July 8, 2014, World Cup 2014 Semi Final in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, will be firmly etched in the hearts and minds of all football fans around the world, especially of the football loving nation: Brazil as we were treated to world record match with a scintillating 7 star performance by Germany.
Germany who have always been my personal favourite for upholding the cup this year were put up against the host Brazil, who in my opinion has been lucky in stumbling and crawling over slightly lesser competitive teams (Croatia, Mexico, Chile, Colombia) to reach thus far. This was their first face off in this World Cup against a worthy opponent: Germany who although not totally convincingly but still have been deservedly storming through their every match to come up against the host Brazil. Little could the fans around the world in canary yellow predict the ghastly and gruesome outcome of the next 90 minutes.
The German slaughterhouse raised its shutter 11 minutes after the starting whistle with Toni Kroos passing a delicious corner to the chief German chef: Thomas Muller who cooked up a lip smacking goal with a little favourable seasoning from the poor Brazilian defence. Salt was further rubbed into the Brazilian wounds when 12 minutes later Miroslav Klose notched up the scoreline to make it 2 nothing. Furthermore with that goal, Klose surpassed the Brazilian legend: Ronaldo as the highest goal scorer in World Cup history infuriating the home crowd.
Brazil was trying its best to fight back but the relentless and ruthless Germans were hard to overcome with their agile tactics and an unrivalled passing game. Following Klose’s record goal, there was frenzy of slashing and chopping in the German slaughterhouse as they made the score line 5 nothing in just 6 minutes with the chief architect of every successful German raid: Khadira and Kroos adding up at the expense of the famed Brazilian keeper: Julio Cesar who was reduced to a mere ball boy, picking the ball up from inside the net after every time it went through.
Unbelievable as it may sound, five times world champions were being humiliates on their own soil. Defensively they were at their poorest form ever while on the offensive front I suppose the spectacularly athletic German keeper: Manuel Neuer must have caught up with a few short naps during the first half. While the fans in canary yellow wept in disbelief and outrage, the players just couldn’t wait to run back to the sanctuary of the dressing room at half time. The team must have received a word or two from the Brazilian coach: Scolari(who now faces flak from an entire enraged nation) to buoy his team’s spirits as the men came out all gun blazing in the second half.
Normally when an attacker surpasses a defender and its just the keeper left to surpass, everyone expects a goal to come off it. But that’s never the case when Manuel Neuer is the goalkeeper. While a keeper usually stays inside his box, Neuer’s dominion encompasses a fourth of the entire field. Imposing and agile, Brazil finally gave Neuer a chance to stretch his muscles while his teammates with surgical precision made it 7 nothing by the 80th minute, both goals credited to Schurrle making this the worst ever defeat for Brazil in their star spangled footballing history. Brazil’s Oscar saved the reputation slightly (his own if not of his team) by scoring one in the last. And from the smiling German faces they might have just let themselves deliberately go easy at the very end.
Although some Brazilian optimists might argue futilely that the absence of Thiago Silva and Neymar was the key factor in their humiliating performance, but even with the presence of both the key players, the German armada wouldn’t have been hindered in the slightest. Their game play and the plan of action that they laid out on the pitch was world class. With not single card credited to any of its players, Germany maintained class and character in crushing the life and soul out of an overly lucky Brazilian side who started the tournament confidently even after leaving behind key players like Kaka, Robinho and Ronaldinho from its squad that rested heavily on the shoulders of Neymar (maybe that’s why his spine gave out)
Either way, Germany have a glorious Finale to look forward to in the hope of adding the fourth star to their jersey’s. However off the 8 finals Germany has been into, it has only won three so far. Consistent but failing sometimes at key moments has always been the biggest chink in the German armour and the one that the German coach: Joachim Low has resolved to patch-up.
As an after thought it would be interesting to note the reaction of the Brazilian fans to the disappointing hosting topped by the debacle defeat that will spill into an outrage against the Government and Brazilian football authorities after the world event concludes on Sunday.
