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23. Social Media and Digital Marketing wizard. Football Fanatic specifically NFFC. Likes Pokemon, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones.

Preview ahead of the final group games.

One thing has become clear in this World Cup: Anything is possible. Throw the common wisdom out the window.

The reigning champs are already out.

Three teams from CONCACAF, the confederation of North and Central American teams, could make it to the knockout round for the first time ever.

In Group C, the supposed group of champions, three teams ranked in FIFA’s top 10  — former World Cup champions Italy, England and Uruguay — were supposed to fight it out for two spots in the knockout stages. Instead, unheralded Costa Rica are through and currently top the group, England are out, and Uruguay and Italy face off for the right to move on.

The four tournament favorites have all looked beatable. Brazil drew with Mexico, Germany drew with Ghana, Argentina needed a stoppage time goal to beat Iran, and Spain is out of the tourney. Mexico, Ghana and Iran are ranked No. 20, 37, and 43, respectively, by FIFA.

Yes, all but one of the early teams to clinch advancement are highly ranked teams. But so much remains open that it feels like a different sort of tournament. Goal-scoring is up. Games are wild. This kind of thing doesn’t often happen.

Qualification scenarios

Every team has one game left to play in the group stage, so every team knows what must happen for them to move on. Here’s a breakdown:

Eliminated: England, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Australia, Spain, Cameroon.

Advanced to second round: Netherlands, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, Belgium.

Several groups feature matches between two teams fighting for the same spot in the second round, notably Mexico-Croatia on Monday and Italy-Uruguay on Tuesday.

There is even the unlikely but possible scenario that one second-round spot could bedecided by a coin flip between Nigeria and Iran.

For full tiebreaker rules — and they definitely matter, certainly for Team USA — click here.

 

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What is each teams nickname?

If you want to show off your sports knowledge to friends this World Cup, we’ve got you covered.

ESPN commissioned Brazilian artist Cristiano Siqueria to create posters for all 32 teams competing in the World Cup. They display each team’s unique and oftentimes poetic nickname, so impress your friends by saying “La Furia Roja” instead of “Spain.”

The nicknames range from the simple, such as Switzerland’s “La Nati,” which means “the national team,” to more elaborate ones, such as England’s “The Three Lions,” an homage to the Royal Arms of England. All of the names provide interesting bits of trivia about their respective countries.

Check out Siqueria’s posters and a brief background on the teams’ nicknames, below:

Algeria_0

The most dedicated fans of the World Cup so far.

Soccer isn’t just the most popular sport in the world — it’s a religion to millions of people.

The devout followers who made the pilgrimage to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup came decked in their best gear to celebrate the tournament, and — most importantly — to cheer their squads to victory.

Grab your pom-poms and face paint to cheer along with the zaniest and most spirited World Cup fans.

13 GIF’s that sum up England v Uruguay.

  • 1. Could Wayne Rooney break his World Cup curse?

    Wayne-rooney-world-cup-gif-1
  • 2. Luis Suarez returned after knee surgery and looked strong. Surgery schmergery.

    Uruguay-suarez-gif
  • 3. Handball!

    World-cup-handball

    (Not as bad as Suarez’s 2010 World Cup handball against Ghana.)

  • 4. Bending, bending, bending … nope.

    Rooney-miss
  • 5. Rooney’s header goes high. The curse continues.

    Rooney-misses-header-world-cup-gif
  • 6. Yep, Suarez is definitely back. 1-0 Uruguay.

    Suarez-goal-world-cup-1
  • 7. Ouch.

    World-cup-injury-1
  • 8. Double ouch.

    Ouch
  • 9. Rooney sccooooooorrrrreees his first-ever World Cup goal. 1-1

    Rooney-goal-world-cup-2
  • 10. A nation celebrates…

    Rooney-goal-reaction
  • 11. …but not for long. Suarez scores again. 2-1 Uruguay.

    Thumb-suarez
  • 12. England loses.

    Sadgerrard
  • 13. Uruguay wins.

    Happysuarezsmall
    * Courtesy of Mashable.

 

The Reign of Spain Ends in Pain

Former World Cup champions Spain have been booted out of the tournament, losing to Chile 2:0 in Brazil. Their defeat has triggered a social media storm, with memes poking fun at the Spanish team flooding Twitter.

Spain’s performance at the World Cup this year has been dubbed “the great disappointment” by the Spanish media.

The defending champions were humiliated right from the onset of the tournament, losing 5:1 to Holland. The Spanish team was finally knocked out of the running by Chile on Wednesday evening, prompting a wave of scathing memes on Twitter under the hashtag #CHIvsESP.

View image on Twitter

 

“The King just sent a Whatsapp to Del Bosque (manager of the Spanish team)…”
“Shall we abdicate together?”

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Continuing the theme, Twitter user @viniami2009 posted a meme of Del Bosque.

