FIFA World Cup, 2014 - Halfway through
Susma Sharma Gurumayum *
The Group Stage of the FIFA World Cup concludes. The knockout stages beginand with it, the ‘FIFA fever’ increases. The periodic occurrence of the ‘jogo bonito’ or ‘beautiful game’, football as termed by Pele, has yet againbrought the world closer, even more so in this age of Facebook and Twitter, and ‘hashtags’.
The final thirty-two countries of the FIFA World Cup, 2014 were sorted into eight groups of four teams each, two each of which were to make it to the Round of 16. Because top ranked countries made it to the same group, Group D and G were termed as this season’s Groups of Death. Fans were disappointed at their teams being sorted in tough groups, knowing well that in the World Cup, there are no easy matches. This is well proved by the top 16 outcome, with top ranked and favourite teams like Spain, Italy and England not making though and countries like Greece coming though. As such, this World Cup has rightlybeen called the World Cup of the Underdogs.
Group A saw Brazil and Mexico going through to the next round, with Brazil, the host country, leading the group. Barcelona striker, Brazil’s Neymar proved he was no fluke with four goals in the three group matches. Scolari’s men, strong on the attack, are hot favourites.Team Mexicois great on the defence conceding only one goal in the group stage with Guillermo Ochoa or The Great Wall of Mexico as its goalkeeper.
The Netherlands and Chile came successfully out of Group B, the Oranjes with a perfect score topping the last sixteen. A superb header by the Dutch captain, Manchester United striker, Robin Van Persie in their first match against Spain is popular as the best goal in this world cup so far. Spain, the defending champions had to bid adieu, but did so with a beautiful win at its last game against Australia.
Colombia and Greece are the top two of Group C. The South American country played exceptionally well with a perfect score.In the second half of their match against Japan, 43 year old FarydMondragon was substituted thereby becoming the oldest player ever in the World Cup. With a controversial penalty kick against Ivory Coast in their last Group match, the Greeks qualified for the Round of 16 for the first time.
Group D saw Costa Rica at the top, one of the underdogs. Uruguay made it through amidst the Suarez biting controversy. Investigations by FIFA led to the former Liverpool player being banned for nine international matches, and four months suspension from all activities related to football. England and Italy, the two top ranked teams of the group went home, taking along with them football stars like Mario Balotelli and Wayne Rooney.
Group E sent France and Switzerland to the knockout rounds. Franck Ribbery’s absence couldn’t stop the Les Bleus from being the topmost of the group. France’s KarimBenzema is one to look out for in the subsequent matches. The Swiss were saved by XherdanShaqiri’shatrick in their last Group match against Honduras.
Group F was topped by Argentina. Barcelona striker Lionel Messi contributed majorly to the wins of the Light Blues. Nigeriascrapes through. For a first timer, Bosnia-Herzegovina did not give easy wins to its opponents.
Group G’s Germany and USA became two of the top 16 teams. Portugal’s win over Ghana, and 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or winner, Real Madrid sport-star Chistiano Ronaldo’s first ever world cup goal couldn’t save them from their early exit.
Belgium led group H with a perfect nine, followed by Algeria, the Desert Foxes.
This World Cup of Goals has produced 134 goals in the 48group matches. Neymar,Messi and Mueller are the top runners of the Golden Boot with four goals each. (Neymar scored one penalty goal in the first knockout match against Chile, which makes his goal-score five.)Germany’s Miroslav Klose has reached ex-Brazilian footballer, Ronaldo’s record of fifteen world cup goals. He’s looking forward to breaking the record. Interestingly, this World Cup was inaugurated by Marcelo’s Own Goal against the host country. The Group Stage saw two more Own Goals.
All these actions are taking place amidst the anti-World Cup protest in the host country. The protest is not so much against the gameas it is against the misadministration and corruption of the Brazilian government.
Brazil hosted the World Cup in 1950 which witnessed their defeat to Uruguay in the final match held in Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro. This incident made young Brazilian Pele promise his crying father that he would bring home the World Cup which he did, himbecoming one of the greatest football legends we celebrate. Since then, Brazil has won the World Cup five times. A win on the home soil would add to the glory immensely. The World Cup final this season willbe held at Maracana, again.
Now Brazil has a chance to amend 1950. Or will history repeat? Also, a Brazil-Argentina final, as predicted by Scolari, might just come true. Or not. One can only wait and watch.
* Susma Sharma Gurumayum wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Ph.D. Research Scholar Department of History Manipur University and can be reached at susma(dot)sharma(dot)gurumayum(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on June 30, 2014.
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