The AnswersThatWork Blog



Are you ready?
 

Download our great printable World Cup 2014 BRAZIL wallchart  (with pop-up match reports — click on the arrows) or follow it here for daily match comments and updated results.  

Wishing you enjoy a happy and exciting 4 weeks to come! 

—— (TUT) SpaceMan

 


Sunday, 13th July 2014
GERMANY 1-0 ARGENTINA
 

Stadium: Estadio do Maracana, Rio De Janeiro
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli, Italy


M.Gotze 113


Saturday, 12th July 2014
BRAZIL 0-3 NETHERLANDS
 

Stadium: Estadio Nacional, Brasilia
Referee: Djamel Haimoudi, Algeria


R.van Persie 3 (pen)
D.Blind 17
G.Wijnaldum 90+1
 


Wednesday, 9th July 2014
NETHERLANDS 0-0 ARGENTINA
 

(After Extra Time — Argentina win 2-4 on Penalties)
Stadium: Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir, Turkey



Tuesday, 8th July 2014
BRAZIL 1-7 GERMANY
 

Stadium: Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Referee: Marco Rodriguez, Mexico


Oscar 90

T.Muller 11
M.Klose 23
T.Kroos 24, 26
S.Khedira 29
A.Schurrle 69, 79

Name the Number 1 activity that humans follow on Planet Earth.  No, it is not banking, it is not manufacturing, it is not farming, it is not computers, it is not psychology, it is not studying.  The Number 1 activity on our planet is ..... SPORT !!!  If you take into account all the sports on our planet, football (soccer), rugby, tennis, basketball, baseball, American football, hockey, handball, judo, karate, skateboarding, snowboarding, table-tennis, swimming, gymnastics, boxing, athletics, golf, shooting, ice-hockey, curling, darts, cycling, MotoGP, Formula 1, wrestling, taekwondo, canoeing, fishing, rafting, jet skiing, skiing, surfing, polo, water-polo, hang-gliding, diving, walking, climbing, yachting, volleyball, karting, rallying, truck racing, fencing, etc...., etc..., and include all the people at all levels, from kids to professionals, from once-a-week, to twice-a-week, weekends, the occasional sports persons to the dedicated, etc..., the families who follow those in sport, the friends, the referees, the officials, the sponsors, the organisers, the venue providers, television and press industries, even the gambling industries, the sports equipment manufacturers, the agents, and all their employees, there is absolutely no doubt that the Number 1 Activity that humans partake in or follow or work in, is SPORT !  Ignore the snobs who like to say "It's just sport", the fact is that it is not "just sport", it is the Number 1 Activity that humans like to do or follow, Period !  It is no wonder then, that when a result like Brazil 1-7 Germany comes through, the world stops !  The 8th of July 2014 will always be a day where the majority of the World will remember where they were when Germany beat Brazil 7-1 in their own backyard, in their own World Cup !  I will always remember this day, how stunned I was, and how everyone I talked to was similarly stunned, speechless, lost for words, incredulous. From friends, to family, to work colleagues, to the press, the TV pundits, the players on both sides, the fans, the entire planet was ..... STUNNED !  I felt sad, and I do not even support Brazil.  It is simply that the name "Brazil" has always always always been synonym for Football Heaven, what the rest of the World aspires to, and yet in 30 incredible minutes that dream disintegrated.  It was like religious people discovering with absolute certainty that God does not exist, or atheists discovering with absolute certainty that God does exist — that is how far reaching this result was, and the reason it was so stunning is that it confirmed with absolute certainty what our eyes had seen from the first day but which our minds did not want to accept because we were all hoping that the traditional "Brazil magic" would come back in the semi-final : this has been one of the poorest Brazil teams in [my] living memory — brutish, no imagination, no "Brazilian" elegance, and, worst of all, average ball skills.  Brazil got through to the semi-finals simply because they were playing at home and rode the fervency of the home support - in any other World Cup they would have been lucky to win one game at the group stage.  In the cold light of day what happened in this match was very simple : Brazil did not expect to go 1-0 down in this match, as simple as that !  After riding, match after match, the unbelievable strength of home support, the last thing that occurred to them was that they might possibly go behind in this match, so when they did go behind 1-0 to Muller's goal, it simply fried their minds — they were like men who had been following road signs to Heaven and, coming to a massive precipice, could not reprogram their minds to compute that "precipice" means Death and that they might actually need a Plan B instead of just standing there on the edge of the precipice.  And that is what they did — going 1-0 down to Germany was simply not on the road signs and so they ..... stopped, completely unable to compute !  Giving credit to Germany, faced with an opponent whose minds had fried, they played absolutely wonderful football and every single one of their goals was beautiful, with double reverse-passing the order of the day. Germany played like Brazil used to play but, to a large extent, this was made possible because the Brazilians had had their minds fried ! This was truly an incredible evening over here in Europe !  I have two "mans of the match" today — Sami Khedira who was the symbol of the German attacking waves and ..... Felipe Scolari; Felipe Scolari who, at the conclusion of the match, ran onto the pitch to console his players and to demonstrably tell them not to take that historic catastrophic trouncing as their responsibility, but as his responsibility and that it was all his fault and no-one else's, and his post-match interviews corroborated what the pictured showed — well done Felipe Scolari !  I will always remember this day, where I was, and, above all, my stunned disbelief, and sadness.


Saturday, 5th July 2014
NETHERLANDS 0-0 COSTA RICA
 

(After Extra Time — Netherlands win 4-3 on Penalties)
Stadium: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov, Uzbekistan



Saturday, 5th July 2014
ARGENTINA 1-0 BELGIUM

Stadium: Estadio Nacional, Brasilia
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli, Italy


G.Higuain 8


Friday, 4th July 2014
BRAZIL 2-1 COLUMBIA

Stadium: Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo, Spain


T.Silva 7
D.Luiz 68

J.Rodriguez 80 (pen)


Friday, 4th July 2014
FRANCE 0-1 GERMANY

Stadium: Estadio do Maracana, Rio De Janeiro
Referee: Nestor Pitana, Argentina

M.Hummels 12


Tuesday, 1st July 2014
BELGIUM 2-1 USA

Stadium: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Referee: Djamel Haimoudi, Algeria


K.De Bruyne 93
R.Lukaku 105

J.Green 107


Tuesday, 1st July 2014
ARGENTINA 1-0 SWITZERLAND

Stadium: Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo
Referee: Jonas Eriksson, Sweden


A.di Maria 118


Monday, 30th June 2014
GERMANY 2-1 ALGERIA

Stadium: Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Referee: Sandro Ricci, Brazil


A.Schurrle 92
M.Ozil 119

A Djabou 121+1


Monday, 30th June 2014
FRANCE 2-1 NIGERIA

Stadium: Estadio Nacional, Brasilia
Referee: Mark Geiger, USA


P.Pogba 79
J.Yobo 90+ (og)


Sunday, 29th June 2014
COSTA RICA 1-1 GREECE

(After Extra Time — Costa Rica win 5-3 on Penalties)
Stadium: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
Referee: Benjamin Williams, Australia


B.Ruiz 52

S.Papastathopoulos 90+1


Sunday, 29th June 2014
NETHERLANDS 2-1 MEXICO

Stadium: Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza
Referee: Pedro Proenca, Portugal


W.Sneijder 88
K.Huntelaar 90+4 (pen)

G.dos Santos 48
 


Saturday, 28th June 2014
COLUMBIA 2-0 URUGUAY

Stadium: Estadio do Maracana, Rio De Janeiro
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers, Netherlands


James 28, 50
 


Saturday, 28th June 2014
BRAZIL 1-1 CHILE

(After Extra Time — Brazil win 3-2 on Penalties)
Stadium: Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Referee: Howard Webb, England


D.Luiz 18

Alexis 32
 


Thursday, 26th June 2014

Predictions for the Last 16

So, we are now entering the knock-out stages where the pulse races every single second of the game because the stakes are so high.

My predictions :

Brazil to beat Chile :  Neymar, despite all the expectations, seems to play with no pressure whatsoever, and Felipe Scolari simply does not understand the words "beaten in the Last 16" — it is simply not in his DNA !

Columbia to beat Uruguay :  without Luis Suarez this Uruguay team cannot score goals — they are too average, and now, with the Suarez row in the background, I reckon at least one Uruguay player will get a red card.  Columbia's win against Japan was beautiful, glassy, caviar football — they are simply too good to get beaten by Uruguay.

Holland to beat Mexico :  this match might be a draw at the end of 90 minutes, but, provided Arjen Robben is fit, I see him and Van Persie lighting up this match to take Holland to the Quarter Finals.

Costa Rica to beat Greece :  the Greece story is pure fantasy, but this Costa Rica team finished top of their group on merit.  I see extra time being played in this match, thanks to a resolute Greece defence, and the younger Costa Rica team scoring three goals in extra time.

France to beat Nigeria :  I will be totally biased here — we will beat Nigeria, period !