“Come on guys, let’s get back to Spain to see the coronation of the new king.”

 

View image on Twitter

 

“Don’t turn off the engine! We won’t be long!”

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Disappointed fans targeted Spanish keeper Iker Casillas, who was responsible for letting in seven goals over the course of the first two World Cup matches.

“If you know I’m gonna mess up, why do you bother inviting me?”

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter
Fans also targeted Spanish striker Diego Costa, who changed his nationality from Brazilian to Spanish to play for the World Cup team.

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View image on Twitter

Following the match, elated Chilean football fans flooded Italia Square in the country’s capital, Santiago, to celebrate victory. The Chilean team now goes on to face The Netherlands on Monday.

View image on Twitter

Bests of the 1st round!

The first round of fixtures of the 2014 FIFA World Cup have now passed and given us a fair bit of excitement, goals, controversy and general all round awesomeness!

49 goals, 1 hat-trick, 3 red cards, only 6 clean sheets and only one African victory, here is our recap of the first round of fixtures.

Goal of the Round – Robin van Persie (1) vs. Spain

This is a tough one as Joel Campbell’s goal against Uruguay was a brilliant team goal, Clint Dempsey’s slalom run was mesmerising and Lionel Messi scored a superb solo goal. But while all of those were great, the goal by Robin van Persie with a diving header against the World Champions Spain was a goal of pure class and a goal that few words would do justice to.

Player of the Round – Thomas Müller (Germany)

FIFA World Cup (2)Arjen Robben and Joel Campbell ran this close for me, but Thomas Müller was the star of the show for Germany. He has now scored 8 World Cup goals in his career and hit his 20th goal in his 50th cap against Portugal. His goals were not World class or anything, but his persistent hassling and positioning made him a thorn in the side of Portugal. Don’t be surprised if he is the golden boot winner again at this World Cup!

Controversy of the Round – Mexico second offside goal

The first offside goal was a ridiculously tight call that you can forgive the linesman for, the second was as atrocious a call as Ive seen. It almost appeared that the linesman and ref were so scared to make incorrect calls that they overly erred and made an atrocious one. Fortunately Mexico got the goal they deserved and in the end the error did not cost them, but if they fail to progress on goal difference then it could still be the biggest poor call of the tournament.

FIFA World Cup (1)Nimwit of the Round – Pepe (Portugal)

I am not condoning the over reaction of Müller in the build up, but Pepe is not a smart man. His reputation for being a hot head and losing his cool came to the fore once again as he let his team mates and his country down with a display as childish as you can expect from the Real Madrid man. Portugal may be better off with him not playing in the next games.

Team of the Round – Netherlands

Few had given Netherlands a chance of beating Spain, even less had given them the chance of annihilating Spain. But annihilate is exactly what they did. After Spain received a dodgy penalty from a Diego Costa tumble, Holland produced a masterclass in ruthless football. Robin and Robben robbed the Spanish of their dignity and made one of the best keepers in the world, Iker Casillas, look like a Sunday League amateur. Their odds have also been dramatically cut on potential winners after that display.

Upset of the Round – Costa Rica 3-1 Uruguay

Uruguay won the FIFA World Cup the last time it was hosted in Brazil and as reigning South American champions had been tipped as a definite dark horse for winning the cup. They of course were also strongly tipped to run away with a group that also features England and Italy. But on the day they met a Joel Campbell inspired Costa Rica in a display so brazen that even England and Italy would have been stunned. Costa Rica were expected to complete the numbers, but now are competing for points. It makes the World Cup a lot more exciting. Uruguay on the other hand face elimination if they don’t beat England on Thursday.

FIFA World Cup (3)Match of the Round – England 1-2 Italy

England and Italy were poised to offer up a tense, turgid affair, but instead offered a neutrals dream match as they produced what can safely be said is the game of the tournament so far. The match produced 30 shots at goal at a frenetic pace. England can feel hard done by on being the wrong side of the defeat as both sides produced some sublime football.

The three goals were also all quality, one strike from range and the other two both from fantastic crosses. If ever a team could be proud of their performance in defeat, it was England. Italy on the other hand are well poised now to progress to the latter stages.

World Cup 1st round review.

Netherlands Robin van Persie - H 2014
The Netherlands’ 5-1 defeat of Spain has been one of the most-watched matches of the tournament.

A record 82 percent of Italian viewers watch Italy’s 2-1 win over England, as first-round matches involving Spain, the Netherlands and Mexico also top ratings worldwide.

The 2014 soccer World Cup has been a ratings hit out of the box, with first-round matches this past weekend outperforming even the impressive figures of the last tournament in 2010.

