Ryan McGowan

WATCH: Top 10 goals of the 2014 World Cup’s group stage

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There have been a flurry of goals this World Cup – 136 of them so far, to be exact – and it doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.

Those 136 goals mark the most ever in a World Cup group stage, and it even set the record for most goals per game to beat out earlier World Cups with fewer qualified teams.

Every single World Cup team scored in the group stage. Many were beautiful, a few were spectacular, but they all counted the same.

So with that in mind, we’re set to run through the best ten goals of the World Cup group stage.

10. Claudio Marchisio vs. England

Italy bowed out disappointingly in the group stage, but they have one point of brilliance to hold onto from the team’s only win.  Scoreless against England late in the first half, they struck on a set-piece.  A corner came through low towards the top of the box, and Andrea Pirlo’s perfect dummy teed up midfielder Claudio Marchisio.  The midfielder struck a rocket along the ground perfectly into the far corner past Joe Hart for the game’s opening goal.

Unfortunately, Marchisio would follow that up with two dreadful performances against Costa Rica and Uruguay, culminating in a straight red in the finale.

9. Silvestre Varela vs. United States

With the United States on the brink of securing a guaranteed place in the knockout round and Portugal themselves on the precipice of elimination, star forward Cristiano Ronaldo combined with substitute striker Silvestre Varela to produce an equalizer that would prolong their country’s chances at making the knockout stage.

In the 95th minute with literally the last kick of the game, Ronaldo sent in a cross worthy of his Ballon d’Or, and it found the head of the streaking Varela to beat Geoff Cameron and give the game a 2-2 final score.  The situation and the build-up play give this goal the flair it needs to be on this list.

8. Clint Dempsey vs. Ghana

The fifth-fastest World Cup goal ever, Clint Dempsey opened school for John Boye and gave the United States a vital early lead after just 29 seconds against Ghana in a must-win match.

DaMarcus Beasley’s ball up the left flank was one-touch passed to Dempsey from Jermaine Jones, and the US striker did the rest as he deked passed Boye and hit the far corner with his low shot.

7. Memphis Depay vs. Australia

The up-and-coming Dutch midfielder secured the match-winner as his team went on to beat a pesky Australia 3-2 and mark one of their three group-stage wins.  Depay, just 20 years old, came onto the field when defender Bruno Martins Indi was forced off after a challenge from Tim Cahill.

With the game knotted at two each, Depay blasted a strike from well outside the box that curved and dipped, finally bouncing just in front of Maty Ryan and ended up in the far corner.  The goal was Depay’s first for his country.

6. James Rodriguez vs. Japan

With Colombia dominating its Asian opponents en route to its Group C victory, James Rodriguez wasn’t going to leave Cuiaba empty-handed. In stoppage time already up 3-1, the Monaco forward produced an amazing piece of individual skill to plant Japanese defender Maya Yoshida flat on his back after a complete 360.

5. John Brooks vs. Ghana

A winner that resonated all the way across the United States, the header by John Brooks earned the US three of their four eventual Group D points and was essential to their knockout-stage qualification.

Coming in the 87th minute against their arch-nemesis Ghana, the 21-year-old German-American defender – on as a substitute for an injured Matt Besler – picked out Graham Zusi’s corner and put it straight at the ground, bouncing it past Ghana goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey for the winner.  The ball actually just barely missed the head of Geoff Cameron who attempted to put the ball on net just in front of Brooks, so the youngster gets added points for not losing focus despite his teammate’s attempt in his face.

Jermaine Jones also bagged a pretty impressive goal for the United States against Portugal, but this one earned the US three points, and that alone gives it the trump card onto the list.

4. Lionel Messi vs. Iran

Lionel Messi has come to play in this World Cup. Playing on his home continent, he’s been the star man for Argentina despite plenty of doubters.  He earned three points with a late winner against Iran, a classic Messi goal in injury time, finding himself space at the top of the box before finding the far corner with the ball.  Nothing a diving Alireza Haghighi could do about that one.

3. Xherdan Shaqiri vs. Honduras (#1)

Scoring a goal quite similar in look to the Messi one was young Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri.  The Bayern Munich player doesn’t have a central role for his German giant, but for the national team he’s their main man. Needing a result against Honduras to advance past the group stage, Shaqiri bagged himself a hat-trick, but he’ll be hard-pressed to beat his first.

