2014 WC Group G

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.

Where does the ‘Group of Death’ escape rank in US World Cup history?

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With at least one more date left in the 2014 World Cup, where does the performance of the United States currently slot when ranked with the nation’s previous output at the world’s biggest tournament?

This is the United States’ 10th tournament and, while there’s room for improvement, let’s see where we should consider the accomplishment of escaping Group G.

10. France 1998 — Tasked with a group including Germany, Yugoslavia and Iran, the Yanks went out and promptly lost all three matches. That featured a 2-1 loss to Iran which found the States only goal of the tournament coming in the 87th minute from Brian McBride. Bad things, man. Bad things.

9. Italy 1934 — You might think a “one-and-done” where the States got smashed 7-1 by Italy is worse than France 1998, but reading up on the tournament makes you feel like if there was ever a fixed champion, it was these hosts under Benito Mussolini.

[ RELATED: Top five US performers during Group G play ]

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from USA-Germany ]

[ RELATED: Convinced? Klinsmann’s personnel moves keyed US advance ]

8. Germany 2006 — In another tough group, with Ghana, Italy and the Czech Republic, the Yanks did manage a draw against 10-man Italy. But remember, the US was coming off a quarterfinal run in 2002 and opened the tourney with a 3-0 beatdown by the Czechs.

7. Italy 1990 — With due respect to tournaments where the States did earn a point or more, this was the US first tourney in four decades and — after a 5-1 thumping from Czechoslovakia — the group settled in for a respectable 1-0 loss to the hosts and a 2-1 loss to Austria. Could’ve been way worse.

source: Getty Images6. South Africa 2010 — The group was branded “England Algeria Slovenia Yanks” by the English press, and the US still barely made its way out. Given a gift by English goalkeeper Rob Green, the Yanks needed Michael Bradley heroics to draw Slovenia — sorry Maurice Edu — before needing Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal to get them by Algeria and into the group’s top spot… which they failed to use to their advantage in a match-up against Ghana instead of Germany (who beat England 4-1). Fun tournament, but not even top-half material because…

5. Brazil 1950 — the Yanks punked England!! After years of not participating, the Three Lions arrived and were expected to dominate the field. In the States’ last World Cup for 40 years, the Americans opened with a 3-1 loss to Spain. But then came “The Game of Their Lives“, where a hearse driver and bunch of non-professional players beat England 1-0. A final 5-2 loss to Chile stings the overall ranking but the US beat their forefathers’ fathers. Not too shabby.

4. USA 1994 — Yes, hosting helps most teams and they needed an ultimately-tragic own goal to get their only win of the tournament, but the Yanks made it out of the group with a draw against Switzerland. The third-place group performance kept them above fellow No. 3 finishers Russia and South Korea, and the States held Brazil into the 72nd minute before a Bebeto goal eliminated them. Brazil won the tournament, and it was just the States’ second back on the stage after a 40-year absence.

3. Brazil 2014 — Bear with me here: the States were given a 36 percent chance to get out of the group, and did it. They exorcised some World Cup demons by beating Ghana in thrilling fashion. They drew Portugal, outplaying the No. 4 ranked team in the world — fair ranking or not — before conceding a late equalizer from a Cristiano Ronaldo cross. They were thoroughly outplayed in losing to Germany 1-0 but have emerged to the Round of 16. Is that better than barely escaping Group E.A.S.Y. and failing to beat Ghana in 2010? We think, “Yes.”

2. Uruguay 1930 — A splendid later tournament and the fact that this was the first World Cup conspire to keep the Yanks’ third-place finish out of our top spot. The US used four goals from Bert Patenaude to spring 3-0 wins over Belgium and Paraguay before being knocked out, 6-1, by Argentina en route to being awarded third thanks to either:

A) Yugoslavia refusing a third-place game.

or

B) FIFA ranking the US performance as superior.

1. South Korea/Japan 2002 — This quarterfinal run was magical, starting with the 3-2 upset of Portugal to set the States up for a knockout round run. The real glory, however, came in the match that relegates a third-place finish to the second-best tournament: beating Mexico “dos-a-cero” to send El Tri out of the tournament. If only 20-year-old Landon Donovan could finish and HOW WAS TORSTEN FRINGS ALLOWED TO HANDLE A BALL ON THE GOAL LINE?!?!?!?!?

Agree? Disagree? Think beating England should be No. 1? And what would it take to propel the 2014 into the Top Two?

Sorry, Super Bowl: How many watched the US/Germany match online?!?

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The web site TechCrunch is reporting that, at its high point, the US/Germany World Cup match on Thursday had 1.7 million people watching the game.

That’s a lot of people, more than the 2013 Super Bowl that pitted Seattle and Denver by more than a half-million viewers (approximately 1,000,000 eyes).

All this despite TechCrunch’s report that many people had trouble logging onto the WatchESPN app in the first place.

The WatchESPN app (or site, or however you access it) was the way that many Americans were watching the US vs. Germany World Cup match today. So many, in fact, that the site had issues serving all of its users in the first half. Some folks, including me, couldn’t log on until many minutes into the match.