Algeria to beat Germany :  I will stick to my previous posts — this is not a good Germany team this time round.  But this is a fantastically entertaining Algeria team, with real steel and the carrot to avenge History.  Algeria to win in normal time.

Argentina to walk all over Switzerland :  I simply cannot see Switzerland getting anything out of this game — the France group was a weak group and yet Switzerland laboured to finish second.

Belgium to beat USA :  For me the USA team of South Africa was a better team than this year's team.  In my opinion the USA are only in the Last 16 because Portugal imploded and Ghana were too young and had financial wars with their federation. Belgium to win this one easily.
 


Thursday, 26th June 2014

The Suarez sanction — is it fair ?

A lot of journalists in the UK press traditionally like to poke disrespectful fun and scorn at UEFA and FIFA yet they never poked fun, criticism, or disrespect at their own Federation which punished Luis Suarez for racism but let "British" John Terry off the hook.  As a result of this basic xenophobic attitude, most UK reporters took the skewed and cynical view that the punishment handed out to Luis Suarez was in order to regain the high moral ground at a time when there are [justified] allegations of corruption against FIFA with regards to the allocation of the World Cup to Russia and Qatar.  UK journalists should grow up and learn that their audience is a lot more informed, intelligent and embracing of the rest of the World these days — and, to set the record straight, I am talking Guardian, Times, Telegraph, and Independent journalists here ! There have been various polls in the UK press about whether the sentence handed out to Luis Suarez was fair and the results have been interesting :  most readers feel it was lenient, and the second largest group of readers feel it was fair, a clear case of readers being more intelligent than the journalists themselves.  I personally feel the sentence was spot on and my own reasons were expressed yesterday in the clearest possible manner by Jerome Valcke, the General Secretary of FIFA :  "A message to Luis Suarez? I think he should find a way to stop doing it.  I think he should go through treatment because it's definitely wrong. It is not the first time. When it is the first time, it is just an incident.  If it is more than one time it is not just an incident and that is why the sanction has to be exemplary."  Responding to Giorgio Chiellini's criticism of the duration of the ban, he added:  "You will always find someone who thinks the punishment is excessive.  This decision has been made by the disciplinary committee based on what they have seen.  It was seen by millions of people and it is not what you want children around the world who are playing football to see.  Wherever you are playing football, whatever you are doing in life, this sort of thing should never happen."  Well said Jerome Valcke — If I am on my way to the shops to buy butter, the last thing I want is Luis Suarez biting my arm or shoulder because I am in front of him in the queue !
 


Thursday, 26th June 2014
Group H

ALGERIA 1-1 RUSSIA

Stadium: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir, Turkey


I.Slimani 60

A.Kokorin 6

I like this Algeria team more and more.  They did not panic when they went behind to a fantastic counter by Russia.  They carried on playing the ball to feet, taking on players, crisp passing.  Coach Vahid Halilhodzic has built a very skillful and mentally resilient Algeria team.  Russia came to this game to win it — they too had a chance to qualify.  Russia played a lot better than in any of their previous matches, and actually continued to try to win the match after they went ahead but this match really showed the limitations of this Russia side — they lack outstanding skill and outstanding individuals.  The comparison with Algeria was stark :  all the Algerian players had outstanding ball skills and in Yacine Brahimi they have a player who is as good in his dribbling ability as Messi, Yes, Messi !  There are obviously other things that make Messi the world-class footballer that he is, such as goals, but I have to say I would love Liverpool FC to make a bid for Brahimi !  Russia will need to find a whole new crop of players, players with outstanding skills, to do well on home soil in 2018.  Algeria, on the other hand, will, I am certain, beat Germany in the Last 16 — they are that good !
 


Thursday, 26th June 2014
Group H

KOREA REPUBLIC 0-1 BELGIUM

Stadium: Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo
Referee: Benjamin Williams, Australia


J.Vertonghen 78
 


Thursday, 26th June 2014
Group G

USA 0-1 GERMANY

Stadium: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov, Uzbekistan


T.Muller 55
 


Thursday, 26th June 2014
Group G

PORTUGAL 2-1 GHANA

Stadium: Estadio Nacional, Brasilia
Referee: Nawaf Shukralla, Bahrain


J.Boye 30 og
C.Ronaldo 80

A.Gyan 57

While the Luis Suarez bombshell took all the news space, there was another sad piece of news in this World Cup which continues to surprise :  two Ghana footballers had been sent home, Sulley Muntari who had been one of their star performers, and Kevin-Prince Boateng, for lack of respect to the coach, insulting behaviour, and actual threatening behaviour.  This was not all :  as so often happens at every World Cup, footballers of sub-Sahara Africa are torpedoed by their own federations with issues of unpaid bonuses and appearance fees, so the Ghana footballers threatened, totally justifiably, not to take the pitch against Portugal unless their appearance fees and win bonuses were paid;  so we had this incredible story of the Ghana federation chartering a plane to send over 1M dollars in cash to Brazil to ensure that the players did participate in this match thus avoiding a 4-year ban for the entire Ghana team.  While these fees and bonuses are pocket money to the European based players, they often represent 1 to 2 years salaries for the home based African players, so they are very very important !  Some background to an important World Cup match in which Ghana had a very real chance of qualifying since it was almost a certainty that Germany would beat USA in the other match !  The match turned out for Ghana exactly to the image of their preparations :  an own goal in the opening minutes and a basic goalkeeping error in the last quarter of the match from one of the best goalkeepers at this tournament.  When the mind is not in the right place this is what happens — if African football federations want to know what happens when through corruption and lack of respect to their footballers they create situations where promised appearance fees and win bonuses are not paid, as with Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria at this World Cup, then what happened in this match is the result.  At World Cup level, matches between equally matched teams are won on details :  if your footballers' minds are on disputes with you over money and respect, then the details will go out the window !  Portugal were exactly what Brad Friedel, the ex-USA and Liverpool goalkeeper had said, an average team who would not have scored a goal, let alone two, but for them being gifted to them by Ghana.  African football federations — Learn this lesson !  
 


Wednesday, 25th June 2014
Group E

ECUADOR 0-0 FRANCE

Stadium: Maracană - Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, Rio De Janeiro
Referee: Noumandiez Doue, Côte d'Ivoire

 


Wednesday, 25th June 2014
Group E

HONDURAS 0-3 SWITZERLAND

Stadium: Arena Amazonia, Manaus
Referee: Nestor Pitana, Argentina


X.Shaqiri 6, 31, 71
 


Wednesday, 25th June 2014
Group F

NIGERIA 2-3 ARGENTINA

Stadium: Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli, Italy


A.Musa 4, 47

L.Messi 3, 45+1
M.Rojo 50
 


Wednesday, 25th June 2014
Group F

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA 3-1 IRAN

Stadium: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo, Spain


E.Dzeko 23
M.Pjanic 59
A.Vrsajevic 83

R.Ghoochannejhad 82
 


Tuesday, 24th June 2014
Group C

GREECE 2-1 IVORY COAST

Stadium: Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza
Referee: Carlos Vera, Ecuador


A.Samaris 42
G.Samaras 90+3 (pen)

W.Bony 74
 


Tuesday, 24th June 2014
Group C

JAPAN 1-4 COLUMBIA

Stadium: Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba
Referee: Pedro Proenca, Portugal


S Okazaki 45+1

J.Cuadrado 17 (pen)
J.Martinez 55, 82
J.Rodriguez 89
 


Tuesday, 24th June 2014
Group D

ITALY 0-1 URUGUAY

Stadium: Estadio das Dunas, Natal
Referee: Marco Rodriguez, Mexico


D.Godin 81

Luis Suarez needs counselling.  This much is a certainty.  What he most definitely does not need is someone lying to him as Oscar Tabarez and many sections of the Uruguayan press are currently doing (but not necessarily everyone in Uruguay).  As much as I personally feel that the French press is more measured than the English press (who can be unreasonably savage against its very own sport stars), to blame the English press for Luis Suarez biting a third footballer in 4 years is just ridiculous — have they tried to read the Italian press after yesterday's match ?  More importantly it will not help Luis Suarez, because he needs help !  If Luis Suarez can bite an opponent in the World Cup, on the biggest stage of all, after the fantastic season he has just had with Liverpool, voted Fooballer of the Year in the UK by both footballers and the press, and after two previous lengthy bans for the same thing, it is obvious that there are moments when he becomes "something else", almost like a split personality.  The worst Suarez bite was actually the first reported one (there may have been others before in his career!) in Holland — he was actually facing his opponent then, 1.5 m in front, and actually walked up to him and bit him.  It was out of this world then and, for his own good, someone should have started to help him at that point.  It is a fact of Life, there are flawed geniuses : in the UK, the names of George Best and Paul Gascoigne come to mind, but I am sure there have been many others worldwide.  For me it all started to go wrong after the England match — instead of revelling in his achievement and world-class performance, the main stories were about revenge for his victimisation by the English press, revenge for Roy Hodgson, the England manager, not calling him world-class. What should have been a rosy picture was instead a bleak picture of vengeful motifvation when the world thought all these things were behind him.  And it is the same story every time Luis Suarez goes back home to Uruguay — stories emerge that he thinks he was not wrong with Bakkal, Invanovic, or Evra. Luis Suarez is a flawed genius and the most important help he needs is straight from his home country Uruguay where he should be told that what he did is unacceptable and that they want to help him solve this problem.  As long as he carries on getting blind non-objective support from his home press, Luis Suarez will continue feeling victimised instead of being made to feel that what he does is wrong, and the only result is that he will do it again, or plunge into a never-ending downwards spiral !  The match : neither team deserved anything from this disappointing cat & mouse game but Uruguay did score the all-important goal.


