Month: June 2014

Can Colombia win the World Cup?

Colombia have been one of the surprise packages of the tournament so far. Prior to the World Cup there was a sense of worry surrounding the Colombian campaign. Radamel Falcao, their leading goal scorer in qualifying and talismanic spearhead of the Colombian attack, was ruled out of the competition with injury. Critics suggested that they would struggle to compete without him. Moreover, many people questioned whether captain Mario Yepes was over the hill, at the age of 38, and wondered if he would prove to be a liability at the back. However, these fears have been set to one side; the Colombians now find themselves in the quarter-finals of the tournament and people are beginning to sit up and take notice.

Colombia are blessed with arguably the paciest frontline of all the sides competing for World Cup glory. Juan Cuadrado has been absolutely outstanding and is already being linked with a move to one of Europe’s powerhouses. James Rodriguez, following his performance against Uruguay, is being heralded as the player of the tournament thus far, is the top scorer in the competition and has scored one of the truly great World Cup goals.

The most surprising feature of the Colombians is their sturdy defence. Yepes, who was considered to be a potential weak link given his age and lack of pace, has been one of the best defenders in Brazil. He leads from the back through his bravery and unmatched commitment to the cause. But he is not alone in possessing these attributes; the whole of this side really plays for one another. Not only are they wholly devoted to achieving victory, but every goal is celebrated in unison with a fun dance routine that not only demonstrates the high morale amongst the squad but also that this is a side who loves playing football and is enjoying every minute at the World Cup.

But can they win the tournament? Whilst I would be delighted for them to do so, it still seems a rather large stretch of the imagination. There can be no denying the fact that Colombia, whilst passing every test that they have faced with flying colours, are yet to meet top class opposition. They were drawn in what turned out to be a very weak group and their last 16 opponents, Uruguay, were missing their star man and are an average side without him. Sterner tests lie ahead and Colombia will require a tremendous effort to even reach the semi-finals, as a match with the hosts is imminent.

Brazil may not have hit the heights that they were expected to so far this summer but they are still the greatest test Colombia will have encountered to date. They have, however, made numerous defensive errors and the Colombians have the offensive weapons to hit Brazil where it hurts. Los Cafeteros (the coffee growers) may struggle to win the whole tournament but they could be the villains of the piece and knock out the hosts.

Last 16 Preview: Part 2

The group stages are over and this is where the truly serious part of the competition begins. Lose now and you’re going home. Here @0riginalfooty looks forward to the second round of the competition and offers predictions for the knockout matches taking place on Monday and Tuesday.

France vs Nigeria: Monday 30th June 5pm

France have been one of the most impressive teams to grace the World Cup so far. They humbled Honduras and Switzerland in their opening matches and were able to make numerous changes in personnel to get the draw required against Ecuador to seal top spot in the group. Nigeria will also be satisfied with their campaign. Placed in a group with Argentina, they were realistically only able to fight for the second qualifying spot, a feat they achieved. Nigeria also showed battling qualities against the Argentines in their final group match and lost narrowly. France, however, are a side brimming with confidence and it is hard to look past a comfortable French victory.
Prediction: France 4-1 Nigeria

Germany vs Algeria: Monday 30th June 9pm

There has been a large furore surrounding this matchup concerning an Algerian revenge mission for a fixture that took place in 1982. Algeria believed that the match was fixed by West Germany and Austria to knock the Algerians out of the World Cup. These allegations were never proven but there is a still significant ill feeling towards the Germans from the Algerian fan base. Whilst it may be a feisty encounter off the pitch, it is a real stretch of the imagination to see this game as anything other than a landslide German victory. Germany have been relatively comfortable in their qualifying efforts so far and you get the feeling that they are yet to move out of first gear. Algeria have exceeded expectations by reaching the second round and have been gifted their dream matchup. However, it seems unlikely that this Algerian side can really trouble the Germans and they will have to wait for another opportunity to dish out their revenge.
Prediction: Germany 4-0 Algeria

Argentina vs Switzerland: Tuesday 1st July 5pm

Argentina, whilst winning all their matches, have not really got going thus far in the tournament. Messi has carried them through a number of treacherous situations but Sabella will be hopeful that some of their other stars can start to share the load. Switzerland showed great character in recovering from a 5-2 hammering at the hands of the French to qualify for this round and it would be naïve to expect them to make the same mistakes again. Argentina have more than enough to win this match and to win it comfortably, however, I am expecting a slightly tighter affair than most, although with the same outcome.
Prediction: Argentina 2-1 Switzerland

