2014 WC Group B

Top Ten Players of the 2014 World Cup’s Group Stage

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It’s quite a task selecting the best 10 performances from 32 teams playing three games each, but in the hard world of being employed to rank world footballers, I stand ready.

It’s especially hard not to just latch onto incredible moments and insert a player on the list. Robin van Persie’s headed goal against Spain still amazes me, but was he the driving force behind the Netherlands’ surprising group stage? Certain teams got by on defending, so does that mean one defender can rise above the rest?

[ RELATED: Complete bracket for Round of 16, more ]

Oh, shoot. Let’s just do this thing. The Top Ten players from the 2014 group stage were:

10. Gervinho, Ivory Coast – No, Les Elephants were not able to charge out of their group stage funk, but that was no fault of the electric Gervinho, who challenged back lines and midfields alike.

9. Arjen Robben, Netherlands – He’s a menace, and his motor never stops going (even during his full-energy dives). Robben drove the Dutch into the knockout rounds.

8. Enner Valencia, Ecuador – The bright spot in a disappointing tournament for La Tri, the ‘other’ Valencia has been linked with a number of Premier League sides including Newcastle United.

7. Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico – You watched the Brazil/Mexico match, right? Can you believe El Tri had coaches who didn’t suit this guy up?

source: AP6. James Rodriguez, Colombia – Absurdly-gifted and just as productive, James is one of the main reasons Colombia could emerge from the loaded CONMEBOL quadrant and into the semifinals.

5. Karim Benzema, France – If this guy played in England, he would be one of the most popular players for American audiences. He’s big, talented and hard-charging.

4. David Luiz, Brazil – So PSG is going to team Luiz up with Thiago Silva? Champions League, beware.

3. Neymar, Brazil – If there’s been more stress placed on a younger player by a host nation, we’ve yet to find him. Coming into his own during this tournament.

2. Thomas Muller, Germany – All he does is score goals, and that bullet against the United States was bordering on impossibly well-placed.

1. Lionel Messi, Argentina – Any more questions about the Atomic Ant on the international stage? He was Argentina in the group stage.

Honorable mention: Wayne Rooney, England; Yeltsin Tejeda and Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica; Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and Tim Howard, United States; Daley Blind, Robin van Persie and Memphis Depay, Netherlands; Blaise Matuidi, France; Xherdan Shaqiri and Diego Benaglio, Switzerland; Andre Ayew, Ghana; Juan Cuadrado, Colombia; Merhdad Pooladi, Iran; Serey Die, Ivory Coast; David Ospina and Jackson Martinez, Colombia; Vincent Kompany and Eden Hazard, Belgium; Ivan Perisic, Croatia; Claudio Bravo and Alexis Sanchez, Chile; Vincent Enyeama, Nigeria; Oribe Peralta, Mexico; Diego Godin and Luis Suarez, Uruguay; Islam Slimani, Algeria; Keisuke Honda, Japan; Mesut Ozil and Mats Hummels, Germany.

Netherlands tops Chile for Group B as Fer, Memphis tally goals

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Leroy Fer scored in the 77th minute and Memphis Depay added a goal in stoppage time as the Netherlands won Group B in the 2014 World Cup with a 1-0 decision over Chile in Monday’s group finale.

It was another close win for Louis van Gaal’s squad, which did not have a player with ‘van’ in the lineup for the first time since 1996.

Netherlands now gets the second-place team in Group A, likely Mexico or Croatia, while Chile earns a date with the winner (likely a tantalizing match with host nation Brazil).

[ MORE: Mexico surge past Croatia | Neymar lifts Brazil | Spain conquers Socceroos ]
[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

It was a sleepy affair without a great deal of offense, as the intensity of both nations knowing their may have played a role in the great deal of nothing. This was especially true in the first half.

How brutal was it? This’ll help the description.

The second half at least supplied some moments, as Dirk Kuyt headed a strong Arjen Robben corner kick wide of the Chile goal in the 75th minute. Memphis lashed a shot on goal in the 77th that was deflected over the bar by Bravo.

But Fer, the Norwich City man, found the target on a free kick moments later, turning his head into a hammer to make it 1-0.

[ MORE: Soccerly examines how Dutch won the group ]

Chile carried possession, danger and corner kicks late, but could not find their way through for an equalizer. Then Robben’s counter ended with a gorgeous low pass that Memphis buried for his second goal in as many matches.

Memphis, 20, is a transfer rumor favorite this offseason for Manchester United and Real Madrid amongst others.