Just six minutes in, Shaqiri cranked a long-range shot perfectly into the top corner to set the tone early.

2. Tim Cahill vs. Netherlands

If it weren’t for the absolute stunning nature of our #1 goal, this one surely had Goal of the Tournament flair.  Having fallen behind just a minute prior, a Ryan McGowan long-ball from the midfield found Cahill streaking on goal, and despite being marked well by Stefan de Vrij, the New York Red Bulls striker ripped an immaculate volley off the crossbar and over the goal line before the ball could even touch the ground.

1. Robin van Persie vs. Spain

With the Netherlands under pressure from a bright Spanish start, the Dutch found themselves down 1-0.  Just as the sides were ready to go into halftime, Manchester United striker Robin van Persie produced one of the moments of the World Cup so far, and on just the second day of the tournament.

An absolutely perfect lofted ball from the defending half by Daley Blind caught van Persie flying on goal, and the Dutch striker launched himself through the air, connecting with the diving header and putting the ball past Iker Casillas.  Tied up at the break, the Dutch would go on to dismantle Spain in the second half, announcing to the 2014 World Cup how things would go in the group stage.

Honorable mention: Miroslav Klose vs. Ghana

This goal has to be mentioned at least once because it tied the all-time record for World Cup goals.  It would have made this list too if there hadn’t been so many beautiful strikes, since his run was timed perfectly and it secured a valuable point for the Germans, but nonetheless it deserves to be given its due.  We may yet see Klose break the record in the knockout stages if Germany progresses to the later rounds.

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Dutch escape wild match with 3-2 win as Australia impresses again

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The Aussies put forth a valiant effort again, but again they could not sustain the pressure as the Netherlands picked up their second comeback win in two World Cup matches 3-2 on a 68-minute winner by Memphis Depay.

The Socceroos led briefly after Mile Jedinak buried an early second-half penalty, but Robin van Persie equalized four minutes later, and substitute midfielder Depay hit from distance 10 minutes later to bury the Australians.

The game started with the Dutch on top, but progressed in the opposite direction than the one against Spain did. Australia slowly built themselves into possession and into the game, and because of that the first Dutch goal came against the run of play.

Australia gave the ball away in the midfield, with Daley Blind stepping in and heading it over to Robben, and the Dutch winger took over from there. He skipped past a foul in the midfield, for which he was given advantage, and found himself 2-on-1 in the box.  He passed up a wide-open Robin van Persie and took the shot himself, finishing low across the face to the far post past a sprawled Maty Ryan.

But don’t count the Socceroos out. They weren’t phased, and came down the other end immediately to respond. Ryan McGowan, in the lineup for an injured Ivan Franjic, launched a beautiful long ball to Cahill, who fired a brilliant volley off the crossbar and in. The goal came 70 seconds after Robben opened the scoring.

There was no more scoring in the first half, but Australia asserted their dominance, winding up with 55% of possession. Robin van Persie finished the half with just one shot and 11 touches, while Wesley Sneijder ended the first 45 just 9-of-16 passing.

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The second half provided even more entertainment.  The Dutch defense proved even more shaky early after the break, and the Aussies capitalized. After a promising attack that went unpunished just five minutes after halftime, the Aussies struck with their next chance.

In the 53rd minute, substitute striker Oliver Bozanic whipped in a cross with Daryl Janmaat covering, and the ball struck the defender’s hand in the box. Replays showed the two men were very close to each other and it was clearly hard for Janmaat to get his hand out of the way, but it was behind him and therefore in an unnatural position, blocking the cross into the box.

source: AP
Robin van Persie (right) and Memphis Depay rescued their side from deficit to victory with the final two Dutch goals.

With the penalty given, Crystal Palace midfielder Mile Jedinak converted low and powerful, and the Socceroos had a shocking lead.

But just like Australia in the first half, the Dutch responded almost immediately.  The deficit provided a kick in the rear they required, and van Persie bore the fruit, slotted through by Depay and finishing powerfully for the lead.

Mathew Leckie had a brilliant chance to go in front on 67 minutes after a bad giveaway by Ron Vlaar, but Leckie’s chest shot went straight at Davy Cillessen after the cross by Tommy Oar.  It proved detrimental, as the Dutch would take advantage moments later down the other end.