Belgium vs USA: Tuesday 1st July 9pm

This is, on paper, the closest match in the last 16. Belgium may have won all their group stage matches but have been less than impressive against fairly weak opposition. The USA, on the other hand, have come through one of the toughest groups of the tournament and Jurgen Klinsmann’s men have performed well above expectations. Belgium may have the stronger pool of individual talent but the USA are well drilled and operate much better as a unit. Supporters of the Belgians may argue that they have ground out results, achieving 3 wins out of 3, and are now ready to find a higher level of performance and challenge the top sides in the tournament. It remains to be seen whether they can raise their level to truly test the best sides at the World Cup but they should sneak through this round, possibly on penalties.
Prediction: Belgium 1-1 USA

Brazil 1 – 1 Chile (3-2 on penalties)

It was a hugely dramatic night in Belo Horizonte as Brazil came out on top in a penalty shoot out, after 120 minutes of gripping football failed to separate these two South American sides.

It was Brazil who drew first blood after 18 minutes. Thiago Silva’s flick from Neymar’s in-swinging corner fizzed towards David Luiz at the back post, only for Jara, a man whose night would be filled with tragedy, to nudge the ball inadvertently into his own net.

Shortly after, Neymar, looking bright, showed great pace and trickery to burst into the Chilean box but could only drag a weak shot well wide. Brazil looked much the better side in the opening half hour, as the terrifying atmosphere created by the wonderful home support at the Estadio Mineirão seemingly overawed the Chilean players.

However, a sloppy touch after receiving a throw in, saw Hulk, who was off colour for much of the 90 minutes, gift Chile possession deep inside the Brazil half. Eduardo Vargas couldn’t believe his luck as he stole in and slid a ball to Alexis Sanchez who in turn slotted home from close range. It was a dreadful goal to concede from a Brazilian perspective, especially as they had dominated for much of the game so far.

Sanchez’ goal injected life into the Chileans who now looked far more comfortable on the ball, no longer relying on pacey counter-attacks. That said, Brazil continued to have the better of the play as a stunning ball from Oscar left Neymar again in a dangerous position inside the Chilean box. This time the young star hesitated, allowing defenders to smother the attack. Their attempted clearance, however, almost saw Fred score a lucky goal as the ball bounced off the foot of the number 9, only to fly narrowly over the crossbar.

Dani Alves’ superb swerving strike from range forced Bravo to parry the ball over his cross bar, while Fred tragically miscued one of his many off-target shots in the first half. A mistake from Luis Gustavo allowed Sanchez to play Aranguiz through on goal, only for Luiz to get back and smother his effort, conceding a corner.

That would be the final play of an exhilarating half which had plenty of chances, errors and fouls, at times threatening to boil over –  Fred and Gary Medel exchanged a heated moment as they trudged off at the interval.

It was a slightly cagey start to the second half but on 55 minutes the Mineirão exploded as Marcelo’s long ball into the box found Hulk who controlled and sliced a finish across Bravo and into the bottom left corner of his net. The ecstatic Porto man wheeled away to the home support, only to realize that Howard Webb had blown his whistle, with either he or his assistant Mike Mullarkey having adjudged Hulk to have used his arm to take the ball down. After several studies of the replays from various angles, it seems that somehow, incredibly the officials made the correct decision.

The game again turned slightly more subdued and it was Chile who were having the better of the play, with Cesar forced into a superb reaction save from Aranguiz’s powerful close range effort.

Scolari felt he had to change things and hauled Fred off after yet another disappointing display. His replacement Jo almost made an instant impact but somehow failed to get any sort of a solid contact on Hulk’s wicked ball across, perhaps justifying his lack of game time for Manchester City despite his inflated price tag.

The game rather petered out and extra-time looked inevitable, despite two saves from Bravo as Neymar had a headed chance and Hulk struck from distance.

Extra-time continued in much the same vein as the second 45, but still had the odd moment of exciting individual skill, most notably as Hulk, who was the best player in this period, danced past two Chilean defenders and forced another smart stop from Bravo.

This was one of few moments of quality in the latter stages, as players inevitably tired. Jo again fluffed his lines while the equally beleaguered Pinilla, Chile’s substitute, hit a few poor shots either off-target or into defenders. However, right at the death, that man Pinilla left Brazil inches away from crashing out of their own tournament as he smashed a thunderous drive against the upper half of the crossbar, in what would be almost the final play before the shoot-out.