Tuesday, 24th June 2014
Group D

COSTA RICA 0-0 ENGLAND

Stadium: Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Referee: Djamel Haimoudi, Algeria



Monday, 23rd June 2014
Group A

CAMEROON 1-4 BRAZIL

Stadium: Estadio Nacional, Brasilia
Referee: Jonas Eriksson, Sweden


J.Matip 26

Neymar 17, 34
Fred 49
Fernandinho 84


Monday, 23rd June 2014
Group A

CROATIA 1-3 MEXICO

Stadium: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov, Uzbekistan


I.Perisic 87

R.Marquez 72
A.Guardado 75
J.Hernandez 8

With Brazil's qualification as Group winners a foregone conclusion, I chose to watch this match where the winner would qualify for the Last 16.  A draw would have also been sufficient for Mexico to go through.  I said after their 3-1 loss to Brazil in their first game that Croatia would not win a game in this World Cup.  I was only wrong because no-one could have foreseen Cameroon self-destructing and having a man sent off.  Otherwise my prediction was pretty spot on — for all their good play Croatia never ever look like scoring.  This is how it turned out in this match — Mexico were content in the first half to soak Croatia's pressure and nothing happened.  The second half was a completely different affair — Mexico came out to win the game and they did so in style and this time, unlike against Cameroon, there were no dodgy linesmen cancelling out perfectly good goals, so they ran away to a 3-0 lead with classy goals.  At that point things became really interesting because had they scored another goal, they would have then topped the group ahead of Brazil.  As it happened Brazil scored a fourth goal against Cameroon and, in their attempts at scoring a fourth goal, Mexico lost their defensive shape and allowed Croatia to score a consolation goal.  I really like this Mexico team, and it was beautiful when they played Olé football with the entire stadium singing "Olé", but with Holland next for them, I fear that the Last 16 is as far as they will go .............


Monday, 23rd June 2014
Group B

NETHERLANDS 2-0 CHILE

Stadium: Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo
Referee: Bakary Gassama, Gambia


L.Fer 77
M.Depay 90+1

Matches between two teams which have already qualified for the Last 16 are always a difficult affair for both teams, even with the incentive of a win guaranteeing who finishes first.  And so it proved for this match.  The first half, while extremely technical between two teams with an abundance of skilful players, was also a half of no chances, with both teams playing at half pace.  In the second half, Holland clearly came out wanting to avoid any accidents (like a "loss"!) and so played with more attacking purpose while Chile seemed still caught in two minds about whether to attack or play for a draw and conserve energy.  It was very strange viewing.  Chances were still few and far between, largely because Chile just wanted to see the match out.  Louis van Gaal introduced Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay and their impact was, let's say, decisive.  They both scored to confirm Holland as group winners and Chile as second.  I do not think anything can be read into the result of this match as Chile clearly did not want to exert themselves too much — they would have taken the win if it came to them by accident, of course, but they certainly were not going waste energy to do it.  Roll on the Last 16.


Monday, 23rd June 2014
Group B

AUSTRALIA 0-3 SPAIN

Stadium: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Referee: Nawaf Shukralla, Bahrain


D.Villa 36
F.Torres 69
J.Mata 82


Sunday, 22nd June 2014
Group G

USA 2-2 PORTUGAL

Stadium: Arena Amazonia, Manaus
Referee: Nestor Pitana, Argentina


J.Jones 64
C.Dempsey 81

Nani 5
S.Varela 90+5

Oh USA. Ohhhhhhhh USA !! You gave Ghana a first class lesson on C.O.N.C.E.N.T.R.A.T.I.O.N — "Concentrate from the first minute to the absolute very last second".  Ghana, smarting from the terse harsh lesson you gave them, took the advice onboard and were a study in concentration in their match against Germany — Germany did not get those two goals easily, they had to earn them. So, USA, after being such great teachers, how on earth could you have forgotten about your first class teachings !!!?  A goal down after 5 minutes, and, in the last 15 seconds of the match, when you were leading 2-1, with both your feet in the Last 16, with your tickets booked, hotel rooms prepared, and the ball in your own possession in the middle of the Portuguese half, with the referee with his whistle in his mouth, you gave that ball back to Portugal and the unthinkable happened, they scored !  Unbelievable. Ohhhhhh USA — as in the last World Cup your and Ghana's fates are intertwined until the last.  Incredible.  If you lose to Germany and Ghana beat Portugal with a better goal difference, you are out of this World Cup.  The way both your and Ghana's fates are turning out leaves me speechless, and there is nothing else I can say about this match !
 


Sunday, 22nd June 2014
Group H

KOREA REPUBLIC 2-4 ALGERIA

Stadium: Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Referee: Wilmar Roldan, Colombia


H.M.Son 50
J.C.Koo 72

Slimani 26
Halliche 28
Djabou 38
Brahimi 62

I am really really glad Algeria played this well to most probably book their place into the next round provided they do not lose to Russia.  It was really important that they changed the perceptions created in South Africa four years ago where they did not score a single goal and were one of the most boring teams to watch, and My My did they do their best to change those perceptions.  They completely blew away South Korea in the first half — they were quick, inventive, skilful, and absolutely wanted to win this game. E.X.C.I.T.I.N.G is the word to describe their first half of constant attacks !  Most of all there were 5 changes from the unadventurous team which played against Belgium, and it showed.  This team today was completely unrecognisable from the team which lost 2-1 to Belgium and they might have beaten Belgium if they had started with this team. How strange football is : after the first round of matches it looked like there might be no team from Africa in the last 16;  suddenly, after the second round of group matches, it looks like there could be as many as 4 out of the 5 African teams that will end up in the last 16 (if Ghana get lucky with other results).  It was only this morning that I was reading an article in The Guardian in the UK about Africa's football stagnating ....... I just hope Algeria continue to play like this for the rest of the tournament, however far they go, because it is so exciting to watch !  And what a beautiful stadium the Porto Allegre Stadium is !  My man of the match : Yacine Brahimi — he is a bundle of skills, twists, turns, 360 degrees turns, dribbles, and that fourth goal was just exquisite — he started it with a 360 degree turn and then finished it expertly after a one-two in the penalty area.
 


Sunday, 22nd June 2014
Group H

BELGIUM 1-0 RUSSIA

Stadium: Maracană - Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, Rio De Janeiro
Referee: Felix Brych, German


D.Origi 88

This match, the worst match of the World Cup so far, had 0-0 written all over it after barely 20 minutes of play, and so it nearly proved to be.  Except for the last 15 minutes, this was a total non-event during which one can take care of all sorts of other things, like paperwork, cutting the grass, playing dominoes or chess, you know what I mean.  That's how dull this match was.  This is absolutely the fault of the managers.  I cannot fathom how two of Belgium's most creative players besides Eden Hazard, Kevin Mirallas and Adnan Januzaj, are not guaranteed starters.  With Eden Hazard as the only creative source in the side, Belgium look industrious and, worse, industrial.  Mirallas did eventually come on, 15 minutes from the end, and that completely changed Belgium allowing both Mirallas and Hazard to shine, and it is that combination which led to the brilliant goal by the 19-year old Divock Origi.  As for Russia, I do not believe that Fabio Capello, as great as he was as a club manager (one of the all-time great managers), can be a good national manager.  Capello's main method of working is to first drill his sides into being a solid defensive unit — once that is achieved and the results show it, he then introduces invention and attacking flair.  He has always done that, whether at AC Milan, Juventus, or Real Madrid (two spells).  That way of working is fine at club level when you work with the players every day, but at international level you work with your players once every two months if you are lucky, and so, at that rate, by the time you are ready to introduce invention and attacking flair, you have been sacked !  If Belgium want to go far in this tournament, they must start with either Mirallas or Januzaj, or both, in from the start, or, in the last 16, when the level is higher, they run the risk of falling behind and having to chase the game.  Belgium are now through while Russia no longer have their fate in their own hands.