A series of high-profile matchups, including a rematch of the 2010 final between world champions Spain and the Netherlands, helped boost viewing figures, especially among neutrals. Approximately 11.2 million Spaniards, or 68.5 percent of the national audience, caught the game in which Spain was battered 5-1 by Holland. In the Netherlands, 7.5 million watched, an 82.9 percent share. But even in neutral Germany, fully 14.6 million viewers, just under 50 percent of the audience, caught the game.

Italy’s 2-1 defeat of England in the opening match was a similar draw. Although the match kicked off at midnight Italian time on Saturday, 12 million soccer-mad Italian fans tuned in, for a staggering 82 percent share combined between state broadcaster RAI and satellite rival Sky Italia. It was the highest ever rating in Italy, in terms of market share, for a sporting event.

BBC’s coverage of England’s first World Cup game averaged 11.5 million viewers for a 68.4 percent share, with the audience peaking at 15.4 million, a share of 76.4 percent, when England scored an equalizer to tie the match 1-1. The figures were down from England’s opening match against the U.S. in the 2010 World Cup, which drew an average 16.1 million viewers, a drop partly attributable to the late hour broadcast.

England vs. Italy was also the most-watched first-round game, aside from the opening-night kickoff, among U.S. viewers on ESPN, where the match drew a 2.6 rating, or 4.62 million viewers. ESPN said the figure was a record for a regular first-round match not involving Team USA.

The largest TV audience in Europe was in France for Les Bleus’ opening match against Honduras, which France won 3-0. An average of 15.8 million French viewers watched on commercial network TF1, peaking at 17 million in the second half. The figures represent 57 percent of all French households and 71 percent of all French men under 50.

Team by Team.

WC composite
Neymar, Raheem Sterling and Arjen Robben have all made telling starts to the World Cup. 

1)Holland

Top of the pile after embarrassing a full-strength Spain side: the current world and European champions – easily the result of the round. From three to five at the back, it isn’t quite total football, but will keep even the best teams guessing.

2) Germany

Miss out on the top spot only because their win was against 10 men. Should now steamroll the group and likely to face a relatively weak Group H runner-up in last-16, and France in the quarter-finals. An easy draw. Who needs strikers anyway?

3) France

A new age for Les Bleus: only three of the team that thrashed Honduras played in 2010. Didn’t appear to miss Franck Ribéry and have arguably the easiest route to the quarter finals than any other team. Karim Benzema is on top form.

4) Italy

Beat Costa Rica and the Azzurri all but progress from the group. Whisper it, but the early pessimism surrounding their chances echoes that of 2006. The return of Mario Balotelli’s mojo and Gianluigi Buffon may be back for the upcoming games.

5) Argentina

Remains the most frightening attack but signs against Bosnia-Herzegovina that their defence could come unstuck – surely Lionel Messi cannot bail them out every match. Or can he? The manager, Alejandro Sabella, still does not appear to know if 5-3-2 or 4-3-3 works best.

6) Colombia

Could not have hoped for a better start with their biggest ever World Cup win in a relatively weak group. Radamel Falcao may be absent but they celebrated their goals with a togetherness that usually carries a team deep into the competition. Greece, in fairness though, were desperately poor.

7) Chile

No injuries (apart from Arturo Vidal but he is on the mend), no suspensions and three points on the board. A tough group but likely only to need a draw against Spain to qualify and have a counter-attacking game not dissimilar from the Dutch technique which tore the Spanish apart.

8) Brazil

A win and a draw, even if they have been more laboured than fans would have hoped for. Home advantage means they remain the bookies’ favourites but Chile or Spain are likely last-16 opponents while Hulk remains an injury doubt and Fred out of form and out of touch.

9) Spain

Despite a heavy defeat to Holland, only a fool would write off the holders and European champions, who also lost their opening game on their way to victory four years ago. The strongest squad in the tournament means that Vicente del Bosque’s promised changes should not weaken them against Chile.

10) Croatia

Sneaking inside the top 10 despite defeat in their opening match as they showed glimpses of brilliance against Brazil, only to be undone by refereeing decisions. Luka Modric has not trained because of a foot injury but should recover in time for Cameroon, while Mario Mandzukic returns from suspension.

11) Mexico

An opening victory followed by an impressive performance against the hosts has put Mexico in a decent position ahead of their final crunch match against Croatia, all without conceding a goal in the tournament so far, mainly due to the brilliance of Guillermo Ochoa in goal.

12) Belgium

Belgium deserved their win against Algeria even if the performance did not always live up to the high standards expected of one of the more favoured European teams at the tournament. A reasonably easy group on paper should see them progress. Eden Hazard was relatively quiet in the opening game but has the potential to be one of the stars.

13) England

A defeat, but at least England looked like a team that wanted to reinvent itself, with Raheem Sterling key to the freshness. A nervy week ahead for Roy Hodgson: Thursday’s opponents Uruguay looked vulnerable in their opener, but Costa Rica may yet provide an unwelcome sting in the tail.