 

It was 2-2 after four penalties each, with two smart saves from Cesar, a limp attempt from Willian and the pick of the bunch from Aranguiz. It was now sudden death, and who else but Neymar would step up and take such a crucial penalty for the Brazilians? It would have surely been too cruel for him to miss and after a tricky run-up he slotted home in a fittingly cool fashion. Chile’s hopes now rested on free-agent Jara, recently released by Nottingham Forest and the man who put Brazil in front early on. His bad luck was not up, however, as he sent the Brazil players, staff and fans into raptures as his penalty cannoned back off the post.

 

The result was harsh on Chile, but Brazil probably deserved their victory despite their less than convincing performance. Scolari will surely need to address some pressing concerns with his side’s play, notably their low passing accuracy – Fernandinho and Luis Gustavo both culpable, and also whether Fred can really justify a place in the starting 11.

 

Player Ratings:

 

Brazil:

Julio Cesar – 8:
Made a stunning save from Aranguiz and was solid throughout the match. Also superb in the shoot-out.

Alves – 7:
Not always the most defensively assured but had one brilliant effort at goal and put in several dangerous crosses.

Thiago Silva – 6:
Solid on the whole but wasn’t alert to the danger for Chile’s goal. Made a few good tackles later on, though.

David Luiz – 6:
No real errors today for a man who is often guilty of sloppy defending, and would have found himself on the score-sheet had Jara not done the job for him.

Marcelo – 7:
Excellent going forward, had a chance early on and put several great balls into the box, the best of which led to the big controversy with Hulk’s alleged hand-ball.

Fernandinho – 5:
I understand why this was Scolari’s only change, as he looked impressive as a substitute against Cameroon. But the Man City man failed to make any real impact and actually gave away more fouls than he made passes in the Chile half.

Luis Gustavo – 5:
Not great in possession and guilty of giving away too many fouls, also gifted Chile a chance at the end of the first half. That said he did win the ball back importantly on a few occasions and didn’t stop running.

Oscar – 5:
Frustrating afternoon for the Chelsea man as he really didn’t see much of the ball. Did make one or two good long distance passes but was on the whole disappointing.

Hulk – 7:
Wasn’t at his best in the 90 but still threatened on occasions and was easily the best player in extra time. Was perhaps unlucky to have his goal disallowed and also could have had an assist had Jo got contact on his cross.

Neymar – 7:
Certainly Brazil’s best player in normal time but looked tired towards the end of the game. A number of moments of individual quality but was guilty of passing up a few good opportunities.

Fred – 4:
A passenger throughout the game and hit several feeble shots wide of the mark. Still don’t think he adds anything to the side and Scolari must surely be considering other options

 

Subs:

Jo – 5: (on for Fred – 62 mins)
Not much better than the man he replaced, made little impact and scuffed a good chance.

Ramires – 6: (on for Fernandinho – 72 mins)
Was inevitably full of running when he came on and stretched Chile’s tiring midfield at times.

Willian – 6: (on for Oscar – 106 mins)
Looked fairly lively with one good cross and one good free kick in the dying minutes of the match. Could have done more though.

 

Chile:

Bravo – 8:
My choice for man of the match, with a string of superb saves he kept Chile in the game at times. By no means at fault for the goal, either.

Isla – 7:
Looked solid defensively and also got forward well.

Silva – 7:
Strong in defence and made a number of important blocks.

Mena – 5:
The least assured of Chile’s defenders as he was beaten far too often by Neymar and struggled when Marcelo got forward.

Medel – 6:
A typically combative display from the Cardiff man, with a number of characteristically strong tackles a few of which actually saw him get the ball.

Jara – 5:
Mercilessly unlucky both with the own goal and the penalty miss. Was generally solid for the rest of the game but no doubt a game to forget for him.

Vidal – 7:
He’s the man who makes Chile tick, and he started off a number off attacks with pinpoint passes. They didn’t look the same side after he went off.

Vargas – 6:
Looked dangerous on occasions but was subbed off before what was probably Chile’s best period.

Aranguiz – 7:
Always looked to get involved and had two good chances; the first saw a good block from Luis and the second forced a stunning save from Cesar.

Sanchez – 8:
A constant threat on the counter in the first half and showed his quality throughout the match. Finished his only clear-cut opportunity with typical precision.

Diaz – 6:
Had some good link up play with Sanchez and Aranguiz but blasted a few shots and a free kick way off target. Failed to carve out any real chances.

 

Subs:

Gutierrez – 5: (on for Vargas – 55 mins)
Given plenty of time to make an impact did little to impress.

Pinilla – 6: (on for Vidal – 87 mins)
Was generally wasteful but was a few inches away from sealing a famous victory with a fabulous effort right at the end of the game.

Rojas – 5: (on for Medel – 108 mins)
Not really given long but barely touched the ball.

