeria. They will crash out in the round of 16.

Germany: Now here's where it gets interesting. A good team led by exceptional players and good team spirit and the main core unchanged. A decent coach but i do think they can do better. He brings stability though being at the help for many years. They were not at their brilliant best vs Portugal but they were clinical taking full advantage of their extra man after Pepe's dismissal. Muller is a man for the big occasion with a tally of 8 goals in 7 World Cup games. He scored a hat-trick and the only concern was Mats Hummels being injured during the game. I think Germany will make the semi's and has potential this time for the final.

Group G

Portugal: CR7 is an amazing player. But he said it himself. He cannot carry the whole team everytime on his shoulders. And he definately cannot carry a team with bad players around him. I do think they will qualify for the next round but they will most likely lose at the quarter finals. Don't expect much from a team that underperforms on the big stage.

USA - Ghana: The witch doctor will go home, the USA might spring a surprise vs Portugal and Jurgen would love to get one over his home country. But even if they make it out of the group stage i believe Russia or Belgium will beat them and send them home. Russia vs USA huh? Sounds politically interesting.

Group H
Belgium - Algeria: As i was typing this the match ended. Belgium overcame a resilient Algerian side who took the lead early on with 2 quick goals in the second half. Touted as darkhorses, their inexperience will be their fall. They might make it untill the last 8 but i can't see them progress more. Algeria will probably finish 4th as i do not think they will beat South Korea.

South Korea - Russia: Well, same thing as always. South Korea will finish in the last 2 places, Russia will win one-two rounds then crash out and everyone will be unhappy! Capello has shown he is not a Cup coach and i do not expect that to change.

Well that was it! Wow a long post! Stay tuned for the next wall of text, but an important article about the controversies of this World Cup that is supposed to be the greatest thing for humans. Or the greatest distraction from the real issues...

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