The opening weekend of WC2014 has ensured that the most awaited sporting event will live upto its billing, despite a lacklustre opening ceremony and a song worth being in pits! Here are the key facts.
# 37 goals were scored off first 11 games. At 3.4 goals per game we are looking at a high scoring world cup.
# In five of the first 11 games, the team scoring the first goal went on to lose the game – Croatia, Spain, Uruguay, Japan and Ecuador. At South Africa 2010, Spain had five scores of 1-0 wins enroute to lifting the trophy. At Brazil 2014, no team can rest with a 1-0 lead.
# WC2014’s first two penalty decisions were controversial with Neymar and Alonso being the beneficiaries. However the third penalty decision would be a trend setter as the Costa Rican defender Junior Diaz was found passionately (!) hugging Diego Lugano, while defending a corner kick. Much as diving is a malaise in the sport, hugging players or tugging jerseys slyly is equally criminal; considering the speed of the onrushing player is altered unfairly.
# With fancied Uruguay, England and Spain starting with defeats, shock results are expected to be the order in this world cup. The last time a world cup was played in the Americas, Bulgaria and Sweden were contesting the semifinals. Expect the unexpected this time too.
# Defending champions and the current two time Euro cup holders, Spain, have issues across the park. Stemmed from the fact that majority of the squad were fighting for La Liga or Champions League till the fourth week of May. Little time to rest, to recover from niggles, to gel with squad. Don’t count them out and don’t ridicule them either.
# Argentina’s surprisingly defensive formation (5-3-2) and lacklustre performance was saved by an own goal and the moment the world has been waiting for ages now. Fans from Sarajevo, 6000 km away, flew to see Messi score one against them after 623 world cup minutes.
# Messi looked nervous, always went for extra-dribble and till coach Sabella changed formation (to 4-4-2), Argentina looked the same too. No need for panic, hosts Brazil were struggling vs Croatia till the controversial penalty aided them. Big teams win even when not playing well. They improve rapidly too as the tournament progresses.
What to expect on Day 5 (Monday 16th July):
Cristiano Ronaldo will make a surprise start onto the field and yet that won’t deter Germany from a win and placing their credentials as favourites. Bayern Munich closed the Bundesliga title race early and hence Die Mannschaft are a well rested, charged up squad.
Over the past half a decade, whenever Messi has scored, CR7 has replied instantly, and vice versa. The chances of that happening today are bright too. Portugal will get massive home support as Brazilians in a recent poll indicated they prefer a Brazil vs Portugal final. But Germany will win.
And Nigeria will win versus Iran.
Expect a German to smile twice today as, legendary striker Jurgen Klinsmann’s team, USA could slug out a win over a tough Ghanaian unit.