Last 16 Preview: Part 1

The group stages are over and this is where the truly serious part of the competition begins. Lose now and you’re going home. Here @0riginalfooty looks forward to the second round of the competition and offers predictions for the knockout matches taking place on Saturday and Sunday.

Brazil vs Chile: Saturday 28th June 5pm

Brazil topped group A and face runners up Chile from group B. However, Chile will be delighted to have made it this far in the competition having been placed in a tough group containing Spain and the Netherlands. Both sides now face arguably their toughest challenge yet in what should be an intriguing last 16 contest. However, Brazil have more World Cup experience and having won the Confederations cup last year will be viewed as the favourites. It will be a tight match but expect Brazil to edge it.
Prediction: Brazil 2-1 Chile

Colombia vs Uruguay: Saturday 28th June 9pm

Colombia have been in scintillating form at these finals with players such as Juan Cuadrado and James Rodriguez particularly shining for them thus far. Uruguay, on the other hand, endured a tough start by losing to Costa Rica but then recorded narrow victories over England and Italy to seal their passage to the last 16. There will be arguments from some quarters that Colombia had what turned out to be a fairly easy group and are not as strong as they appear. However, they have pace in abundance and can launch an extremely dangerous counterattack. Uruguay have also been hit by Suarez’s 9 match international ban and I suspect that will be enough to tip the balance in Colombia’s favour.
Prediction: Colombia 3-1 Uruguay

Netherlands vs Mexico: Sunday 29th June 5pm

The Mexicans have enjoyed a brilliant World Cup to date. They are yet to lose a game, which is particularly impressive considering they were in a group with Brazil, and generally look well organised and are a threat going forward. However, they have been handed an extremely tough draw against one of the form sides in the competition: the Netherlands. Van Gaal’s men have been outstanding so far and the attacking trio of Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder looks back to its best. This won’t be a walk in the park but the Netherlands should find a way through.
Prediction: Netherlands 2-1 Mexico

Costa Rica vs Greece: Sunday 29th June 9pm

Costa Rica have been one of the surprise packages of the World Cup as no one really gave them a hope in getting through a group filled with Italy, Uruguay and England. Costa Rica did not only just qualify but they topped the group and have been rewarded with a last 16 clash against Greece, who performed a minor miracle to reach the knockout stages themselves. Up until their third and final match, they had not registered a goal and were one of the worst teams to watch at the World Cup. However, they recorded a surprise last-gasp win over the Ivory Coast and sealed their passage to the next round. Costa Rica have performed admirably against tough opposition and, if they keep up their work rate and good form, should see off the Greeks.
Prediction: Costa Rica 2-0 Greece

Which team should you support now?

With England failing to progress to the knockout stages of the World Cup having crashed out at the earliest stage in their history since 1954, most Englishmen despair and are at odds with what to do with themselves for the remainder of the competition. Yet reach for those tissues, dry your eyes, as now is a moment of opportunity. No longer are you tied to this infuriating underachieving team of premier league starlets, now you can reinvent yourself and pick a new nation to tie your allegiances to. Wind back the clock 6 years and England failed to reach the finals of Euro 2008. The finals stages were not the time to lament over the failings of the wally with a brolly and instead I chose to support the Netherlands, that eccentric team clad all in orange. For once got to enjoy my team playing attractive football at the finals of a major tournament, and the pain in my stomach that comes from supporting England was vanquished. Now we must all decide which nation we are going to switch our allegiances to, whether you’re half-German, a sixteenth-Brazilian or once spent a month backpacking around Chile, it doesn’t matter. Choose your new nation and support them with the maddening furore that comes from enjoying the game, but not truly caring about the final result. To help you with this decision Original Footy  has provided a list of our top teams to support. So now is a time to celebrate and for optimism, you never know your adopted nation might just go all the way…

BRAZIL

Obviously lots of people will immediately be switching their allegiances to the home nation and there would be small wonder why. Whilst England is the birthplace of football, over the centuries our claims to being father of the game are growing increasingly laughable considering our inability to play it. Stepping into fill this void is Brazil which many people claim to be the ‘spiritual home of football’. It is easy to get caught up in the electric hype and fervour being generated in Brazil which is easily translated through the television, despite Adrian Chiles’ best efforts at destroying any feel-good factor. After an underwhelming start to the competition Brazil turned up the heat in their final group game, and will have to raise their levels again to beat an energetic Chilean side in the second round.

