As far as opening games go in World Cup tournaments, those of Brazil 2014 have been impressive. Yes, we’ve had those opening games where the floodgates have indeed opened for a particular team; Hungary putting 10 past El Salvador in Group 3 at Spain ‘82 and Russia sticking 6 past Hungary in Group C at Mexico ’86, being just two examples. Usually though, they’ve rarely had us on the edge of our seats. Almost a week in and Brazil 2014 has given us many goals, in fast flowing end to end games. So far in 18 games, we’ve seen over 50 goals, with only two scoreless draws, not forgetting the 1-1 draw between Russia and South Korea. The signs were good when the host nation beat Croatia 3-1 in the curtain raiser to Brazil 2014. We’ve also seen Columbia and France come away with impressive 3-0 victories in their opening games, and incidentally we’ve also seen Bosnia Herzegovina score their first goal in their first appearance in a World Cup finals. So it’s been an absorbing start to Brazil 2014, the early games are really drawing you in. However, there are three particular games that stick out for me, Germany’s 4-0 mauling of Portugal, and Holland’s 5-1 demolition of World Cup holders Spain and last but certainly not least, Chile’s victory over Spain in Group B. Spain, the World Cup holders are going home.
At the weekend Germany met Portugal at the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador, for their first Group G game. Manchester United’s Nani took to the field for the Portuguese, as did former star Ronaldo. For the Germans, United targets Mats Hummels, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos all featured. From kick off both teams looked lively and eager, three minutes in and Germany waste a corner, two minutes later Almeida spurns a chance with a weak shot after a run from Ronaldo. Nani and Pereira were beginning to look useful down the left wing. A few minutes into the game and the Portuguese goalkeeper makes an absolute howler, from the corner flag his inept clearance went straight to Sami Khedira, who misses an open goal, albeit from about 30 yards. Germanys first goal came from a penalty after Gotze had fouled by Pereira. Thomas Muller converted the penalty, and Pereira was lucky to escape a red card. Germany were beginning to look really dangerous and were slowly turning the screw on Portugal. Nani had a shot go just over the bar, but they weren’t coming enough to worry the Germans. Ronaldo and Nani have further opportunities, but inevitably it was the Germans would score next. With about half an hour gone in the game, Hummels scores a superb header from a corner. Germany 2 Portugal 0. Moments later Nani wasted a golden opportunity, in attack with Ronaldo, taking too long on the ball. Prior to half time and Portugal find themselves a man down when Pepe is red carded. He clashes with Thomas Muller, there’s a bit of argy-bargy and Pepe’s walking. Right on half time it’s over as a contest, Muller makes it 3 with a goal laid on by Kroos. Portugal were being made to pay for too many mistakes and careless play. Germany were looking controlled and really in the mood for the World Cup. Muller’s third and Germanys fourth came in the home straight, from good work from Schurrle, Muller netted after a weak parry from the Portuguese ‘keeper. Germany beat a very good team in Portugal, the Germans have hit the ground running.
The World Cup final of four years ago was the last time the Dutch played Spain at a World Cup. Spain won it in extra time, an Iniesta goal condemning Holland to their third defeat in a World Cup Final. In Salvador a few days ago, nearly half an hour into the game and Spain are awarded a penalty when Stefan De Vrij (yet another alleged United target) brought down Diego Costa. Alonso scored from the penalty spot and the Spanish take the lead, ignorant of the orange storm to come. Spain came close to making it 2-0 when Silva missed a very decent chance, despite their lead though, Spain were happy to sit back. If you’re going to talk game changing goals in the future, then you’re going to be mentioning Robin van Persie’s equaliser in this game. About a minute from half time and United star Van Persie meets a brilliant ball from Daley Blind of Ajax, heading in a powerful shot from about 14 yards. Holland and Spain went in at half time level, the Dutch looking pleased with themselves, the Spanish not so much. The Dutch began the second half the better side, within 10 minutes if the restart the Dutch took the lead, Robben controlling the ball brilliantly to place it past a hapless Casillas. Holland were turning it on, hungry for revenge for the final of South Africa, and that’s what they got. De Vrij of Feyenoord made it 3-1, before Van Persie and Robben got another each to make the final score Spain 1 Holland 5. The Dutch were extremely good, and now people are saying it’s an end of an era for Spain. A tad early perhaps to make that kind of judgment, but there was no mistaking Holland’s dominance and ability, Van Persie and Robben looking particularly good.
Holland have now gone onto the round of 16 having beaten the Aussies 2-3, and Chile will join them. Spain, who came into this tournament as holders, are going home out at the first stage, along with England. Other countries going through are host nation Brazil and Mexico. Other groups are still yet to be decided, games going to the final group game match, going right to the wire to see who goes through to the round of 16 games.
So yeah, Roy’s boys are on their way home to face the backlash. And what Luis Suarez, once again the fool has let himself down, quite clearly seen biting Italian player Chiellini. It’s going to be interesting to see what FIFA do, they have just begun an investigation into this incident. More interestingly, what are Liverpool going to do? Are they going to back him again and make themselves look like idiots again? So indeed, it’s been an eye opening start to Brazil 2014, the World Cup machine rolls on.
By Richard Fenton – @ricky_red_manc