Photo Credits: FIFA
It was European football at its best here at Rio with the two neighbouring countries facing off in the first and the most highly anticipated quarter final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Both the teams sporting a formidable line-up and been playing respectably throughout the tournament, but unfortunately only one had to go through and it was Germany which overcame the French scarcely to go into the last four of this World Cup for the fourth consecutive time.
The game kicked off with the Germans in white pushing forward into the French half furiously. The German half during the slack minutes of the game would only have its two defenders backed by the keeper who throughout this World Cup has cemented himself as the epitome of perfection in goal keeping: Manuel Neuer.
The French overpowered and thrown in frenzy by the German onslaught couldn’t gather their thoughts in time before a spot kick headed home by Hummels in the 13th minute jarred their confidence. France’s own talisman: Karim Benzema would flutter through the German defence at times but the combination of Hummels, Lahm and Neuer is absolutely indomitable.
Germans retained most of the possession for what time remained in the first half with only a slight distraction from the French, which was dismissed by Neuer seemingly effortlessly while Evra at the French end was the most prominent of the French defenders warding off Germans to the likes of Muller, Ozil and Klose, the latter searching for the goal that will break the world record for highest individual World Cup goals scored. But looks like he will have to wait for the Semi Final match to see if he rises to the occasion.
Meanwhile the second half had its moments but none could change the score line. The French fought hard and long but putting men forward was only making their defence vulnerable which the German offence tried to test at several points. Manuel Neuer kept up his end single handedly (literally) while a frustrated Benzema could only laugh in surprise and disappointment as his shot on goal was slapped away coolly by Neuer in the defining moments of the match.
Photo Credits: FIFA
France have marched through to the FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Nigeria in Brasilia. Didier Deschamps’ side were given a tough time of it by the African champions, but edged this tight encounter in the Estadio Nacional thanks to a Paul Pogba header and an injury-time own goal by Joseph Yobo.
The French started as firm favourites and it was they who created the game’s first noteworthy opportunity, when Olivier Giroud twisted into space only to slice his left-foot shot wide from 20 yards. However, it was Nigeria who looked the sharper and more purposeful side for much of the first half, and it wasn’t long before they were causing major problems at the other end. The Super Eagles looked, in fact, to have taken the lead after 19 minutes when Emmanuel Emenike prodded into the net from Ahmed Musa’s inswinging right-footed cross. Nigerian celebrations were to prove short-lived, though, with Emenike having strayed narrowly offside.
For France, Pogba was among the most impressive performers throughout and the Juventus midfielder came close to breaking the deadlock midway through the half. Driving forward from midfield, he slipped the ball wide to Mathieu Valbuena and continued his run to volley powerfully towards goal when the cross arrived in the box. Vincent Enyeama, though, proved equal to the challenge, agilely palming the ball away for a corner. Pogba was again involved in the final move of the half, when a clever reverse ball by Valbuena teed up Mathieu Debuchy for a first-time shot. The ball looked sure to at least hit the target but the right-back proved wayward in his finishing and his shot flashed wide.
Nigeria remained the most dangerous side, though, and they very nearly took the lead eight minutes into the second half when Peter Odemwingie crashed in a left-foot shot from 20 yards that Hugo Lloris did well to parry clear. Closer still was Karim Benzema at the other end, who burst through onto a one-two with Antoine Griezmann and fired in a shot that squirmed past Enyeama and looked to be trundling over the line. Victor Moses was Nigeria’s hero, though, racing back to volley clear just as a goal seemed likely. It was a good spell for France, and they again came within a whisker of a breakthrough just a couple of minutes later when Yohan Cabaye’s 25-yard volley rebounded to safety off the underside of the crossbar. Pressure was building, though, and after Enyeama had saved brilliantly from a close-range Benzema header, an error from the same keeper handed Les Bleus the lead. Pogba was the man to profit, heading into an unguarded net with 11 minutes remaining after Enyeama had flapped unconvincingly at a floated Valbuena corner.