Still, that didn’t stop ESPN from hitting a record 1.7M concurrent viewers during the second half, the company tells us. “We did investigate some limited issues due to unprecedented demand during the first half,” a spokesperson said in response to inquiries about streaming issues.

Before you go bragging to all your American football-only friends, consider that the Super Bowl was played on a Sunday on network television. That’s going to limit the amount of people who have to head for the web.

And the ESPN app, as FOX points out, is far more established than the app that was dishing out the Super Bowl. Throw in the NFL being big primarily in America and the fact that many office-bound people likely had to go to the web, and you’ve got a big piece of the puzzle.

But still, 1.7 million? Get some, soccer.

Three things we learned from USA vs. Germany

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Phew. We got there in the end.

The U.S. may have lost 1-0 to Germany in Recife on Thursday, but the objective of making it out of Group G was achieved.

So many had feared the “Group of Death” would haunt the U.S. and halt Jurgen Klinsmann’s side at the first hurdle of their 2014 World Cup adventure. How wrong they were as the USA are heading to the last 16.

[ RELATED: U.S. player ratings vs. Germany ]

[ RELATED: Klinsmann – Nobody gave US a chance ]

[ RELATED: Player moves in each game were key to advance ]

We learned plenty about the U.S. so far during this WC campaign, here are three things we learned from the narrow defeat to Germany.

Engine room excellence

Boy, oh boy, Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones are having themselves one heck of a tournament. Beckerman was clean and tidy in possession, clogged up the space in front of the back four superbly and when he had to be dirty and give away fouls he used all of his experience to do it. Jones was playing slightly further forward than usual but was pinching tight alongside Bradley to stop the nation where he was born. The German-American has been the USA’s standout player of the tournament so far. Not just for his stunning goal against Portugal but his work rate, dedication to the cause and leadership skills. The fact that many experts were writing off Jones before the tournament began makes it even better. Alongside Beckerman and Jones, Michael Bradley had his best game of the tournament so far and although he gave the ball away cheaply here and there, the three wheels in the USA’s central cog intertwined majestically to minimize the impact of German’s usually imperious midfield machine. The U.S. lost the game, but I would argue that they won the midfield battle. To stop Germany’s flair players from creating numerous chances is an achievement that shouldn’t be overlooked.

source: AP
It was an intense midfield battle in the rain in Recife. Jones and co. held their own vs. Germany’s stars.

Grinders galore

It wasn’t just in the middle of the pitch that the USA’s gritty nature shone through. At the back Omar Gonzalez stepped in and does what he does best: gets his head on things and uses his size to put off opponents. Matt Besler was sliding into challenges and both full back, Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley, kept going for the full 90. In Beasley’s case, having that much energy after playing two full games at his age was remarkable. Up top, Clint Dempsey put in another shift and even a whack on his already broken nose from Benedikt Howedes couldn’t halt the Texan from leading the line powerfully. We all know how the U.S. is viewed around the world, the nation that nerves gives up and will succeed against all the odds. That aura of invincibility is starting to emanate from the American players, as they proved, once again, that they’re made of tough stuff.

Final third breakdown

If defensively the U.S. looked sound against a German team coasting in second and third gear for most of the game, offensively it wasn’t a bed of roses. After weathering the early storm the U.S. actually nipped the ball back in some great positions on the halfway line but then didn’t do much with it. Apart from Graham Zusi cutting inside from the left in the 21st minute and curling a shot just over the bar, the USA failed to create any real clear cut opportunities until the dying stages when Alejandro Bedoya’s shot was blocked superbly by Phillip Lahm. That has to be a worry for Klinsmann, as he’s still missing his main striker Jozy Altidore and when you pick the bones out of the USA’s fourth goals so far, two were from set pieces (John Brook’s header and a shot from Jones after a corner was cleared) and two were from Dempsey’s opportunism. If the USA is going to unlock a stubborn Belgian defense, which has given up just one goal thus far and is marshaled by Vincent Kompany, they’ll have to do better to create chances in the final third. If you don’t create chances, it will be hard to advance past the last 16.

Twitter reacts to US making the last 16 of the World Cup

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Following the USA’s shock escape from the “Group of Death” Twitter exploded into life as Americans celebrated their sides success.

From the President to members of the team, everyone was in a jovial spirit as even though Germany beat the U.S. 1-0, thanks to Portugal’s 2-1 win over Ghana the Stars and Stripes advanced to the knockout stages.

Below is a small collection of some of the best Tweets to surface so far.

Enjoy. And celebrate.

U.S. captain Clint Dempsey in the locker room…

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#1N1T

A post shared by Clint Dempsey (@clint_dempsey) on

Lets hope U.S. central defender Matt Besler doesn’t take a leaf out of Luis Suarez’s book…

President Barrack Obama watching on…

LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant…

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers…

Jeffrey Webb, President of CONCACAF…