NETHERLANDS

For many fanatic English football fans it will be difficult to switch their allegiance to Oranje purely due to the man in charge. Louis Van Gaal is officially to take over as manager of the stumbling Manchester United, therefore many fans out there would prefer him to join after an ill-fortuned World Cup trip, rather than a glorious conquest. But this is the World Cup and surely all club allegiances should be set to the side, and cheering on RVP and his Dutch companions would make for a thrilling experience. The clinical attacking prowess displayed against Spain, coupled with the defensive frailties against Australia mean that any Dutch game is bound to be entertaining. With this combination of factors anything is possible in Netherlands knockout games, and this feeling of uncertainty will fill the void that is usually occupied by anxiety during England games.

CHILE

Many people were aware of the quality of this Chilean side coming into the World Cup but few could have predicted what would have happened at the Maracana, as the Chileans signalled the end of the Spanish era of dominance in triumphant style dismantling the holders 2-0. What would perhaps sway the neutral more to the Chilean cause was the manner in which they ripped the holders to shreds, and the passion displayed by their supporters. It was impossible not to admire Chile even before kick off as the Chilean crowd proudly roared their national anthem even after the instrumental backing finished (with the help of a few extra supporters who charged into the ground). If this level of intensity is matched for the remainder of their campaign, it is easy to imagine that many around the world will cheer fanatically for La Roja (The Red One).

FRANCE

It is always entertaining following France, as you are never quite sure which French team will turn up. On their day they are one of the best teams in world football however one need look no further back than to the last tournament, when France pressed self-destruct and crashed out of the group stages, to see how mercurial the French can be. On evidence though this French team is raring to go, and the combination of their attacking flair and unpredictable nature makes the French a fascinating team to follow.

ARGENTINA

Having luckily picked Argentina in the sweepstake they already have my undying support, yet there are other reasons to support La Albiceleste (The White and Sky Blue) The main reason though would have to be Lionel Messi, without question one of the star performers of the tournament thus far. Messi has been playing on another level, scoring in every game so far, dragging Argentina to the top of their group and through to the knockout phases. The rivalry between Argentina and Brazil is intense, and although it is a long way off, it is a possibility that these two great footballing nations could meet in the final, a prospect which any football fan would love to see.

GERMANY

Germany dismantled Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal side in their opening game 4-0, and many predicted they could win all their group games in this fashion, however the following 2 matches proved tougher tests with the German’s drawing one and narrowly winning the second 1-0. A favourable draw against Algeria means that Germany will be heavy favourites to make it through to the quarter finals, and then potentially further. Germany have an incredibly strong squad, spearheaded in attack by the current golden boot holder Thomas Muller. Muller has 4 goals in 3 games so far in the tournament and it is easy to imagine that he will find the net in more games to propel Germany deep into the tournament.

Group Stage Review: Part 2

It’s been a fabulous World Cup thus far full of excitement, drama and some wonderful performances. In this article @0riginalfooty looks back at groups E-H and picks out the highlights of the group.

Group E

France         7pts
Switzerland 6pts
Ecuador       4pts
Honduras    0pts

Star Man: Mathieu Valbuena – Valbuena has been a different class for France in this tournament. He played in France’s first two crushing victories over Honduras and Switzerland but was rested for France’s stuttering draw against Ecuador and it was evident how much they missed him.

Best Match: Switzerland 2-5 France – This was most definitely one of the best matches at the World Cup so far. The French were at their imperious best but the Swiss managed to throw in a couple of magnificent goals for good measure. There was even late excitement as Karim Benzema was denied a wonder goal by a premature whistle from the referee. Terrific match.

Biggest disappointment: Honduras – They threatened to put up a bit of a fight against Ecuador but they were generally just the whipping boys of the group and crashed out with no points.

Side that will go furthest: France – Switzerland will almost certainly fall in the next round to Messi and Argentina but the French will be quietly confident that they can go really deep into the tournament. With a good draw against Nigeria in the next round, there can be no excuses for them not to reach the quarter-finals.

Valbuena has enjoyed a brilliant start to the tournament

Valbuena has enjoyed a brilliant start to the tournament

Group F

Argentina                    9pts
Nigeria                        4pts
Bosnia & Herzegovina 3pts
Iran                              1pt

Star Man: Lionel Messi – Who else? The World Cup’s joint top scorer has scored 4 goals in 3 matches and has been voted man of the match in each of the games he has played in. Argentina are relying heavily on him if they are to mount a serious challenge at the World Cup and he looks up to the challenge.

Best Match: Nigeria 2-3 Argentina – In the end it was a match that meant very little but it was the fastest starting game in the group stages with two goals in the first 5 minutes. It was, ultimately, Messi’s magic that carried the Argentine’s through but it was a very enjoyable contest.