France rarely looked in danger thereafter, and they made sure of their place in the last eight - and a showdown with either Germany or Algeria - when Yobo diverted Valbuena’s low cross into his own net.
Costa Rica made history in Recife by overcoming Greece on penalties to reach the FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals for the first time. In doing so, they denied their opponents the opportunity to set a similar benchmark after 120 minutes ended with the score at 1-1. Outstanding goalkeeper Keylor Navas was the hero of the shootout as he saved a crucial spot-kick and allowed Michael Umana to book Los Ticos a date with the Netherlands.
The game began cautiously in north-east Brazil. The Greeks, surprise qualifiers from the group stage, did their all to slow the game down from the start. Perhaps fearful of Costa Rica’s lightning counter-attacks, the 2004 European champions rarely pressed forward in a cagey opening period. Local supporters in the Arena Pernambuco, site of Costa Rica’s famous win over Italy in the group stage, whistled the dour Greek tactics at every opportunity as they have come to appreciate Los Ticos in this part of the country. There were half-chances for both sides over the course of the first half, but neither Joel Campbell nor Georgios Samaras were able to make much of them.
The best chance of the period fell, almost predictably, to Greece on a sneaky break. A clever early cross from the left picked out Dimitrios Salpingidis at the far post, but the PAOK striker was denied by the sprawling Navas, who made a miraculous save from one of few shots on target.Samaras had another header saved shortly after the break. The Greeks were beginning to look dangerous from set-pieces, but it was a false dawn as Costa Rica thrilled their adoptive fans with a goal of stunning quality. Christian Bolanos picked out captain and classy creator Bryan Ruiz unmarked on the edge of the box, and he side-footed into the bottom corner.
Things suddenly went dark for the Costa Ricans mid-way through the second-half. Defensive lynchpin Oscar Duarte was shown his second yellow card in the 66th minute for a rash challenge on Jose Cholevas and was promptly given his marching orders. Just when it seemed Los Ticos would survive playing a man down, Greece broke their hearts. Navas palmed away a shot from close-range with two minutes to go and Sokratis hammered home the rebound to spark wild celebrations in the Greek camp. With an extra man and the extra options it brings, Greece were the dominant side in extra-time. But the spirited Costa Ricans gave everything to hang on for a shootout. All nine penalty takers scored before Theofanis Gekas stepped up and had his kick saved by Navas. Michael Umana then sealed the win for the Central Americans.
They now move on to meet the Netherlands on 5 July in Salvador after the Oranjedispatched Costa Rica’s CONCACAF rivals Mexico in dramatic circumstances earlier in the day.
Two goals in the final few minutes put the Netherlands through to the quarter-finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ with a 2-1 victory over heartbroken Mexico in Fortaleza. The team from CONCACAF were just two minutes from the last eight until Wesley Sneijder’s superb half-volley and a Klaas-Jan Huntelaar penalty put the Europeans through. In the first game which required cooling breaks at Brazil 2014, the Oranje and El Tri began patiently. Miguel Layun had three efforts which went wide of Jasper Cillessen’s goal, while the Dutch’s rhythm was interrupted when midfielder Nigel de Jong was forced off after just nine minutes through injury. Mexico could, and probably should have taken the lead shortly after the quarter-hour. Oribe Peralta’s pass left Hector Herrera stretching and his tame effort from the edge of the box rolled just wide of the post. The game opened out a little in the closing stages of the first-half and only Cillessen’s knee stopped Giovani Dos Santos from scoring. However, the Villarreal man was not to be denied three minutes after the restart. Ron Vlaar’s headed clearance dropped at the feet of the Mexico No10 on the edge of the box and he struck a sumptuous left-footed shot which crept inside the post.
It was in Fortaleza in which Guillermo Ochoa produced a series of fine saves to deny Brazil and he was on form again, showing superb reactions to turn Stefan De Vrij’s point-blank strike onto the post. With the Netherlands pushing for an equaliser, the game opened up. Sneijder’s drive looked to be heading for the goal, but a committed block from Francisco Rodriguez ensured that Ochoa was not called into action. One sensed that it would have taken something special to beat Ochoa and just when it seemed that time was ebbing away, the Dutch got the goal they so desperately craved. Two minutes from time, a corner from the left was headed down by substitute Huntelaar and Sneijder’s half-volley was firm and true.