Saturday, 21st June 2014
Group F

NIGERIA 1-0 BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA

Stadium: Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba
Referee: Peter O'Leary, New Zealand


P.Odemwingie 29

As I said after watching Argentina get a very lucky win against Iran, my apologies to Nigeria — I had not realised how good Iran were.  Nigeria were so much better in this match which they absolutely had to win given that their last match is against Argentina.  Bosnia came to win this match too, knowing that a loss would mean going out of this World Cup.  It was end to end, each team creating clear cut chances, culminating with Bosnia scoring a perfectly valid goal through Edin Dzeko.  Unfortunately it was incorrectly ruled offside, but for the first time in this World Cup, one could see how the linesman might have made the mistake — the move was so quick and intricate, it took a TV replay to see that Dzeko had been well onside, yet in realtime he looked offside.  That was hard on Bosnia as within minutes Nigeria scored on the half-hour mark.  The rest of the first half could have ended with any score you could make up : 1-1, 1-2, 2-1, 2-2, take your pick !  In the end it stayed at 1-0 to Nigeria thanks to some awful finishing.  The second half was a disappointing dull affair — Nigeria seemed content to keep their 1-0 lead and Bosnia never looked like scoring.  I guess the stakes were so high for both teams that nerves took over.  It is now between Nigeria and Iran as to who joins Argentina into the second round.
 


Saturday, 21st June 2014
Group G

GERMANY 2-2 GHANA

Stadium: Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza
Referee: Sandro Ricci, Brazil


M.Gotze 51
M.Klose 71

A.Ayew 54
A.Gyan 63

They learnt the lesson !  Yes, Ghana learnt the lesson of their first game against the US — they concentrated from the 1st minute to the very last one.  But they have another lesson to learn now — do like France : when a teammate is better placed than you to score, and you have a golden one-in-a-million chance to go 3-1 up in the match with 25 minutes to go, PASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS it to him !!!  Ghana may go out of this World Cup having been the best team in this group, but with the youngest squad at this tournament they have too many Life lessons to learn during each match !  I could not make my mind up about Germany after their first match against Portugal as Portugal simply self-destructed, but after this match I am certain this Germany team cannot win this World Cup.  The signs were there against Portugal — Portugal were rampant before they pushed the self-destruction button.  In this match, it was a similar situation, Ghana were the better team despite Germany creating the clearest chances in the first half.  In the second half, Ghana were even more on the ascendancy, but Germany scored the first goal.  There was an element of fluke about the goal, with Mario Goetze heading the ball against his own knee from a cross by Thomas Mueller, but the move deserved the goal, and Goetze deserved the goal.  That lead lasted barely one minute however ! Having seen how it's done, Ghana scored a replica goal with Andre Ayew heading in from a cross by Harrison Afful — well, not quite a replica — he didn't head it onto his own knee !!  Ten minutes later Ghana deservedly went ahead with the goal of the match, Asamaoah Gyan thumping the ball from an angle having been put through after a steal by Sulley Muntari.  Barely two minutes later came that moment which Jordan Ayew, brother of Andre Ayew, may regret for the rest of his life.  Having started a luminous counter, with a 3-on-2 situation, all Jordan Ayew had to do was pass the ball to Gyan who had an 80/20 probability of scoring.  That was all he had to do and Ghana probably would be back in their camp today savouring 3 points.  Instead, Jordan Ayew went for selfish glory, and did not score.  At that point 7 billion watchers on Planet Earth knew Ghana would be made to pay for this moment of youthful madness, and barely three minutes later Germany were back at 2-2 through that man, Miroslav Klose !  Both teams had plenty of chances to still win the match in the remaining 20 minutes, but it always felt that Ghana had missed their moment !  They will go into their last match against Portugal with only a very slim chance of qualifying but I wish them all the luck, they deserve it for giving all of us two wonderfully exciting matches.  My man of the match — Harrison Afful, the right-back of Ghana, he looks 16 but is actually 27 — he virtually controlled the whole of the right-side of the pitch.  My moment of the match : the Brazilians in the crowd — the stadium was full, two thirds with Brazilians and they were all supporting Ghana (!!), which made for a fantastic atmosphere as there were also 15,000 Germans in the stadium, and with the match in the second half being end-to-end, it was a cacophony of noise. What a World Cup !


Saturday, 21st June 2014
Group F

ARGENTINA 1-0 IRAN

Stadium: Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Referee: Milorad Mazic, Serbia


L.Messi 90+

Well, first Apologies to Nigeria — I had completely misread how good a team Iran are and how difficult they are to break down.  And, of course, apologies to Iran too.  Iran should have won this game !  No-one would have imagined that in the first half when Argentina spent what felt like 100% of that half camped in the Iranian half, pressing, pressing, and pressing but never creating a clear opening.  Up came half-time and one wondered how long it would be before Iran capitulated. Not one bit of it — Iran came out of its shell and, while Argentina still had the majority of the ball, Iran actually created the four clearest openings of the entire match in that half.  With more power in any of those four chances they would have scored, and probably won the match — it was unexpected and astounding.  But this is a World Cup where, so far, most of the football superstars have had the chance to deliver and in the last minute of the game Messi did just that — from the edge of the penalty area, with a sea of bodies in front of him, he sent one of his famous left-foot curlers around everybody, around the goalkeeper's fantastic dive, into the top corner.  That was the last minute of the game and that was an astounding game won unexpectedly with one moment of magic.  Iran were devastated, half the stadium, full of Brazilians, was devastated, and I too felt sorry for Iran but at the same time I could not help admire that ..... Messi moment ! Pure theatre.


Friday, 20th June 2014
Group E

HONDURAS 1-2 ECUADOR

Stadium: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Referee: Benjamin Williams, Australia


C.Costly 31

Enner Valencia 34, 65

Well, I shall make no bones about it : I am glad Honduras lost again !  I'll say it again and again and again : Honduras deserves better than Luis Suarez, their Colombian manager.  He is not respecting the skills and abilities of his players by making them play good attractive football — instead he believes that the only way they can achieve is by sending the opposition to hospital.  We, football lovers, do not want managers like Luis Suarez. Suarez : look at your fellow Central American, Costa Rica and what they have achieved with a totally different attitude to football.  Top of a group which includes Uruguay, Italy, and England !!!  Your Honduran players are as good as the Costa Rican players, and you are in a weaker group than Costa Rica !  Back to the match : as France did, Ecuador did well not to get injured in this match and their positive style of play won the day despite Honduras going ahead in the match. Well done Ecuador, well done positive non-destructive football !


Friday, 20th June 2014
Group E

SWITZERLAND 2-5 FRANCE

Stadium: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers, Netherlands


B.Dzemaili 81
G.Xhaka 87

O.Giroud 17
B.Matuidi 18
M.Valbuena 40
K.Benzema 67
M.Sissoko 73

Right, first let's debunk the rubbish which the English press has been churning out about Paul Pogba being left out of the starting line-up supposedly as a mild punishment for his supposed petulant response to the brutal behaviour of the Honduras team.  That's all rubbish reporting.  As every French person will tell you, during his interview when he announced the team 24 hours before the match, with two major changes (both benched players, Pogba and Griezmann, had been star players in the first match), Didier Deschamps, our manager, said "L'Equipe de France ne se résume pas ŕ un onze type — tout le monde doit se sentir concerné !". It is difficult to translate succinctly what is a very French way of saying things but here goes : "The France team does not have a First 11 — all the players must feel involved".  And this very much defined this scintillating match which was one of France's highest scoring games in a World Cup tournament.  What was so striking about this performance is the number of times where a striker would be in a position where he would be considered justified to shoot himself and yet passed to an even better positioned player for that player to score.  That's total team play !   For the second goal Benzema passed to Matuidi who scored, when he could have taken a shot himself;  for the third goal Giroud could have tried a right foot curler (I know, I know — he is left-footed, but indulge me !  :-)  but passed for Valbuena to score;  on the 5th goal, Benzema, again in a central position near the edge of the penalty area where he could have feinted and shot, passed for Sissoko to score. 3 goals out of 5 embodied this self-sacrifice for the better good of the team — each time a 60/40 chance for the striker became a 100% certainty after the pass as each of those three goals were instant first-time shots straight into the net.  It was a beautiful team performance and long may it continue. We may not have absolute world-class players like Suarez, Messi, Neymar, and Ronaldo, but, for the moment, we have top class players playing with a world-class team ethic.  That can go far ..... My man of the match : our First 22 !
☺☺


Friday, 20th June 2014
Group D

ITALY 0-1 COSTA RICA

Stadium: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
Referee: Enrique Osses, Chile

B.Ruiz 44

Wow ,Wow, Wow. Costa Rica with a 100% after two matches and likely to go through as group winners from a group including Uruguay, Italy, and England. Sensational, and a second victory which was as deserved as their initial surprise victory against Uruguay in their first match.  Throughout the entire match Costa Rica were first to everything against an Italy team that seemed to be suffering from the exertions of their first match against England.  It also helped that Costa Rica dedicated two men to mark Andrea Pirlo in order to prevent him running the game as he had done against England.  Costa Rica ran the game in the first half hour and should have scored.  Italy then got back into the game and in that period actually created more clear chances than Costa Rica did in the entire match, but each time the attempts at scoring look tired — I never imagined Italy would feel so heavily the effects of playing England, but they did and as a result spurned all the chances they created.  And that was that.  From that point on the rest of the match was all Costa Rica.  First they should have had a penalty in the 43rd minute when Chiellini pushed the irrepressible Joel Campbell to the ground in the penalty area.  Justice was done a minute later when Diaz produced a fantastic cross from the left for Ruiz to nod in off the cross bar.  A wonderful goal, and wonderful justice.  The second-half was a non-affair — Costa Rica might have scored a second one on two more occasions but that second-half was largely a case of Costa Rica easily containing a tired Italy in the searing heat of late afternoon.  So, Costa Rica are in the last 16, will probably win the group, England are out of the World Cup as a direct consequence of this result, and Italy's stay in this World Cup looks decidedly shaky with a last group game against a resurgent Uruguay.