Lineups

Chile: Bravo; Silva (Valdivia, 70′), Medel, Jara; Mena, Isla, Aranguiz, Diaz; Gutierrez (Beausejour, 46′); Sanchez, Vargas (Ferrara, 80′)

Netherlands: Cillessen; Vlaar, de Vrij, Blind; Janmaat, de Jong, Wijnaldum, Kuyt )(Kongolo, 89′);  Sneijder (Fer, 75′); Robben, Lens (Memphis, 68′)

Goals: (Fer, 77′), Memphis (90+2′)

Spain looks like Spain too little, too late in 3-0 romp over Australia

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Andres Iniesta performed the role of playmaker to perfection in assisting goals by David Villa and Fernando Torres as Spain picked up what will be its only win of a disappointing World Cup in a 3-0 decision over Australia on Monday.

Cesc Fabregas had an assist of his own on a delivery to Juan Mata that salted the game away in the 83rd minute.

[ MORE: Mexico surge past Croatia | Neymar lifts Brazil | Dutch down Chile ]
[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

Australia leaves the tournament with no points but valiant efforts in losses to Chile, Spain and the Netherlands. Star attacker Tim Cahill was unable to play in the finale due to card accumulation.

Lineups

Spain: Reina; Juanfran, Ramos, Albiol, Alba; Cazorla (Fabregas, 68′), Alonso, Koke, Iniesta; Torres, Villa (Mata, 55′)

Goals: Villa (35′), Torres (69′), Mata (81′)

Australia: Ryan, McGowan, Spiranovic, Wilkinson, Davidson, McKay, Jedinak, Bozanic (Bresciano, 72′), Leckie, Taggart (Halloran, 46′), Oar (Troisi, 60′)

At halftime: Spain leads on audacious Villa goal; Chile/Holland 0-0 — FOLLOW LIVE

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Two matches at the opposite ends of the desperation spectrum are providing surprisingly different levels of excitement. Spain is trying to break down Australia but only found one bit of finish (brilliant, though!!) from David Villa. Meanwhile, the Netherlands seems content to walk out with a draw and the group win, while Chile hasn’t found a goal.

Australia 0-1 Spain

Goals:

36′ – A teaser for fans of New York City FC comes as  Villa lets a pass slide through his front leg before directing it into the Australia goal with his back foot.

Other moments:

21′ – David Villa meets an absolutely-superb cross from Andres Iniesta and, all alone at the 6, wildly volleys wide. A brutal miss for the NYCFC man.

24′ – The crowd goes wild (probably not) as a shirt tug tears Fernando Torres’ top garment across the chest. He’s upset. That was his only one.

45′ – Santi Cazorla’s pretty cross into danger is cut out before Spain can make it 2-0.

Questions for the second half:

– Can Australia make a statement? Spain looks inspired to end the tournament on good-footing. Does a Tim Cahill-less Socceroos side have any chance of finding the net?

 

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source: Getty ImagesNetherlands 0-0 Chile

Goals:

None

Other moments:

23′ – A low-passed corner to the top of the box is hammered over the bar by Chile’s Felipe Gutierrez

35′ – Neither team can break the other down, with Chile attacking the flanks and the Dutch unable to find danger in the South Americans’ box.

44′ – Chile’s Diaz heads over from the middle of the box on a set play.

Questions for the second half:

– Can this match find some excitement? It’s the more important of the two matches, yet a much sleepier experience than watching Australia try to hold off Spain.

– Who will win Group B? If the scoreline holds, Netherlands stays atop the group.

Game(s) on: Chile faces Netherlands for Group B; Spain, Socceroos play

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Surely Spain planned on its final match of group play meaning very little, but it was in a much different way.

The reigning champs have already been eliminated, and face an Australia team eager to make history with an upset rather than finish an inspired but fruitless tournament at 0-3.

[ MORE Soccerly: Follow Spain/Australia Live | Follow Netherlands/Chile Live ]

Meanwhile, Chile looks set to put South America atop Group B and send Netherlands to a probable match-up with Brazil. Let’s take a look at today’s matches:

Lineups

Spain: Reina; Juanfran, Ramos, Albiol, Alba; Cazorla, Alonso, Koke, Iniesta; Torres, Villa

Australia: Ryan, McGowan, Spiranovic, Wilkinson, Davidson, McKay, Jedinak, Bozanic, Leckie, Taggart, Oar

Expectations: Australia will come out hard, but it will look closer to the Netherlands match than anything else as the Spanish pride fights back.

One blogger’s prediction: 2-2.

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Lineups

Chile: Bravo; Silva, Medel, Jara; Mena, Isla, Aranguiz, Diaz; Gutierrez; Sanchez, Vargas

Netherlands: Cillessen; Vlaar, de Vrij, Blind; Janmaat, de Jong, Wijnaldum, Kuyt;  Sneijder; Robben, Lens

Expectations: Netherlands will struggle without Robin van Persie before finding their form. Expect this to look a bit like the US/Portugal game with Netherlands playing the role of the US.

One blogger’s prediction: Chile, 3-2.