We’ve reached the halfway stage of the World Cup.
After two weeks of day in, day out action, we take a small breather from World Cup action on Friday before the knockout stages begin. That provides a perfect opportunity to review the incredible action so far.
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Upsets, stunning goals, intense rivalries and much, much more, here’s your one-stop shop for everything that happened during the group stages.
Enjoy. And remember, we’re only halfway there!
Attacking soccer excites…
Brazilian soccer is always know to excite the palate and get everyone salivating over the Samba flair, but nobody thought it would rub off on so many other teams this quickly! Here are some stats from the tournament so far, as it is the highest scoring World Cup since 1970.
- 136 goals scored in group stages (average of 2.83 goals per game)
- Top scorers: Lionel Messi (Argentina), Neymar (Brazil), Thomas Muller (Germany) – 4 goals
- Top scoring teams: Netherlands (10), Colombia (9), France (8)
Changing of the guard…
Spain. The reigning world champions… remember them? Yeah, the Spaniards crash out of the World Cup after the first two games and just six days of the tournament. Losing 5-1 to the Netherlands in their opener (the heaviest defeat a champion has ever suffered when opening their defense) didn’t bode well, then they lost to Chile in their second Group B game and it was curtains. Vicente Del Bosque’s all-conquering side look to have come to the end of the line. Legends like Xavi, Iniesta, Casillas and Alonso failed to lead Spain out of the group stages, let alone to the fourth-straight major title many were expecting.
U.S. surprised us all…
Well, well, well. The old “Group of Death” wasn’t so erm, deadly, after all, was it? Jurgen Klinsmann masterminded the USA’s escape from European powerhouses Germany and Portugal, while the U.S. also finally beat their arch-nemesis Ghana and exacted revenge for being knocked out of the last two World Cups by the Black Stars. “Great success!” Now the U.S. face Belgium in the Round of 16 match. Who seriously predicted the Americans would still be in this World Cup? Not me. USA! USA! USA!
Three bites, you’re out…
The Luis Suarez story has taken over this World Cup. FIFA banned him for four months after he bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini and now he will miss the rest of Uruguay’s World Cup campaign. What does that mean for Uruguay, and Liverpool? This madness has to end from Suarez.
Group stage flops…
Spain. England. Italy. Cameroon. Russia. Ivory Coast. Portugal. Out of the 16 teams who left Brazil after the group stages, the seven aforementioned nations really messed up. The likes of Spain, England, Italy and Portugal are considered among the best in Europe, yet they never got going and too many silly errors cost them dear. As for emerging nations like the Ivory Coast, it was a case of the same old story of heartbreak.
Group stage shocks…
Costa Rica not only advancing, but winning Group D ahead of England, Italy and Uruguay. Seriously… who saw that coming? Fair play Los Ticos, fair play. Also, Greece and Algeria battled until the end to seal unlikely berths in the last 16. Kudos to them, too.
Americans, North, South and Central, prosper…
CONCACAF has three teams through to the World Cup second-round for the first time in history. Five of the six South America teams who qualified are through to the last 16 and up and down the Americas, everyone is feeling pretty good about themselves right now. Well done. Congratulatory back slaps are the order of the day.
- Jermaine Jones blasting the U.S. level vs. Portugal in Manaus. Absolute stunner from the USA’s best player so far. Also, he ran into a referee vs. Germany, as ref Ravshan Irmatov dropped his shoulder and sent Jones tumbling to the ground. Sit down, Jermaine. Both memorable, but for very different reasons.
- Colombia’s wonderful dance routine following their first goal of the tournament by Pablo Armero in Belo Horizonte. The stadium was packed with Colombian fans as a sea of yellow rejoiced. Superb.
- Guillermo Ochoa’s stunning display for Mexico to clinch a 0-0 draw vs. hosts Brazil. Save after save from El Tri’s ‘keeper helped them on their way to the last 16.
- Tim Cahill’s stunning strike for Australia vs. the Netherlands. It was an amazing way for Cahill to score in what will turn out to be his last game for the Socceroos. Wonderful volley. Top bloke. Legend.
- Robin van Persie’s diving header vs. Spain was just an amazing goal. Given the fact that the Netherlands won this match 5-1, it was even better. Plus RVP’s high-five with Louis van Gaal was pretty epic, too.
Team of the group stage…
Here is a list of the top 10 players at the World Cup during the group stages. Below is my team of the tournament so far.
Blind—Kompany— T. Silva