With round 1 of the fixtures completed, let’s take a look at some of the favorites of the 2014 world cup and how they performed.
Despite the heavy 5-1 loss to Netherlands, only a fool would dare to write Spain off. It is important to mention that four years ago in the last world cup, they were the first team ever to lose their opening game and go on and lift the trophy 3 weeks later. Moreover, with players like Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas they have the ability to do it again.
This European style Brazilian team, have the pressure of the nation on their shoulders to win the world cup. With this in mind, victory against Croatia was expected, however the manor it was done in was questionable to say the least. Dodgy referee decisions and theatrical dives clouded the opening game of the tournament. Nevertheless, the host wouldn’t mind as they attempt to win the world cup for an unprecedented sixth time.
It is hard to imagine the Netherlands camp not being on cloud 9 after they demolished the world champions. However, it is important that they do not get ahead of themselves. From the golden generation of the 1970’s and the 2010 world cup final; Netherlands tend to always start well but deteriorate in the latter stages. Astonishingly, they are still yet to the win the world cup, could this year be different?
The Germans as usual started of the tournament in a proficient manor, with a victory over a ten men Portugal. For me, Germany is Europe’s best hope to leave the South American continent with the trophy. They boast one of, if not the best squad in the competition, along with a manager (Joachim Löw) fully capable of motivating his players. Many pundits have suggested that this is their tournament, as like Netherlands they haven’t performed when it really matters. With 2002, 2006 and 2010 being most notable.
Despite the loss against Italy, England’s performance was arguably one of their best in recent major competitions for many years. Furthermore, if they get a result against Uruguay they would be expected to qualify to the knockout stages. The mass Rooney agenda is something of an excuse, in case England fail to progress to the latter stages. However, there is no genuine reason for him not to play. In my opinion he should be played in his more favoured position, in the number 10 role just behind the striker. With Chamberlain, Sterling or Wellbeck on the wings and Sturridge upfront. Rooney may have underachieved in his last few world cups but so have Messi and Ronaldo; and it would be seen as inconceivable for them to be dropped and likewise it should be with Wayne Rooney.
Portugal’s inability to beat the top teams is their biggest downfall. In addition, against Germany their style of play was questionable to say the least. It was all Ronaldo orientated, a sceptic may argue that he is the best player in the world so why not? But when there is a player in clear space through on goal, and they decide to pass to Ronaldo who is marked by 2 or 3 players. It begins to make one think that has to be all Ronaldo or nothing. With the USA’s last gasp winner against Ghana, Portugal need to win their remaining games in order to progress. I see this being unlikely, yet with Ronaldo on your team anything is possible.
Italy seems to always be the ‘big’ dark horses in every world cup, for some reason they are never perceived as favourites. Yet, they always manage to make it to the latter stages, and with such players like Pirlo and Balotelli, I wouldn’t put it pass them to do it again.