There was still chance for drama during the six minutes of additional time. Arjen Robben was brought down in the area by Rafael Marquez and Huntelaar stepped up to take the responsibility. He sent Ochoa the wrong way to send the Netherlands into delirium and into the quarter-finals.
The pathetic sham play called the Uruguayan style of football came to a deserved end when a fiery Colombian side overpowered the once reigning champions and snuffed the life out of them to reach the quarterfinal stage of the World Cup for the first time in their history here at the iconic Maracana in Rio.
The Colombian side that had flown through group C with maximum points to reach the knockout stage were put up against a Uruguayan side that had scrambled through the Group of Death with unruly kind of play against their group stage opponents. Dodged by the loss of Luis ‘biter’ Saurez, Uruguay seemed hell bent to continue on with their plan to push and shove their way to victory. However the Colombians were too nimble and athletic for them.
However the mega highlight of the game was the 28th minute goal that is likely to become a benchmark of magnificence in goal scoring, when Abel Aguilar nodded a ball forward to his 22-year-old Colombian teammate: James Rodriguez who chested the ball and flung his left foot to catch a perfectly executed volley, that stung past the fingertips of Uruguayan keeper: Muslera to find the back of the net.
Dumb struck; Uruguay tried to maintain their composure and attacked the Colombian goal with Edinson Cavani and Ospina at the helm but to no avail. The Colombians once again flagged their dominance over the pitch when they netted the second goal, a play of perfection and smooth passing that made James Rodriguez the edge of the Colombian spear that managed to pierce Uruguayan heart, sending Rodriguez to the top of the goal scoring chart in this World Cup. But the question remains, will the Colombian spearhead deal a deadly wound to the hosts when they meet in their quarter final match or is the Brazilian armor too tough to penetrate for the dark horses of 2012 FIFA World Cup?
Photo Credits: FIFA
Hosts Brazil were almost suffocated to death by the Chilean armada here at Estadio Mineirao with a thrilling 1-1 draw that finally got dragged down to the penalties. With the odds stacked heavily against Chile, they surged forward and gave Brazil the toughest competition they have seen these past many years. Yet it just wasn’t enough to see the deserving Chilean side to go through to the quarterfinals.
Chile had only made it this far at the World Cup on three previous occasions and, having been beaten by Brazil on each of those, knew that the odds and omens were heavily stacked against them. The match started off at a precipitous pace, with fatal exchanges dealt on both sides but to no effect. It was in the 18th minute that the hosts knifed through, with an inswinging corner struck by Neymar that got bundled home from close range by David Luiz. Riding the wave, Neymar tried to outpace the Chilean defence to double the lead but it was Chile who scored the second goal after 6 minutes credited to Alexis Sanchez.
Undeterred, Brazil tried to double their lead on three separate occasions before the half time closed in. The second half saw the Chilean team hitting the pitch with renewed vigour that made life difficult for the hosts throughout. Brazil did find the net again but was denied the goal following a disputable handball offence by Hulk. The home crowd cheered the men in yellow further but the Chileans kept pressing them back at every opportunity they could afford with a decisive dying extra minutes shot by substitute Mauricio Pinilla that could have sealed Brazil’s doom but it thumped off the cross bar.
With the stalemate reigning, a shootout was the only way to come up with a winner. But even the penalty shootout was an equal affair with remarkable saves by Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar but levelled by equally pathetic misses by his team mates against the Chilean keeper Bravo. Ultimately it was Gonzalo Jara whose unlucky shot hit the post to gift the advantage and win to Brazil.