Thursday, 19th June 2014
Group C

JAPAN 0-0 GREECE

Stadium: Estadio das Dunas, Natal
Referee: Joel Aguilar, El Salvador


Ten minutes into this match and I knew this would end up 0-0, so much so that I put a bet on it.  Japan were lucky to score against Ivory Coast and this match proved it.  In an hour of play against a 10-men Greece side they did not muster any real clear-cut chance.  Such a far cry from the Japan team of the 2002 World Cup !  As for Greece, they came to this World Cup with the lowest amount of goals scored, looked after their first match against Colombia that they would not score a single one in this World Cup, and after losing Katsouranis to a red card, the odds on them scoring were never going to improve.  But, but, they actually ended up being the better team despite being down to 10 men — a small positive for them to take into their last match with Ivory Coast given that in this group all 4 teams still have a chance to qualify.  It was not a good match to watch — for me, if there is to be an upset in this group, Greece have a better chance of creating it than Japan.
 


Thursday, 19th June 2014
Group D

URUGUAY 2-1 ENGLAND

Stadium: Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo, Spain


L.Suarez 39, 85

W.Rooney 75

Luis Suarezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz !  All World Cups are won by teams who have at least one world-class star who chooses that World Cup to shine.  Spain with Xavi and Iniesta in 2010, Italy with Pirlo & Co in 2006, Brazil with Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho in 2002, France with Zinedine Zidane in 1998, Brazil with Bebeto and Romario in 1994, Germany with Lothar Matthaus and Jurgen Klinsmann in Italia 1990, Maradona in 1986, and Paolo Rossi in 1982.  Could this be the year of Uruguay despite losing their opening game ?  I tell you — this game was not won by Luis Suarez's two goals, or Edison Cavani's luminous pass, it was won 6 days ago in Uruguay's game against Costa Rica. With Uruguay trailing 2-1, Oscar Tabarez, the coach of Uruguay, resisted the temptation to introduce Luis Suarez to save the game.  With Uruguay trailing 3-1 he continued to resist that temptation, knowing that that game might just be too soon for Luis Suarez and that it might have permanently disabled Suarez from the rest of this World Cup.  Instead Oscar Tabarez gambled on losing to Costa Rica but having Suarez back for the England and Italy game.  Sometimes it is decisions like this which win you World Cups !  I wonder, I wonder.  Uruguay are still not a team that oozes class all over, but when they have Luis Suarez it is like Ivory Coast with Drogba, a completely different proposition.  From the off it was clear to me that this Uruguay team would not lose this game — it wasn't just the tigerish display by the entire team, it was the domination of the midfield by Lodeiro, Christian Rodriguez of the new Spanish champions, Atletico Madrid, and Alvaro Gonzalez of Lazio.  I had mused after the Costa Rica game about what Uruguay might be like with Luis Suarez, but, in the end, it is the other changes to the team that established the solid base for this win.  The first goal, Uruguay's first goal, was absolutely world-class, but for me it wasn't the quality of Cavani's luminous pass to Suarez, or Suarez's brilliant ghosting behind Cahill that was the key, it was Cavani's dummy just before the cross to Suarez.  This is what world-class players do : when everyone else's mind is racing about the next bit of action, they have that ability to divide time into thousandths of seconds to pause and think — that dummy made the goal, make no mistake about it, as it sent 6 England defenders into defending motions that they were never able to recover from before the actual pinpoint cross to Suarez came in.  A sublime goal.  England had their chances, many of them in fact, more than Uruguay (!!), but England have been unfortunate in this tournament to be in a group with two teams which have world-class players, and to have a world-class player of their own but with a manager who does not study statistics.  If Roy Hodgson had studied the statistics of Daniel Sturridge he will have seen that Sturridge's statistics, throughout his entire career, are the best stats for a striker of any era, they are world-class, and he would have realised that the debate was not where Rooney plays, but whether it should be Ross Barkley instead of Rooney.  Rooney did score the England equalizer, but only after missing two other clear chances that either Sturridge or Suarez would have put in.  Uruguay's winner was incredible and there is no legislating for such a goal — only three other players in this World Cup might have scored it — a fit Ronaldo, Neymar and Lionel Messi.  Everything about it was out of this world : Luis Suarez's anticipation, his instant control, and the unerring finish.  Jaw dropping !  The English press will probably go wild about defensive frailties on this goal but I disagree — it takes a world-class player to finish that particular goal, and there are only four in this World Cup !  As for England, although they have played well in both games, Roy Hodgson has shown that, just like he did at the club I support, Liverpool, he does not know how good a young team he really has — he needs to go !


Thursday, 19th June 2014
Group C

COLUMBIA 2-1 IVORY COAST

Stadium: Estadio Naciona, Brasilia
Referee: Howard Webb, England


J.Rodriguez 64
J.Quintero 70

Y.Gervinho 73

What a frustrating team this Ivory Coast team are to watch.  They do nothing until they go 1-0 down and then, once they are in danger of losing the game, they start playing with gusto, speed, and imagination, showing that if they had started properly they had all the tools to win the game.  I find this type of football incredibly frustrating.  They got lucky against Japan and won, but Colombia are a much higher class of opposition and Ivory Coast got what they deserved this time round, a spanking !  Gervinho scored one of the goals of the tournament to bring the score back to 2-1 but the feeling all Ivory Coast supporters will be left with is : why, why, why ?  Sabri Lamouchi, the Ivory Coast coach, needs to eat good servings of optimism over the next few days so as to send his team ready to win games right from the off — that Ivory Coast team is that good.  As for Colombia, I look forward to see what they do in the next round as this weak group (2 weak teams + Ivory Coast who lazes around until they are 1-0 down) really has not tested them.
 


Wednesday, 18th June 2014
Group A

CAMEROON 0-4 CROATIA

Stadium: Arena Amazonia, Manaus
Referee: Pedro Proenca, Portugal


I.Olic 11
I.Perisic 48
M.Mandzukic 61, 7


Wednesday, 18th June 2014
Group B

SPAIN 0-2 CHILE

Stadium: Maracană - Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, Rio De Janeiro
Referee: Mark W.Geiger, USA

E.Vargas 20
C.Aranguiz 43


Wednesday, 18th June 2014
Group B

AUSTRALIA 2-3 NETHERLANDS

Stadium: Estadio Beira-RioPorto Alegre
Referee: Djamel Haimoudi, Algeria


T.Cahill 21
M.Jedinak 54 (pen)

A.Robben 20
R.van Persie 58
Memphis Depay 68


Tuesday, 17th June 2014
Group H

RUSSIA 1-1 KOREA REPUBLIC

Stadium: Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba
Referee: Nestor Pitana, Argentina


A.Kerzhakov 74

K.H.Lee 68


Tuesday, 17th June 2014
Group A

BRAZIL 0-0 MEXICO

Stadium: Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir, Turkey



Tuesday, 17th June 2014
Group H

BELGIUM 2-1 ALGERIA

Stadium: Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Referee: Marco Rodriguez, Mexico


M.Fellaini 70
D.Mertens 80

S.Feghouli 24 (pen)

This World Cup is taking some strange detours at the moment. After a fantastic start, with attacking football and goals in all matches, with strikers running the show, we are now seeing a different type of matches. This match, for instance, went incredibly quickly because .... it was so non-eventful that I busied myself doing other things. With both teams cancelling each other at a snail's pace on a very hot afternoon, this was, put simply, a dull match where almost nothing was happening. On 24 minutes during a nothing Algerian attack, Vertonghen forgot the plot that nothing was going to happen and needlesly brought down Feghouli thereby conceding a penalty. 1-0 to Algeria. The match continued to half time with nothing happening. Belgium and Algeria resumed their nothing match with more ..... nothing ! On the 70th minute, after lots of nothing, a nothing cross found Marouane Fellaini in the box and ..... goal ! Completely out of .... nothing ! That, however, changed the match and, suddenly, Belgium were playing football, rather than nothing and ten minutes later they scored a brilliant winner on the break after an Algerian attack, Hazard brilliantly receiving the ball on the run and passing it in one movement to Mertens who, without breaking stride, sent an unstoppable shot into the top right corner of the Algerian goal. At last football replacing nothing ! I hope both teams provide us with a better performance in their next matches.
 