Biggest disappointment: Bosnia and Herzegovina – They managed to defeat Iran and were always expected to lose to Argentina but they offered very little when it really mattered against main group rivals Nigeria and were out of the tournament before they had even kicked a ball in the final match.

Side that will go furthest: Argentina – It’s very difficult to see Switzerland troubling the Argentines or Nigeria pushing France too hard so Argentina should at least progress to the quarter-finals whereas Nigeria should crash out to France.

Argentina are likely to go deep into the tournament

Argentina are likely to go deep into the tournament

Group G:

Germany 7pts
USA         4pts
Portugal  4pts
Ghana     1pt

Star Man: Thomas Müller – Müller already has 4 goals this tournament and is one of the top scorers. He is one of the best finishers in the game and is unrivalled at his ability to find himself in open space in the opposition penalty area.

Best Match: USA 2-2 Portugal – There were a couple of really good games in this group but this was the pick of them. The second half of this match was, in my opinion, the best of the competition so far. It was a fast and furious affair that both sides were desperate to win. The USA were so close to victory but a late Portuguese equalizer deep into stoppage time was enough to secure a draw.

Biggest disappointment: Portugal – The Portuguese are another high-profile European side to duck out of the World Cup prematurely. They really didn’t perform well in this tournament and only managed a victory against a Ghanaian side who were in turmoil having had two senior players sent home amidst squad unrest.

Side that will go furthest: Germany – The USA have a chance to take out Belgium in the next round, although it wont be easy, but it is tough to see them really threatening to win the tournament as a whole. Germany, on the other hand, are one of the favourites and will be disappointed if they don’t make it to the semi-finals.

Thomas Müller has been in terrific form so far this competition

Thomas Müller has been in terrific form so far this competition

Group H

Belgium        9pts
Algeria          4pts
Russia           2pts
South Korea  1pt

Star Man: Divock Origi – He may not have started many games but his impact from the bench has been crucial for the Belgians so far. Marc Wilmots admitted that Origi would not have been selected for the squad had Christian Benteke been fit but the 19 year old has grabbed his opportunity with both hands.

Best Match: South Korea 2-4 Algeria – Group H was generally filled with fairly cagey matches that weren’t always easy on the eye, however, this match was the exception. Both sides attacked and played open and expansive football and scored six goals between them, with the Algerians coming out on top.

Biggest disappointment: Russia – The Russians have had a very poor tournament and really should have qualified in a relatively weak group. They played very negatively and continuously left their main creative force, Alan Dzagoev, on the bench.

Side that will go furthest: Belgium – Belgium have a tough match against the USA in the next round but Algeria do not have a chance of upsetting Germany in the last 16 so, by default, Belgium are more likely to go the furthest.

Fabio Capello and Russia have suffered a miserable campaign

Fabio Capello and Russia have suffered a miserable campaign

A First Time Footballer

As I have alluded to in a previous post, it is often much easier for a First Time Footballer to pay more attention to the actions and reactions of the players during the matches, rather than the actual game itself. As Suarez’s recent incident proves, even football connoisseurs can become distracted from the game sometimes. After Chiellini rammed his shoulder into Suarez’s teeth (really…?) there was a flurry of outraged tweets from the general public and well-regarded footballers alike. My Facebook newsfeed was shortly overflowing with jokes and images about the Uruguayan and it was, honestly, quite amusing. Aside from all the hilarity, there is, of course, a more serious side to the story and I was pleased to see today that FIFA decided to ban Suarez for four months – ruling him out of the remaining World Cup matches as well as the start of the Premier League. It’s good to see that the footballing world aren’t letting even the most talented of players get away with ludicrous occurrences like this…it’s just a shame he couldn’t have done it before the England game!

Rather than ramble on about ‘the bite’ (the Internet is flooded with opinions, photos and gags already), I want to talk about my experiences of the World Cup in Spain over the past few days. I arrived in Madrid, where I had been living for the past 8 months, on Monday night. Having watched the Champions League final between Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid in the centre of the city a month or so ago, it’s safe to say that Spaniards are football crazy. I headed straight out to a tapas bar for some food with a friend, hoping to catch a bit of the World Cup action. No games were being shown at the first place we went to, so after our first round of tapas, I suggested that we head to another location and try and catch some football. My friend recommended a place that he had been to a few days before, where they show the matches on a big screen in the terrace – perfect! Lo and behold Café Continental was not showing football on their screens, but instead what looked like a black and white movie! Then, today, I met with my landlord and we started chatting about the World Cup. He seemed totally unenthused and said that he hadn’t really been following it since Spain had crashed out…

While your country is still in the running, you care about every game that they play and root for them until the bitter end. You follow carefully the progress of the other groups to see who your team could be up against if they are lucky enough to get through the first stages. You head out to pubs and bars with all your friends for some drinks and food whilst enjoying the spectacle.