Photo Credits: FIFA
Germany kicked off their final game of the group stages with relative ease than their opponents, confident of going through to last 16. The first half saw Germany keeping most of the possession, with a tiki taka game that has been the trademark of Spain’s national team. However applying it more effectively than Spain had done so far in this World Cup, Germany kept USA troubled for most of the first half. But USA in their own right seemed perfectly content at just keeping the ball away from their goal and when the opportunity would fall in their lap, they would execute a similar play as the Germans till they would lose possession again. A star studded German line up including Muller, Lahm, Ozil, Schweinsteiger and Podolski was reduced to frustrating close calls as Gonzalez and Howard guarded the American goal ceaselessly all throughout the first 45 minutes.
The beginning of second half saw Podolski get replaced by Klose, hinting that the Germans were planning to go for the kill and within the next 10 minutes, Thomas Muller found the back of the net with a cracking right footed shot that had been served on a platter to him after getting rebounded off American goalkeeper: Tim Howard. With the lead secured and the parallel Portugal Ghana match going in favour of both USA and Germany, neither seemed in a hurry as the rest of the 90 minutes saw the Americans pushing back the Germans to keep the score line steady.
Photo Credits: FIFA
Ghana and Portugal’s fate in the World Cup depended a lot on how the parallel match between Germany and USA went. However leaving nothing to chance, both sides put up quite a show. At the end it was all for nothing, yet the contest had its moments.
An injury riddled Portuguese side took on a surprisingly strong Ghanaian team with Pepe returning to the squad after a 1 match suspension following the head butt on Thomas Muller and Cristiano Ronaldo leading the side nursing a knee injury. The Ghanaians came on strong but were set back in the 31st minute when a misjudged ball got deflected off John Boye’s knee leading to an own goal. Effortlessly leading, the Portuguese came under attack from the Ghanaian whiplash as they unleashed a flurry of attacks on the Portuguese goal but to no avail as the half time closed in.
After the teams switched sides, it was in the 57th minute when Ghana’s Gyan rose higher above everyone and nodded in the equaliser following a sumptuous delivery from Asamoah. The next few minutes saw a renewed rigour in the Ghanaian cavalry as they charged forward with a few failed attempts on goal.
Portugal looked furthermore vulnerable with their defence cleaved wide apart by the Ghanaian spear head. However the fate and the referee was on Portugal’s side. The Portuguese did attack but it didn’t seem their heart was in it. They seemed to be more concerned in tumbling to the floor theatrically at the expense of Ghanaian bookings than playing the respectable way. Was this their tactic? Cheap theatrics to win spot kicks? Either way the referee seemed to award them aplenty while he turned a blind eye to the fouls the Portuguese were inflicting upon the Ghanaians. Whatever the case have been, it did seem to benefit the reds at last in the 80th minute when the captain: Cristiano Ronaldo bagged his 50th goal to put his team a goal clear.
Ghana responded as an inspiring attacking unit to push Portugal onto their back foot. Cristiano Ronaldo tried to further their lead, knowing the present score wont be enough to take them through to last 16, but he missed twice from less than 5 yards. Pathetic attempts that accurately summed up the disappointing campaign for Portugal as they were kicked out of the World Cup along with the Ghanaians at the end of 90 minutes.
Photo Credits: FIFA
Pele predicted an African win by 2000. But that didn’t happen. Could this be the Cup for the Black Pearls? Seeing how a few European giants have been kicked out and gotten replaced by Latin American teams in the round of 16, it seems likely and logical for some African nations to join the fray too. And that’s exactly what Nigeria set out to emulate today with its dazzling performance against finalist favourite: Argentina.
The first goal came barely 3 minutes after the start of the match when Mascherano passed up to Di Maria inside the left channel and the Nigerian keeper: Enyeama saved it off the post only to have Lionel Messi whipping into frame and send the ball whistling into the roof of the net. This sort of a start couldn’t have been better for Argentina and worse for Nigeria. However the Super Eagles had Messi’s counterpart in no. 7: Ahmed Mussa to equalize the score line barely a minute after the first strike with a superb shot curling from extreme left into Argentine keeper’s left post.