Monday, 16th June 2014
Group G

GHANA 1-2 USA

Stadium: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Referee: Jonas Eriksson, Sweden


A.Ayew 82

C.Dempsey 1
J.Brooks Jr. 86

This game showed that if you concentrate at all times you give yourself a great chance to win the game.  It also showed that if you do not concentrate at all times you can also lose the game in an instant.  And this, effectively, sums up this game.  USA scored the fastest goal of this World Cup, inside the first minute, because Ghana did not focus from the moment the referee started the game.  Ghana then spent the next 80 minutes or so totally dominating this game, in a very sterile manner in the first half, but very intelligently and skilfully in the second half.  They eventually equalized through one of the best team goals of this World Cup, Gyan backheeling into Ayew's path for him to score with the outside of his foot.  Barely four minutes later the USA, on one of their very rare excursions into the Ghana half, got a corner.  They put all their concentration, focus, effort, and numbers of bodies into that corner, at the very same time that Ghana switched off, probably counting the minutes that were left for them to go and ..... score a deserved winner.  The USA scored from that corner and saw out the match.  There was nothing cruel about the result — Yes, Ghana deserved to win a game they so totally dominated, but, also, Yes the USA deserved to win the game for keeping on going despite being overwhelmed and for keeping all their concentration on the very few occasion they managed to get into the Ghana half, and that is why they won, and for this very attention to detail they fully deserved to win.  Learn this lesson, Ghana, if you want to have a chance to progress to the next round.  The game : it was very enjoyable and suspenseful. My Man of the Match : Clint Dempsey.


Monday, 16th June 2014
Group F

IRAN 0-0 NIGERIA

Stadium: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Referee: Carlos Vera, Ecuador


OK — I did not expect much from Iran at this level.  But how on earth did Nigeria become Champions of Africa ?  This was a match between a limited but well organized Iran side and a slow unimaginative Nigeria side.  Up till today there had not been a boring turgid match in this World Cup, but this match between Iran who spent most of the match defending and Nigeria who spent most of the match either passing sideways or too long, will probably go down as the most and probably only terrible match in this World Cup.  It was awful.  The match finally livened up when Shola Ameobi and Peter Odemwingie were introduced, but the string of misplaced passes, wrong choices, endless sideway passes, and lack of urgency from Nigeria continued to make this a frustrating watch.  0-0 was the only result possible.  I cannot see either of these countries win a single match in this World Cup.


Monday, 16th June 2014
Group G

GERMANY 4-0 PORTUGAL

Stadium: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Referee: Milorad Mazic, Serbia


T.Muller 12 (pen), 45+1, 78
M.Hummels 32

Football can be so strange. In the first 10 minutes of this game Portugal completely overran Germany with quick, incisive and inventive passing, and lightning fast counter-attacks.  Twenty minutes later, on the half hour mark, this match was over — Germany were leading 2-0 and Pepe was just about to get himself sent off.  Incredible.  I have rarely seen self-destruction on such a scale.  A minute after Portugal should have scored, but for a better choice of final pass, Joao Pereira completely manhandled Mario Gotze in the penalty area, giving Germany a penalty.  It was so crazy, it was surreal — if you wrestle a player 180 degrees and onto the ground right on the penalty circle with the referee 5m away, you will give away a penalty.  Everyone knows that — apparently Pereira did not !  Twenty minutes later, on a German corner, all 10 Portuguese players were inside the penalty area with no-one marking anyone — goal !  Five minutes later, Pepe, after having just risked a red card by elbowing Thomas Muller during an aerial challenge, then made absolutely certain to be sent off by coming back and headbutting Muller who was still on the ground.  Red card.  Never have I seen such madness — it was just completely surreal and one wonders what has been happening behind the scenes in the Portuguese camp because, most times, such generalised madness is symptomatic of other issues.  And that's it — there is pretty much nothing else to say about this match as it is impossible to judge how good Germany is based on such a mad match.  Portugal will be going home, you've read it here first — something simply is not right in their heads.


Sunday, 15th June 2014
Group F

ARGENTINA 2-1 BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA

Stadium: Maracană - Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, Rio De Janeiro
Referee: Joel Aguilar, El Salvador
 

S.Kolasinac 3 (og)
L.Messi 65

V.Ibisevic 84

In a game where Argentina scored all three goals it is easy to say that Bosnia lacks firepower.  The truth, as always, is a bit more complex.  Edin Dzeko has proved all year that is an international-class centre forward provided he is given the balls to thrive on.  Argentina, on the other hand, has traditionally always had a very good defence — just look at the number of world-class Argentinian defenders which play in the top leagues of the World;  you could literally have a first 11 made-up of world-class Argentinian defenders !  All this to say that the fact that Bosnia did not manage to score a goal is not a sign of a poor Bosnia team;  on the contrary, Bosnia looked very good but this Argentinian team has probably the best defence in this World Cup, as they often do.  Add to this an extra-terrestrial attack in the shape of Higuain, Aguero, Messi, and Di Maria, and no wonder they are equal favourites with Brazil.  And Messi scored, continuing the wonderful tradition of World Cup 2014 of strikers scoring in every match so far.  As for Bosnia, their entire World Cup now rests on their result against Nigeria.  Interesting ....


Sunday, 15th June 2014
Group E

FRANCE 3-0 HONDURAS

Stadium: Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Referee: Sandro RICCI, Brazil

K.Benzema 45 (pen), 72
N.Valladares 48 (og)

France got through this game and the whole World of football lovers breathed a sigh of relief that they did so without injuries.  There are three things that must happen after this match : 1) despite having sent one Honduran player off, and produced endless yellow cards, the referee still proved too weak and should not be allowed to referee another game in this World Cup, the World Cup of Positiveness.  2) It would be good for the sake of world football if Honduras loses all their games with more red cards in each of the games — FIFA should instruct all referees to mercilessly punish such anti-football.  3) The Honduran Football Association should sack Luis Suarez, the manager, for having so little respect for the skills of his players that he thinks the only way they can win or draw matches is by playing like thugs and brutes.  Most of the Honduran players are very skilfull players who play in top leagues in Europe or South America and deserve a lot more credit from their national manager who should believe that they can hold their own by trying to play attacking football.  This was shocking football from Honduras.  Brazil and England had complained about the thuggishness of Honduras during their pre-World Cup warm-up matches.  Well, after watching this match, I understand why.  France did very well to stand up to the intimidation and eventually win this match 3-0 and that is all that can be said.  France is my home country and I could write a lot more about it but after 90 minutes of torture, all I can write about is the sense of absolute relief that the match ended with no injuries for us such was the brutality of Honduras.  Our next match against Switzerland will provide a better gauge of where we are at. Man of the match : Karim Benzema.


Sunday, 15th June 2014
Group E

SWITZERLAND 2-1 ECUADOR

Stadium: Estádio Nacional de Brasilia, Brasília
Referee: Ravshan Irmatov, Uzbekistan


A.Mehmedi 47
H.Seferovic 90+3

E.Valencia 22

This game will always be remembered for its last minute, the 94th minute.  In that minute Antonio Valencia took the ball on a fantastic run into the Swiss penalty area, with the scores at 1-1.  He squared the cross to one of his colleagues who only had the goalkeeper to beat and Valon Behrami.  He feinted and in so doing eliminated the goalkeeper;  if he had then shot that would have been a certain goal;  instead he felt he had to feint again to also eliminate Valon Behrami.  Mistake : Behrami with a tackle which most times would have ended in a penalty, managed to wrestle the ball, got up, and raced towards the Ecuadorian half on the right-hand side of the pitch.  As he approached the half-way line he was fouled, fell and cartwheeled in the process, all in one movement, but got up and the referee waved the play on.  Incredibly, Behrami carried on and then passed to one of his teammates.  At that point there were 4 Swiss against 2 Ecuadorian defenders.  The Swiss crossed the ball completely over the other side on the left to Ricardo Rodrigues, he raced down to the byline and crossed for the substitute Haris Seferovic to score the winner.  That was the last kick of the game !  Absolutely unbelievable — from a potential 1-2 defeat to a 2-1 win, all in the space of 30 seconds, and then the end of the match !  World Cup drama at its highest.  It is these moments that having a coach called Ottmar Hitzfeld buys you;  when you have won the Bundesliga many times with both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, and the Champions League once with each club, and won every title in Switzerland, you know how to manage a game — from being 1-0 down at half-time, Switzerland won this match with the two substitutes Ottmar Hitzfeld brought on in the second half.  This World Cup is getting better and better !
 