When your country is knocked out of the competition, the buzz totally disappears. What a shame.

I’m certain that a similar extinguishing of excitement is happening around the world as, one by one, nations drop out of the race. Although die-hard football fans will still be tuning in, I think it’s probably fair to say that, as a general rule, if your country isn’t playing, you don’t really care.

Despite all this, and despite England no longer being in with a chance, this First Time Footballer will continue to tune in. With the help of @0riginalfooty and their team of enthusiastic and knowledgeable writers, I feel all clued up and eager to see what thrills The World Cup can provide in the coming weeks.

Curtain Closes Early for Suarez Football’s Pantomime Villain.

The World Cup is the most watched sporting event in the global sporting calendar; therefore it is the greatest stage for footballers to achieve immortality as either heroes or villains. As we are nearing the conclusion of the group stages it is becoming apparent which players are making themselves noticed as they seek glory both personally and for their countries. The pressure has long been on Neymar’s slight frame to lead his Brazilian team to glory, and the Barcelona forward is doing everything in his power to emulate Brazilian heroes of the past in the quest for a sixth title for Brazil. Meanwhile Messi has long been a hero in Catalonia, yet has failed to make enough of an impact for his home country when the World Cup has arrived, but with 4 goals in 3 matches he is proving that he could make the difference just as Maradona did in the 1986 finals.

Yet it is not enough for a stage to be full solely of heroic admirable characters. There needs to be at least one villain to unite the audience in disgust. Step in Luis Suarez, the consistently brilliant and controversial player from Uruguay. Much like the rest of the Uruguayan’s career, his World Cup began with drama as he started the tournament from the touchline with questions being asked whether he would be fit enough to compete at all. Suarez missed Uruguay’s opening defeat to Costa Rica yet made a triumphant return as he took the tournament by storm and broke English hearts as he scored both goals leading his country to a 2-1 win. The way in which Suarez dispatched both chances was brilliant and clinical, yet his celebrations at the full time whistle were excessive and riled an English crowd which had only recently accepted him. Suarez celebrated full time to such an extent that before the adverts started rolling on ITV he had already been restored to his previous status as public enemy number one in England. Whilst England fumed the rest of the world looked on in admiration at a player who inspired so much from his teammates, yet all this admiration turned to disgust as he once again gave into his cannibalistic impulses and bit an opponent as Uruguay knocked Italy out of the World Cup in their final group game.

Suarez attempts to emulate this Bond villain with his playing style

Suarez attempts to emulate this Bond villain with his playing style

What is perhaps most laughable about this latest act of cannibalism is the nonsensical manner in which it was committed. Uruguay were a man up and controlling the game, and the fierce chomp which Suarez gave his favourite Italian dish Chiellini seemed entirely unprovoked. Whilst pundits around the world have been condemning Suarez for his latest mid-game snack the Uruguayan squad and management have added further pantomime-esque farce to the proceedings with shouts led by captain Diego Lugano of “Oh no he didn’t!” as they attempt to defend their temperamental talisman. Unfortunately for Lugano and his team, FIFA have responded with a resounding ‘Oh yes he did!’ and have hit Suarez with a 4 month ban, meaning that unfortunately this great villain’s World Cup is over before it had really got going.

Original Football would like to take this moment to say goodbye to Suarez. Love him or hate him (and most people hate him) he is one of the great entertainers in World football and the World Cup will be a quieter, albeit safer, tournament without him.

Group Stage Review: Part 1

It’s been a fabulous World Cup thus far; full of excitement, drama and some wonderful performances. In this article @0riginalfooty looks back at groups A-D and picks out the highlights of the group.

Group A

Brazil              7pts
Mexico            7pts
Croatia            3pts
Cameroon       0pts

Star Man: Neymar – There could only be one winner in this group. Neymar has carried the weight of expectation placed upon his young shoulders without batting an eyelid and has scored 4 goals in 3 matches.

Best Match: Brazil 3-1 Croatia – It was the opening match of the tournament and what a match it was. Both sides played their part in an open and attacking match with plenty of free-flowing football played by both sides, but it was Scolari’s men who came out on top.

Biggest disappointment: Croatia – The Croatians were tipped to join Brazil in the last 16 but, ultimately, came up short. Their most disappointing moment came in a final match defeat to rivals Mexico where a victory would have sealed qualification.

Side that will go furthest: Brazil – Mexico have an extremely tough draw against the Netherlands who have suddenly become one of the favourites in the tournament. Brazil also have a tough match against Chile but will still be confident of reaching the quarter-finals.