14) Costa Rica

Jorge Luis Pinto’s side shocked Uruguay in their first game but it was not as if they did not thoroughly deserve their victory. After a quiet first half they exploded in the second half with Joel Campbell the outstanding performer. May struggle against Italy but could well draw or even beat England in their last group game.

15) Ivory Coast

A crucial win against a difficult opponent has put Sabri Lamouchi’s team in a strong position in Group C. Lamouchi was brave enough to start Didier Drogba, still not fully recovered from injury, on the bench and has hinted that Wilfried Bony will keep his place up front. Ivory Coast has quality in every department.

16) USA

A magnificent win, but with Jozy Altidore looking like he could miss the rest of the tournament, Jürgen Klinsmann’s decision to leave Landon Donovan out looks costly. USA’s defence, where Matt Besler is struggling with an injury, must again be on top form if they are to stop Germany and Portugal and progress.

17) Switzerland

Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side were lethargic at times in their opening game against Ecuador but it feels as if this is a more attack-minded Swiss team than four years ago. The front players – Xherdan Shaquiri, Granit Xhaka and Josip Drmic to name three – have speed, trickery and youthful exuberance in abundance. Likely to progess together with France.

18) South Korea

The South Koreans, under the shrewd guidance of Hong Myung-bo, were on top for large spells against the Russians and in, Han Kook-young , have one of the up and coming players of their continent. “The condition of players and organisation of team was good,” Hong said after the game – and what more can you ask for?

19) Bosnia-Herzegovina

The Bosnians played well against Lionel Messi’s Argentina and arguably deserved to draw the game. Miralem Pjanic’s performance was one of the best in the opening round of games and, with Nigeria and Iran coming up, Bosnia should be hopeful of progressing.

 20) Russia

Fabio Capello’s side bounced back from Igor Akinfeev’s horrible mistake to draw their opening game but it was a pretty lifeless performance. Belgium and Algeria are next up: Capello, with his massive salary, could be looking at an early exit.

21) Portugal

A nightmare start for Portugal, losing Pepe to suspension and Fábio Coentrão and Hugo Almeida to injury. But don’t write them off yet: beat Ghana and USA (who suffered their own injuries in the opening game), as they still should with a fit-again Cristiano Ronaldo, and they are through.

22) Uruguay

What a disappointing opening performance by Uruguay, encapsulated by Maxi Pereira’s late and ugly kick on Joel Campbell. They have bounced back before, of course, and did so during the World Cup qualifying, and may have a certain striker back against England.

23) Japan

Japan took an early lead against Ivory Coast but were disappointing in the end. Alberto Zaccheroni’s side defended too deeply and, once the opponents had thrown on Didier Drogba and switched to 4-4-2, were overrun in the end. Progressing now will be very difficult.

24) Ecuador

Reinaldo Rueda’s side were somewhat unlucky to lose to a late Swiss goal in a helter-skelter end to their opening game. Jefferson Montero and Antonio Valencia played well in the wide positions but they may need a result against France now to go through.

25) Ghana

Ghana will be kicking themselves after losing their first game despite Andre Ayew scoring an 82nd-minute equaliser. Predictably, reports of a player revolt soon emerged but that has now been denied by the Ghana Football Association.

26) Algeria

Vahid Halilhodzic’s side did everything that could have been asked of them against Belgium but still ended up on the losing side. The coach was furious about a foul in the build-up to Belgium’s winning goal but will have been heartened by his side’s performance and espcially that of the excellent Sofiane Feghouli.

27) Nigeria

Hopes were high in Nigeria before the Iran game but all that positivism evaporated within 90 insipid minutes against a defensively well-organised Iran side. All Nigeria’s attack-minded players were disappointing and Stephen Keshi has a huge job on his hands now. They had to win that game.

28) Iran

Arguably the weakest side at the tournament, Carlos Queiroz’s team must be given credit for the way they battled for a draw against the African Cup of Nations champions. But with Argentina and Bosnia to come, do not expect this stubbornness to last.

29) Cameroon

The Indomitable Lions proved anything but against Mexico and were lucky not to have lost by more after a couple of dodgy offside decisions. Samuel Eto’o’s knee injury rules him out for the Croatia game and without their talisman and captain, Cameroon look set for an early exit.

30) Honduras

There was nothing that was good about Honduras’s opening game. They were poor and they were far too physical and in the end France were lucky to escape without any serious injuries. Wilson Palacios is suspended for the next game against Ecuador.

31) Greece

Deep divisions exist with both the manager and captain scathing of the team’s “ridiculous” performance against Colombia. With an out-of sorts forward line, they already look doomed.

32) Australia

Less than convincing in qualifying for the tournament, the Socceroos showed some encouraging glimpses against Chile but were ultimately well beaten. With the prospect of Holland and Spain still to come, it is all but certain Australia are heading home next week.