Saturday, 14th June 2014
Group C

IVORY COAST 2-1 JAPAN

Stadium: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
Referee: Enrique Osses, Chile

W.Bony 64
Y.Gervinho 66

K.Honda 16

All the world's top coaches should keep a video of this match as an example of how not to waste chances.  Will there ever be a match in this World Cup where one team creates endless clear chances but wastes 90% of them ?  I doubt it.  As Ian Wright said on television : the Ivorians were finishing their moves like Keystone Cops !  It was ridiculous, and so frustrating.  Apart from the 5 minutes around the Japan goal at the beginning of the match, Ivory Coast totally dominated the first half and should have been 4-1 or 5-1 up by half time.  It was so so frustrating to watch.  The second half was strange.  Ivory Coast lost all their momentum and played full of fear, proving my suspicions that their awful finishing in the first half was the result of nerves.  Ivory Coast, for many years, tipped to be the first African team to make the semi-finals of a World Cup, had in fact never ever won their first match of a World Cup which had in turn resulted in them never making it out of the group stages.  So, after their awful finishing of the first half, they started the second half full of fear.  With 30 minutes to go, Sabri Lamouchi decided to introduce Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast's talisman 36-year old world-class striker and what a difference it made.  Almost instantly Ivory Coast looked simply relieved that he was on the pitch.  It was spectacular — Drogba introduce one simple ingredient — confidence / lack of nerves and, suddenly, Ivory Coast were a different team.  And, do you know what happened ?  Well, in this last match of the day this World Cup continued its theme of having recognized strikers score in every single match of this World Cup so far — this is the World Cup of strikers !  Yes, suddenly, with Drogba on the field, Wilfried Bony and Gervinho who would never have scored in a million years in the first half, scored within a minute of each other the two goals that gave Ivory Coast a deserved win. Japan : I fear for them.  Alberto Zaccheroni is a notorious defensive coach — with Ivory Coast suffering from nerves, a more positive approach to the game would have guaranteed Japan a win as, like Cameroon, they are skilfull, quick, and inventive.  But I think they will suffer the same fate as Cameroon — a lack of a positive approach in their first game will ruin their World Cup and they will be going home at the end of the groups stage.  This is the World Cup of Positivism — a negative approach simply will not work in this Brazil 2014 World Cup !


Saturday, 14th June 2014
Group D

ENGLAND 1-2 ITALY

Stadium: Arena Amazônia, Manaus
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers, Nederlands

D.Sturridge 37

C.Marchisio 35
M.Balotelli 50

In any major tournament there is nothing more worrying that an Italy team with arrogant confidence.  When they have a good team, Italy are the Brazilians of Europe and it is no coincidence that they are second only to Brazil in terms of World Cup wins.  Italy 2014 has arrogant confidence — you've read it here first !  England played well, very well in fact, especially in the first half.  Glen Johnson had one of his best matches ever for England at right back, Gerrard was solid, and so was Henderson, Welbeck was in his usual brilliant England form, Sturridge was lively and confident and took his goal brilliantly, and Raheem Sterling was simply sublime with confidence, speed, and trickery.  But from the first minute to the last, the man who ran this match with his all-range passing was my man of the match, Andrea Pirlo.  That man is a genius, short pass, long pass, fizzed pass, casual slow pass, over 4 English players, over 1 English players, facing one way but passing, without looking or pausing, 60 degrees behind him.  It was mesmerizing.  And the whole team took after Andrea Pirlo — I have never seen a match where so many players of one team would bypass the opposition player in front of them by casually successfull looping the ball over that player, in all a
reas of the pitch, whether in defence, midfield, or attack. That's what I mean : arrogant confidence.  It was a great match to watch but by the end of the first half which ended 1-1 I could not help feel that only one team would win it, Italy.  Everything they did looked so easy, so confident, and, crucially at this level, so inventive.  England will probably complain about lack of proper defending on Italy's second goal and, indeed Leighton Baines was a weak link as England's left back, but from a neutral's point of view that second goal was full of invention from start to finish.  If they can take care of Pirlo, this Italy should at least make the Quarter Finals.  As for England they should be hopeful — for me they played well against a world-class team that may surprise quite a few people at this World Cup.


Saturday, 14th June 2014
Group D

URUGUAY 1-3 COSTA RICA

Stadium: Estádio Castelăo, Fortaleza
Referee: Felix Brych, Germany 90+3

E.Cavani 24 (pen)

J.Campbell 54
O.Duarte 57
M.Urena 84

Well, I don't know anything about football — that's official !  After 15 minutes of this game I was thinking "What a boring game!".  Uruguay were just hoofing the ball forward at every opportunity, and Costa Rica had no ambition — every time they had the ball, all they would do would be to play sideways up to the half-way line and then lose it.  It was excruciating to watch — the football quality was zero. Then Uruguay got a penalty thanks to some crazy manhandling of a Uruguay player in the Costa Rica area.  Edison Cavani duly scored the penalty and you wondered if that would finally make Costa Rica be more adventurous.  Not a bit of it, for a while.  The standard of football was so poor, particularly from Uruguay, yet they were in front, so I thought this would be a boring 2-0 or 3-0 win for Uruquay.  I have never seen a South American team spend so much time heading or kicking the ball in the air as Uruguay did for most of the match — it was like watching the worst of the English second division, air football.  Eventually, towards the end of the first half, Costa Rica seem to finally realise that, to get back into the match, they actually did need to get into the Uruguayan's half.  At lassssssst, at last !  Suddenly the match livened up and at last we saw occasional flashes of good football, all coming from Costa Rica, with Joel Campbell at the heart of all of them.  Enter the second half, and the confirmation I know nothing about football.  It was all Costa Rica !  Uruguay are a hard team to break down, so it was not a case of Costa Rica swamping them, but it was a case of the only inventive and progressive football on the ground came from Costa Rica.  With one of the best team moves of this World Cup (if you exclude all of Holland's goals against Spain), the ball came to Joel Campbell just inside the penalty area and he sent an Exocet missile straight into the back of the net.  That rocket of a finish was as brilliant as the move which preceded the goal.  The Costa Rican supporters went wild with joy.  Within 3 minutes those same supporters were a mix of incredulous joy and total disbelief — I will always remember that crowd shot of Costa Ricans jumping wildly and turning to embrace each other with, in the middle of all that, two midde-aged Costa Rican men, motionless, looking at the pitch in total disbelief, mouth wide-opened, waiting to see if, possibly, their second goal might be disallowed, but then eventually rejoicing with their friends.  Ahhhhhh, the beauty of the World Cup.  At that point I put a little bet on 3-1 as Uruguay were simply so devoid of invention, I could not see them scoring a goal if the match lasted a full day, but I could see Costa Rica get another one.  The third goal arrived six minutes from the end through man of the match, Joel Campbell who slid a defence-splitting pass to the substitute Marco Urena.  Urena had only been on the pitch for 90 seconds, but by that time everything Costa Rica touched turned to gold, and so, from an acute angle, his deft shot crept into the goal.  Beautiful, Beautiful. Uruguay are a very average team without Luis Suarez who had not recovered from his recent knee operation in time for this match — will he be back against England ?  As for Costa Rica, Thank You for giving us the fairytale shock of the tournament so far — Good Luck to you !
 


Saturday, 14th June 2014
Group C

COLUMBIA 3-0 GREECE

Stadium: Estádio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Referee: Mark W.Geiger, USA

P.Armero 5
T.Gutierrez 58
J.Rodriguez 90+3

Man, do Colombia miss Radamel Falcao. 
 If only, if only.  With a fully fit Falcao this Colombia team would not only have been out of sight by half time, but would also rank amongst the leading contenders for this World Cup.  As it is they are a team full of speed and intricate passing, but they waste 80% of the scoring chances they get.  They are really exciting, make no mistake about it, but I would just love to see a born goalscorer put their chances away.  Despite playing one of the meanest defences in world football, they should have won this match by at least 6 if not 7 clear goals. And how about their fans — what an atmosphere we had in Bello Horizonte with the stadium a sea of yellow.  The sun was shining, Greece having gone behind within 5 minutes, were forced to attack, and as a result this made for a quite enjoyable match to watch.  It is difficult to judge Greece on this match because Colombia are not just fast in attack, they are very fast in defence too, which made Greece look slow, yet Greece hit the bar and had an open goal which they manage to put above the bar.  We will have to see when Greece play Japan to get a better idea of their standing.  As for Colombia, I look forward to watch all their matches, particularly when their fans sing "You never walk alone", the Liverpool anthem, at the end of the match !  My man of the match : Juan Cuadrado, the Fiorentina forward.  What a start to this World Cup - attacking football and lots of goal !  Ahhhhhhh.
 