Substitute Depay, on for the injured Bruno Martins Indi, had a go from long range, and the swerving shot crept into the net past a bamboozled Ryan, giving the Dutch a lead again at 3-2.

The Aussies quickly began to tire, and struggled to keep possession.  As the Dutch asserted their ascendency just as Chile did late in the game a week ago against Australia, they prevented a second comeback by the underdogs by holding much of the ball in the final 10 minutes.

There were two yellow cards of note.  Tim Cahill clattered Indi in the first half, earning him his second yellow card of the tournament and a suspension for the match against Spain along with it.  With Cahill at 34 years old, the suspension likely means he has played his final World Cup game, and maybe even his final in an Australian shirt.  Indi also appeared to be unconscious after the collision, and was substituted off.

Robin van Persie also picked up a yellow early in the second half – his second in two matches – for a wild elbow, and will miss the Dutch group-stage finale against Chile.

The win gives the Dutch 6 total points, and they will clinch a place in the knockout round if Chile wins or draws against Spain later today.  The same situation would see the Aussies mathematically knocked out of the tournament.

LINEUPS:

Netherlands – Cillessen, Vlaar, de Vrij, Indi (Depay 45′), Blind, de Jong, Janmaat, de Guzman (Wijnaldum 78′), van Persie (Lens 87′), Sneijder, Robben.

Goals: Robben 20′, van Persie 58′, Depay 68′

Australia – Ryan, Davidson, Spiranovic, Wilkinson, McGowan; Jedinak, McKay, Oar (Taggart 77′), Leckie; Bresciano (Bozanic 52′), Cahill (Halloran 68′).

Goals: Cahill 21′, Jedinak (pen) 54′

At halftime: Two goals in a minute has Australia even with Netherlands at 1-1 – FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: Don’t tell Australia what happened to Spain last week, they don’t seem to care.

Despite the Dutch coming off a game in which they torched the defending champions 5-1, the Aussies haven’t just come out competitive, they’ve been flat out better.

The Australians absorbed some early pressure, and have things all square from Porto Alegre at 1-1.  In fact, because the Australians have been better, it’s surprisingly appropriate to call the first Dutch goal “against the run of play.”

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Goals:

20′ – Australia were proving up to the task early, but Arjen Robben broke 3-on-1 and took it himself, slotting far post past Maty Ryan for a 1-0 Dutch lead.  Thanks to a headed pass from Daley Blind, Robben took the ball from the mid line, passed through a foul which the referee played advantage for, and made it all the way to the box for the finish. It appeared he had a wide-open Robin van Persie on the far side with Robben drawing the one defender, but he took it himself calmly.

21′ – Corner flag, I feel your pain. Tim Cahill responded immediately to Robben’s goal, catching the Dutch offsides and finishing powerfully off the underside of the crossbar and in. Off the restart, the referee played advantage for a Dutch foul, and the ball fell to Ryan McGowan who blasted a long-ball forward to Cahill on the far side of the box.  The striker one-timed a volley and the score was level 1-1.

Other key moments:

30′ – The Aussies equalized right after the Dutch scored, and after the scoreline was restored at level, they continued to press the Dutch defense, and had a pair of opportunities on the half-hour mark. Mathew Leckie’s cross trickled through the box untouched and fell to Mark Bresciano who launched a missile just over the crossbar.  Just after, an Aussie free kick fell through the Dutch defense untouched but also went unpunished.

44′ – Tim Cahill clattered into Bruno Martins Indi, earning himself a yellow card, his second of the tournament.  That means he will miss Australia’s next match, the group A finale against Spain.  Consequently, the next 45 minutes very well could be the last we see of the 34-year-old in a World Cup, or even in an Australia shirt altogether. The challenge also knocked Martins Indi out of the game with an injury, replaced by Memphhis Dupey.

LINEUPS:

Netherlands – Cillessen, Vlaar, de Vrij, Indi (Depay 45′), Blind, de Jong, Janmaat, de Guzman, van Persie, Sneijder, Robben.

Goals: Robben 20′

Australia – Ryan, Davidson, Cahill, Spiranovic, Leckie, Oar, Jedinak, McKay, McGowan, Wilkinson, Bresciano.

