2014 FIFA World Cup - Beyond the group stage
Dr Kh Ajit Singh *
The World has been engulfed in a frenzy of soccer mania like in the past World Cups with the kick - start of the twentieth edition of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil on the intervening night of 12 and 13 July 2014 . It has been 15 crazy days of the first round of the World Cup that has seen 48 exciting matches played amongst 32 qualified nations clustered in 8 different groups. Amidst joy and heartbreaks 133 goals, many with magical splendour, have bee scored at the rate of 2.8 goals per match.
The 2014 soccer World Cup, an $ 11 billions extravaganza that triggered anger amongst millions of denizens of an economically unsound Brazil, has been entertaining billions all over the World. The beautiful games has been compelling people to get glued before the TV sets hour after hours, And night after nights as if too much of football is never going to be enough. At work places, football lovers talk football and of the matches they watched while students are torn apart between the World Cup and examination.
Big names - Messi, Neymar, Muller, Tim Cahill, Suarez, van Persi, Roben, Benzema etc. live upto the expectations of the fans displaying fantastic goalscoring skills while less lucky stars like Iniesta, Ronaldo, Balloteli, Tores, Aguero and Xavi have not been at their best like they did elsewhere or in the previous edition of the World Cup.
Brazil & Mexico; Netherlands & Chile ; Columbia & Greece ; Costa Rica & Uruguay ; France & Switzerland ; Argetina & Nigeria ; Germany & USA and Balgium & Algeria have successfully crossed the first - round hurdles and advanced to the round of sixteen. Group D levelled as group of death has indeed been deathly showing the outster of two European heavy weights England and Italy. The fights for two top spots have been tough in Groups A & G as well like the battles in the group of death.
The underdogs Japan, South Korea and Australia put up brave shows fighting with their hearts out but were shown the way out by the traditionally stronger opponents. The rise of Costa Rica into power beating Uruguay & Italy and drawing with England to stage a second phase show down with 2004 European Champions Greece may have paved the way for more surprises.
Unable to maintain their "ball possession game" (tiki taka ), Spaniards have been forced to play fast games and have been out played by Netherlands and Chile. The decline of Spain, European Champions (2008, 2012) and 2010 World Champions has been in offing as reflected in their unceremonious defeat by Brazil in the last Confederation Cup final. The downfall of Barcelona in the last two Champions league competitions are also indirect indications that Spain are past their prime. Moreover, Spainish defenders Gerald Pique and Sergie Ramos have not been able to cope with pressure in the absence of the injured Carles Puyol.
The first round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup is no exception in having to showcase scandalous acts on the field like Pepe's head - bud earning a red card and Suarez's bite that miraculously escaped a red card as were the hand - of - God goal (1986) and the infamous head -bud in 2006 final . As a fall out, some journalists suggested with sarcasm the roles of Dracula and Shark (in some 'Jaws' sequeal) for Luis Suarez (Uruguay) to Hollywood film makers
Introspecting the FIFA draw for the knock out stage, it is almost certain that three times World Cup finalists Netherlands would join former World Champions Germany, France, Brazil and Argentina in the quarter finals.
France, Germany and Netherlands playing physical games, look very strong having scored plenty of goals and conceding very few. To stop the Dutch going far, one has to prevent Arhen Roben from running fast with the ball besides having to keep an eye on the ever prowling van Persie. Argentia and Brazil do have skillful players up front but they still need to watch and strengthen their defence to compete the more resilient Europeans. Uruguay look formidable but without Suarez, banned for 9 matches they may be ineffective like in the first round match against Costa Rica.
Football lovers have their own teams at heart. But the World Cup is all about "Football" the beautiful game. Hopefully, the FIFA Gold Cup ( 2014) awaits the nation that can play the best brand of football.
* Dr Kh Ajit Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on June 28, 2014.
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