Messi and co. kept possession for most part of the game but every time their guard would go down, the Super Eagles would swiftly jab them awake. The game swung to and fro, the Argentine attacks being snubbed consistently by Enyeama and his defensive unit. The break came right before half time when barely 25 feet from goal, Messi was awarded a free kick which he whipped delicately and deliciously over the wall and dipping back cleanly into the goal. The Perfect free kick couldn’t have been any better.
While Messi and co. could have taken it easy returning to the field after halftime, Musa and co. were poised to lash out revenge, which they did just 2 minutes into the second half with the Argentine’s again getting punished by Mussa. But the African dream was not to last with the hastily scored goal by Argentine’s Marcos Rojo in the 49th minute. Undeterred, Nigeria came close to equalizing again a few times but no avail as the 90 minutes came to a close.
However, the Nigerians were not crestfallen at having lost this game because the parallel Bosnia Herzegovina vs Iran game had produced desirable result for Nigeria. They walked off the pitch with heads held high and renewed faith in themselves as they along with the Argentines have made it to the last 16.
Hero of the match: Mussa-Messi. I loved the duo and how they played for their respective teams. Plus their names just like their goal scoring ability somehow rhymes.
Villain of the match: It was a win-win scenario for both, everybody did their job satisfactorily, if not perfectly.
Photo Credits: FIFA
So was this the Uruguayan strategy to oust a more deserving and well playing Italy out of the World Cup? To bite, push, pull down the Azzuris, not to forget: resort to time wasting and exhibiting remarkable theatrics to pull the game in their favour? Well whatever the plan may be, the Uruguayans did manage to pull the wool over the referee’s eyes throughout the duration of the match.
This game was poised to be a do or die scenario for both the world cup winning teams to advance to the last 16 stage of the World Cup. However Italy could do with a draw and still go though but it was more desperate for Uruguay who needed a win. And their respective game play reflected their situations. The Italians played their game with beauty and finesse: the composed passing, clean footwork and remarkable possession percentage. Meanwhile the Uruguayans, desperate and literally trying to scramble over the Italians allowed too many free kicks to the men in blue in the first half. Mario Balotelli who off all his teammates was playing like the Uruguayans was shown yellow (the first of the four shown during the game) in the 22nd minute following a hefty challenge on Pereira. Uruguay couldn’t keep the ball to themselves most of the time with the major chunk of possession under the Italians, but whatever chances they could get, Gianluigi Buffon was up to his mark to deny any chance on goal. Veratti’s footwork, Pirlo’s free kicks and the over all composed Italian game play was the highlight of an ill tempered first half, the latter credited to the Uruguayans.
Within ten minutes into the second half, Claudio Marchisio was shown red after a seemingly harsh challenge to Egidio Arevalo, but much credit would go to Arevalo for acting like he was shot in the knee. So far the Uruguayan game plan was working fine, with their opponent thinned out, the Uruguayans pushed forward but Buffon pulled off a few spectacular saves to push the Uruguayans to the edge with Luis Suarez biting Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder (Chiellini, who had clipped the Uruguayan superstar’s wings all throughout this match) when the referee’s back was turned. Saurez the cannibal put up an Oscar winning performance to avoid getting booked or rather more plausible: sent off the pitch.
Uruguayan’s muscles continued to flex against the cool Italians but falling a man short did affect the team as a whole and 10 minutes before half time Diego Godin, the Uruguayan captain headed a corner home to assure the Uruguayan’s a spot in the group of 16. While the Italians tried to out do their opponents with clean, crisp, one to one passing, their unworthy opponents resorted to cheap theatrics, time wasting and kicking the ball out needlessly as time slipped out of the palms of the Italians.
Hero of the Match: Gianluigi Buffon whose incessant efforts to buoy his team were just not enough.
Villain of the Match: Biting when threatened is predominantly a dog’s characteristics, is it not Saurez?
Photo Credits: FIFA
The strongest contenders for this World Cup saw themselves being stopped in their march to victory by an exemplary Ghana. After mowing down Portugal, the Germans were sure of a victory here at Fortaleza but the inspiring and strong African side left them scrambling for a tie.