Neymar has been one of the stand out players at the tournament so far.

Neymar has been one of the stand out players at the tournament so far.

Group B

Netherlands    9pts
Chile               6pts
Spain              3pts
Australia         0pts

Star Man: Arjen Robben – Arguably the player of the tournament so far, Robben has been in scintillating form and was a constant thorn in the side of any defence he has played against so far. He has scored 3 goals and provided 1 assist at this stage of the World Cup.

Best Match: Australia 2-3 Netherlands – One of the best matches of the tournament so far. Australia may have finished bottom of the group with 0 points but they pushed the Netherlands all the way in this one. Tim Cahill’s goal is also the best goal of the tournament so far.

Biggest disappointment: Spain – Spain endured a miserable World Cup campaign and have quickly made the transition from World Cup heroes to World Cup zeros. They were landed with a tough group but will be extremely disheartened with a series of poor performances that cost them their place in the last 16.

Side that will go furthest: Netherlands – The Netherlands have a relatively easy passage to the semi-finals of the World Cup, although the Mexicans will be no pushovers. Chile, conversely, face the hosts Brazil in the next round who will be very difficult to overcome.

It was an extremely disappointing campaign for the Spanish

It was an extremely disappointing campaign for the Spanish

Group C

Colombia       9pts
Greece           4pts
Ivory Coast    3pts
Japan              1pt

Star Man: Juan Cuadrado – The Colombian winger who plays for Fiorentina has been brilliant for the Colombians so far and epitomises their pacey and committed attacking style.

Best Match: Greece 2-1 Ivory Coast – This group was not blessed with many classic encounters, however, this was an enthralling contest that ended up deciding the fate of both sides. The Ivory Coast needed just a draw to qualify alongside the Colombians against a Greek side that had not scored in the competition prior to facing them. The Ivory Coast were level until giving away a penalty in injury time that Georgios Samaras calmly slotted away, securing the Greek’s progress to the next round in the process.

Biggest disappointment: Ivory Coast – Qualification was in their own hands against the worst side in the group and they bottled it. This was a 3rd successive group stage exit at the World Cup for the Elephants but this was by far the most disappointing. They really should have reached the last 16.

Side that will go furthest: Colombia – On paper, Colombia’s draw looks tougher than Greece’s but the Costa Ricans have shown they are no pushovers at this competition and will fancy their chances against the Greeks. Uruguay on the other hand look average without the banned Luis Suarez, therefore Colombians will be favourites for this clash and should reach the quarter-finals.

Juan Cuadrado scores vs Japan

Juan Cuadrado already has 1 goal and 3 assists to his name in Brazil

Group D

Costa Rica       7pts
Uruguay          6pts
Italy                3pts
England           1pt

Star Man: Luis Suarez – There weren’t too many contenders for star man in this group as the best side in the group, Costa Rica, worked best as a collective rather than any one individual. Uruguay, on the other hand, were heavily reliant on Luis Suarez and he single-handedly fired them to victory over England. It’s just such a shame that such a talented player will be remembered for his non-footballing actions as opposed to his genuinely terrifying talent.

Best Match: Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica – When Uruguay scored in the 24th minute through an Edison Cavani penalty, few would have predicted an emphatic Costa Rican victory. However, the Costa Ricans announced themselves on the World Cup stage in style and thoroughly deserved their win.

Biggest disappointment: England – Having offered a promising performance against Italy and, having seen Uruguay fall short against Costa Rica, English hopes were high. However, individual errors at the back proved costly and with probably the worst chance conversion rate in the World Cup England crashed out of the World Cup with a measly 1 point.

Side that will go furthest: Costa Rica – Having come through what on paper looked like such a challenging group, it would be very disappointing for them to fall to a relatively average Greek side. Uruguay showed against Costa Rica that they struggle without Suarez and following his hefty ban, Colombia should prove too much for them.

Luis Suarez' 2nd vs England

Suarez shows his class to knock England out, but later lets himself and his team mates down against Italy

Gerrard’s Curtain Call

So England crashed out of the World Cup after two disastrous group games against Uruguay and Italy. The inquest has begun as to why England have performed so badly in this tournament. Many argue that the decision to leave out Ashley Cole and take Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw is a huge factor. Neither player have vast experience in tournament football and it is easy to see why Cole would have fared better in the squad. Some point to the tactics that Hodgson employed in the two games. When the squad was announced, the decision to include so many young players was heralded as brave and adventurous, but the Young Lions needed their captain to lead by example on the pitch. (more…)