Friday 13th June 2014
Group B

CHILE 1-0 AUSTRALIA

Stadium: Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba
Referee: Noumandiez Doue, Ivory Coast


A.SancheStadium: Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza Referee: Felix Brych, Germany 12
J.Valdivia 14
J.Beausejour 90+2

T.Cahill 35

The best way to summarize this match is that Chile had in their side players who play in the top European leagues and even the European Champions League, or in the Copa Libertadores, whereas Australia had 8 players who play at home in Australia, one in the Dutch Eridivisie, and Tim Cahill who now plays in the US.  It showed.  Chile had everything Australia did not have (except for Tim Cahill) : sure touch, skill on the ball, game craftiness and intelligence, patterns of play.  Australia had guts, and enterprise, and, sometimes, a little skill;  unfortunately that is not enough at this level and that is why Chile went 2-0 up within 20 minutes.  It could have been more, but then with only half an hour of the match gone, things were so easy for Chile that they thought they had the game won already and relaxed.  Big mistake !  Australia's never-say-die attitude took over and they pulled a goal back through the inevitable Tim Cahill just before half time.  This made for a tense and interesting second-half where Chile, having allowed Australia back in the game, were now anxious, missing their passes, and looked vulnerable to an equalizer by Australia.  That equalizer never came, through lack of quality in the last third, and in the end Chile finally secured the 3 points through a goal on the counter right at the end of the match.  Australia, unfortunately, will lose all their group matches, that's a certainty.  As for Chile, their match against Spain will be one no-one should miss — can you imagine, Spain could go out in that match !!!!



Friday 13th June 2014
Group B

SPAIN 1-5 NETHERLANDS

Stadium: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Referee: Referee: Nicola Rizzoli, Italy
 

X.Alonso 27 (pen)

R.van Persie 44, 72
A.Robben 53, 80
S.de Vrij 64

Even though they have only one major trophy to their name, Euro 1988, Holland probably come second only to Brazil in terms of worldwide support because, from time to time, they come up with a team that plays luminous, beautiful, compelling, exhilarating football.  All football lovers around the World know that, so in every World Cup Holland's first game is as eagerly anticipated as Brazil's first game.  My oh My.  Wow Wow Wow !  This game will live long in the memory.  It wasn't just the score, it was the fact that this was Spain who are the current World Champions and the current back-to-back European Champions.  This was Spain who had leaked a total of only 4 goals in their last 3 Euro-Worlds-Euro tournaments.  The Dutch did not expect to win this game, and the World expected a close Spanish win, a draw maybe, and maybe a fluky Dutch win.  Well, all these scenarios were ripped apart in the first half.  Holland should have been 1-0 through Wesley Sneijder when he was put through with a luminous pass from Robin van Persie.  Then Spain scored via a penalty.  Then came the defining moment of the match when David Silva, through one on one with the goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead, tried to chip him but Jasper Cillessen did brilliantly to turn the shot away.  In the next minute it was 1-1 through one of the most beautiful goals this World Cup will see — a luminous 40m long pass by Daley Blind picked out Robin van Persie's run and, with endless 50/50 possibilities of how to score, he improvised and looped a powerful header over Casillas.  It was a fantastic goal.  For me, it was also the moment I knew Holland would win this match and I put a winning bet on them winning the match at 7-1 right then.  That goal, for me, confirmed what I had observed in the first half : this Dutch team is full of first class long-range passers who time after time would take out three or four Spanish players with one unexpected pass.  Everyone knows van Persie's quality, so his raking pass to Sneijder for the Dutch first opportunity was not a surprise, but I first noticed this trend with Bruno Martins Indi.  We have at Liverpool, the team I support, a fantastic French centre back Mamadou Sakho who has this incredible ability to win a tackle and then, in the same instant, pass it forward 20m to 30m to a colleague before anyone else has seen that this pass was possible.  Bruno Martins Indi is the same, and that is what I noticed first — he kept taking out two or three Spanish players as soon as he'd won the ball.  Then I noticed Jonathan de Guzman spraying 30m to 40m accurate passes, then Stefan de Vrij.  Then Daley Blind, who I didn't know of before this World Cup.  Add to this Robben who can do anything with a football and, last but not least, Sneijder who can unlock any defence with a 400m pass (
☺☺)!  This particular Dutch team has one of the most invaluable asset in football, a majority of footballers who can bypass the opposition with raking long accurate passes and, long before they equalized, they had already disoriented Spain with constant openings that were regularly bypassing the Spanish pressing.  It was fascinating.  And they were on song !  The second-half simply confirmed what I had observed in the first half — constant long raking bypasses of the Spanish pressing which led to endless scoring chances and fantastic goals by Arjen Robben. It was caviar football ! My man of the match — Arjen Robben : this man is ..... p atient, patient, patient.  He will twist, turn, and then feint, feint again, and then feint again, by which time a goalkeeper and two defenders are on their backsides, before calmly putting the ball in. World Class !


Friday, 13th June 2014
Group A

M
EXICO
1-0 CAMEROON

Stadium: Estádio das Dunas, Natal
Referee: Wilmar Roldan, Columbia

O.Peralta 61

With all the current brouhaha about possible corruption at FIFA over the appointment of the Qatar World Cup, and the latest stunning news about Franz Beckenbauer having been banned from FIFA for 90 days for allegedly refusing to co-operate into the corruption investigation for the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, the least that FIFA should do right now is to confirm that the Colombian linesman in this match will take no further part in this World Cup.  Linesmen will make genuine human mistakes, we all know that and we all accept that.  Sometimes they will make terrible mistakes — when that happens no-one understand how they could have made such mistakes but we all know it happens from time to time.  But when you have the Mexico and Colombia factor, possible as-yet-unknown deadly pressures on the Colombian linesman by betting rings in his home country, and you see two perfectly good Mexican goals disallowed for no reason whatsoever, then if you are FIFA and understand that you do not want yet another set of tongues wagging, then that linesman should be told to go home, for the safety of all concerned.  Mexico should have been 2-0 up before Cameroon had themselves a goal disallowed correctly !  I cannot believe there was a single person on this planet who was not talking about those two disallowed goals at half-time — it was shocking, unbelievable.  And, to set the record straight, I actually wanted Cameroon to win this match before the match started.  By half-time I was hoping that Mexico would eventually win this match that their enterprising and incisive football deserved.  They finally scored that goal in the second-half, and there was relief everywhere, and not just for Mexico fans !  As for Cameroon : well, in every World Cup there is a team who starts their first game not to lose and when they fall behind they show so much promise that you wonder why on earth they did not start the game that way as they surely would have won a game they always end up losing !  This year, so far, it is Cameroon, and history is not on their side — in all World Cups, every time a team does that, they always end up going out at the group stages because each time the first game was the most winnable game of all, and with a win comes confidence (for the second and third game).  So, justice was done, in the end, and Cameroon will go out of this World Cup full of regrets, with a team comprising of skillful players who play in the top leagues of Europe — what a waste !



Thursday, 12th June 2014
Group A
BRAZIL 3-1 CROATIA

Stadium: Arena Corinthians, Săo Paulo
Referee: Yuichi Nishimura, Japan

Neymar 29,71 (pen)
Oscar 90+1

Marcelo 11 (og)

Well, Brazil do not have a Lionel Messi.  They do not have a Cristiano Ronaldo.  And they do not have a Luis Suarez.  But what they do have is Felipe Scolari, a winning manager and a lucky manager.  Felipe Scolari's teams always have luck on their side, whether it be his World Cup winning team of 2002 in South Korea, or the various club teams he has managed.  Felipe Scolari, quite simply, is a fantastic cup specialist. Scolari makes talented footballers work hard at regaining the ball, work hard at playing like a team, and work hard at dominating the play.  Result — they always invariably get lucky as a simple reward for having talented footballers ...... work hard !  This win in the opening match of the 2014 World Cup was nothing other than a win full of luck as reward for hard work : an opposition goalkeeper who does his best not to save goals and a referee who is likely not to referee again in his World Cup for the award to Brazil of a non-existent penalty.  Croatia are a good team, brilliant on the ball, intricate, fantastic passing moves and taking the ball on the run, but they will not win a single match in this World Cup — you have read it here first !  Their #1 goalkeeper may prove to be the worst goalkeeper in this World Cup and they do not have an out and out goalscorer like Bosnia's Dzeko.  Let me correct myself : they do have an out and out goalscorer, Olic, but he is under instructions to stick to the left wing rather than in the middle where he operated brilliantly for two wonderful years at Bayern Munich.  By the time the Croation manager realises his mistake, Croatia will have been eliminated from this World Cup.  As for Brazil, I was delighted to see my man of match, Oscar, score a typical Oscar goal to seal the win at 3-1 — on the break and surprising everyone with the shot.  He has done this so many times for Brazil and Chelsea, and he is only 22 !  Of course Neymar will be named man of the match everywhere else — what can you say, the Brazilian star with the hopes of a football mad nation on his shoulder coming up with the goods with two goals.  Well, Yes, he is my second man of the match too.  I found it a fascinating match : Brazil work really hard to get the ball back and to pressure the opposition, and then they work at speed.  The first match is always difficult, but Brazil passed the test with lots of deserved luck.  I reckon they will explode into a wonderful team in their next match ....



 

 

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