The game kicked off to a rather slow start, but soon it became clear to the Germans that Ghana would prove to be tougher opponent than Portugal. The speed and agility of Christian Atsu and Asamoah Gyan kept the German keeper Manuel Neuer stretching to his limit while the German wonder boy: Thomas Muller kept his end of the pitch lively. Christian Atsu who was impressive when Ghana took on USA, shined brighter against Germany, engineering the game methodically, similar to his alter ego in the German side: Thomas Muller. Watching these two trying to carve their name in history was the highlight of the first 45 minutes. The half time whistle blew but everyone knew the game was poised precariously and the scales could tilt in either direction on the other side of the break.
Minutes into half time saw Mario Gotze botch up a shabby goal off his face and knee after picking up a delicious cross from Muller. Celebrations were short lived as the Ghanaians responded ferociously and within the space of 9 minutes, not only equalized but got ahead in the lead. Andre Ayew who headed a clean goal following a cross and Asamoah Gyan who fired the second past Neuer after Phillip Lahm was dispossessed following a slack pass in the midfield were the heroes for the ecstatic Ghanaian side.
But nobody writes off Germany so easily. Joachim Low brought Miroslav Klose off the bench to charge up the German offensive unit and in the 71st minute he renewed his country’s faith in him by equalizing the score-line and also subsequently equaling the record for all-time highest individual World Cup goals. Klose now equals 15 goals, which is the same as Brazil’s Ronaldo, followed by Thomas Muller at 14. Klose and Muller have a long way to go in this tournament and records will surely be broken this year. However with the Portugal and Germany yet to play USA, a lot is better left unsaid, for football is a funny game.
Hero of the match: Christian Atsu, the Ghanaian diamond
Villain of the match: Phillip Lahm, shoddy footwork is never expectable from a player of such quality at this level
Photo Credits: FIFA
When Costa Rica was put in a group with three previous World Cup winners, nobody had expected the group result to be scripted thus. It was a match Italy had never expected to lose and it was a match Costa Rica never expected to win. But football is all about wronging perceptions and pre-conceived notions. And past 90 minutes Costa Rica has topped the table, beating two of the World’s top 10 and advancing into the knockout stages of this tournament.
Recapping the 90 minutes, Italy started off on a dominating start, with Gianluigi Buffon returning to man the Italian goal in his first World Cup game, reviving memories of his personal feat 8 years ago as World champions. Sporting the captain’s armband, Buffon marshalled his gang of Italian defenders into nullifying every Costa Rican attack. While at the other end, the Italian offence pushed forward by Andrea Pirlo waded into the Costa Rican box quite a few times. The best attempt on goal came off witty ball lobbed over the Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas by Mario Balotelli after a pass by Pirlo that just bounced wide off target. Balotelli came hard at Navas again within the two minutes with a palm-numbing volley struck from the edge of the box. But that was all the flair Balotelli had to offer in this match.
The referee’s decision came under the radar again when Costa Rica was denied a visible penalty opportunity much to the agitation of the players and coach: Jorge Luis Pinto. However with God as his witness, Pinto’s side slammed home within the next minute: a deep cross from Costa Rica’s Diaz that was headed home by the skipper Bryan Ruiz moments before the half time whistle.
Costa Rica came back strongly after switching sides, buoyed by their recent success. The Italians seemed to have lost their touch and almost every forward through balls seemed to fly off the desired target area. Italy tried to change their game formation by substitution, adding more emphasis on a full frontal attack plan. But for every Italian forward, 3 white shirts seemed to materialise, snuffing the life out of him. The second half had its moments, but none to dramatic to change the fortune of Italy and England who are decidedly off this World Cup. Costa Rica meanwhile have a bright and promising future ahead in this World Cup.
Hero of the Match: Bryan Ruiz, the captain, leading from the front
Villain of the Match: Mario Balotelli. More, much much more was expected off him after that cheeky tweet on England and the Queen.
Photo Credits: FIFA