Goals: Cahill 21′

Key Players:

  • Tim Cahill – Always and forever the key man in their attack, Cahill is consistently the target of Australian crosses into the box.
  • Ryan McGowan/Mathew Leckie – A new addition into the Australian lineup with Ivan Franjic injured, McGowan was a force along the right-hand sideline, and pairing up with winger Leckie, the pair caused the Dutch all kinds of problems.
  • Arjen Robben – With Wesley Sneijder struggling mightily and Robin van Persie invisible, Robben was the only man involved in consistent Dutch attacks, and scored their first goal with a skillful break.

Numbers to know:

4 – Tim Cahill’s World Cup goals for Australia, half of the country’s all-time World Cup scoring tally.

11 – Successful passes by Wesley Sneijder in 18 attempts, just a 61% completion rate.

11 – Number of touches for Robin van Persie in the first half. He has one shot, one completed pass, and is 0/1 in take-ons.

Questions for the second half:

  • How will Louis van Gaal mold the offense to get his attack more involved? With Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder ineffective up front, this could be our first look at how van Gaal will work things at Manchester United when it’s not going as planned in the attack.
  • Can Australia keep up the pressure? Australia held 55% of the possession, and outpassed the Dutch 207-163. It will be interesting to see how Australia counters the inevitable Dutch changes to come.

Chile starts strong, earns nervy 3 points with 3-1 win over Australia

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It appeared to be over early, but Australia made things difficult on Chile, who ultimately earned all three points after a 3-1 win over the Socceroos in Cuiaba.

The first half was all Chile on possession, owning 70% of the ball, and they took advantage early.

The Chileans scored twice in two minutes, with Alexis Sanchez striking first in the 12th minute when the Socceroos failed to clear, bringing goalkeeper Maty Ryan out of the net and with the ball pinballing around, Ryan barely got back before Sanchez snuck it through.

It was Jorge Valdivia for their second just two minutes later as he got acres of space at the top of the box, and slammed the ball into the top corner.

Chile took their foot off the gas pedal though, and things settled down for Australia.  Despite holding very little of possession, they found an opportunity and took it 10 minutes from halftime.

Tim Cahill, one of the world’s best headers, pulled one-back for Australia when Ivan Franjic won the ball with an expert tackle on the right edge before sending a perfect ball into the box. It was more than enough for Cahill to do what he does best, and he nodded home powerfully.

source: AP
Australia’s Tim Cahill, as he has been his whole career, was a threat in the air up front.

In the second half Australia looked the more dangerous of the two, as Cahill looked to have a second but was rightly ruled offsides despite heading into the net.

The Aussies again threatened in the 57th minute as a ball flew into the box from the left, and while Cahill – up for the header again – seemed to be pushed, Mark Bresciano snuck in far post and ripped a close-range shot that was well saved by Claudio Bravo.

Chile removed Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal with a half-hour left as he returns from knee surgery, and Chile nearly grabbed a third just a minute later.

Alexis Sanchez slotted through Eduardo Vargas, who couldn’t put a powerful shot on target but still slid the ball towards the line. But Alex Wilkinson came in to clear, and booted the ball off the line just before it trickled over.

Again Australia threatened, again off the head of Cahill but his effort from Jason Davidson went just over the bar with 20 minutes to go.

Both sides looked to counter each other with substitutes, as both Jean Beausejour for Chile and Ryan McGowan for Australia made a positive for their respective countries.

As things wound down, tired legs marked both sides, and Chile put things away in stoppage time for an assured victory.  Beausejour was the man to finish long distance on the rebound after Pinilla’s effort was saved.

It was a valiant effort by the underdogs, but ultimately Australia end up with nothing to show for it, and Spain and the Netherlands still remaining.

The three points for Chile keep them along with the Netherlands, who stormed to a shocking 5-1 victory over the defending champions Spain. However, the Chileans did not come close to the goal differential of the Dutch, something that could be a factor going forward if the other two teams in Group B beat Australia by a wider margin.

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LINEUPS:

Chile – Bravo; Mena, Isla, Medel, Jara; Vidal (Gutierrez 60′), Valdivia (Beausejour 68′), Aranguiz, Diaz; Sanchez, Vargas (Pinilla 88′).

Goals – Sanchez 12′, Valdivia 14′, Beausejour 90+2′

Australia – Ryan; Franjic (McGowan 49′), Spiranovic, Wilkinson, Davidson; Bresciano (Troisi 78′), Milligan, Jedinak, Oar (Halloran 69′), Leckie; Cahill.

Goals – Cahill 35′