Huge disappointment but England must continue to be brave

In the end, Roy Hodgson and his youthful charges will go down in history for producing the worst showing by an England team at a World Cup. The first England side to go out of the world cup in the group stages since 1958. The first England side ever to lose its first two world cup matches. The stats make for grim reading.

However, this team should be remembered for being the bravest England outfit at a major tournament since Euro 2004. Faced with an immensely challenging task just to qualify from Group D, England went on the offensive. Although the performance against Uruguay was not quite as impressive as the effort against Italy, there were still signs that England are a much improved unit going forward. Wayne Rooney, back in his prefered number 10 role was a constant threat and it was a relief for all concerned to see him finally break his world cup duck. Daniel Sturridge’s presence and pace when running in behind defenders asks questions of opposing teams that England haven’t been able to pose since Michael Owen was in his prime. Raheem Sterling was illuminating in the first half against the Italians and Ross Barkley impressed in both games from the bench. The kids are alright.

There is no doubt that England let themselves down defensively. The suspicion was, even before a ball had been kicked in anger that the back four would be England’s major weakness in this tournament. Glen Johnson, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines are all very accomplished Premier League performers. However, as a unit they lack that genuine enforcer and organiser that underpins all of the great defences. John Terry’s name will be mentioned repeatedly in the coming weeks but Roy Hodgson should not be condemned for ignoring a player who had turned his back on playing for his country. How Hodgson must wish he had been blessed with the options available to Sven Goran Eriksson who was able to leave Ledley King, Jamie Carragher, Sol Campbell and Jonathan Woodgate out of his starting line up in central defence.

But England’s problems in defence only serve to highlight the importance of continuity for this squad. In the wake of the defeat to Uruguay, FA Chairman Greg Dyke finally said something sensible (as if this world cup hadn’t provided enough shocks!) when he declared that Roy Hodgson’s job would be safe. The manager is contracted until Euro 2016 and for England to be successful that contract must be honoured. With another two years working with the players, Hodgson should be able to iron out the kinks in defence. Either the back four he has now will be stronger for this experience or the development of young players such as John Stones and Luke Shaw will mean that competition for places is a fierce as it was in 2006.

I mentioned on a previous post that the reason for Germany’s success in recent tournaments was the stability garnered from coach and players working together over a sustained period. If Hodgson is allowed to continue then the young players he has nurtured so well over the last two years will be a formidable outfit in France in two years time.

The preparation can begin immediately. The final game in Group D against Costa Rica is almost a free hit for England. How encouraging would it be to see England start with Barkley, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? There is room also for Hodgson to show sentimentality which is rare enough in any form of football let alone a world cup. This game will undoubtedly spell the end of the road in international football for Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. With 217 caps and 50 goals between them, it would be fitting if both the captain and vice captain were able to bow out on the pitch against Costa Rica. The thought of Gerrard being replaced by Lampard with twenty minutes to go and handing over the captain’s armband whilst both players are applauded by their team-mates is already bringing a nostalgic tear to the eye.

When the qualifiers for Euro 2016 get under way, I would like to see Joe Hart given the captain’s armband. He has not been his usual assured self during this tournament but he has shown at Manchester City under Manuel Pellegrini that he responds well to proactive man management. Appointing him captain of a brave young squad could be a masterstroke for Hodgson.

It is important now that England focus on the positives from this campaign. They have taken the game to two quality sides in stifling conditions and come up just short both times. They have finally embraced the attacking philosophies that the rest of Europe had adopted years ago – the days of four four two are over. They will be inevitably criticised for their naivety but it won’t take them long to realise that the same people bemoaning the lack of experience in the squad are the same people who were praising the manager for putting his faith in youth when the squad was announced on the 12th of May. If Hodgson and his players are allowed to stay together then the future looks increasingly bright.

Euro 2016 will mark fifty years of tournament football since England were world champions. In England’s brave new world, that fatalistic number has a pleasant ring to it.


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.

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


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.




Everyone’s joined the party and Germany have grabbed the best seats

Four years ago, no one outside of Germany knew much about the country’s young side and their jagger-look-a-like manager Joachim Low. A third place finish in South Africa changed all that and Low was immediately linked with every top job in European club football. The fact that a talented young squad and coach have grown together for such a long time (four years is an age in international football) means that Germany have become a formidable force.

Of those starlets we’d never heard of in the last world cup, Manuel Neuer is now the finest stopper on the planet, Mats Hummels is a classy centre back, Ozil can thread the ball through the eye of a needle and Thomas Muller is the complete number 10.The spine of the team is without weakness.

The system is similar to the Spanish team of Euro 2012. There is no out and out striker as such. Muller plays in the ‘false number nine’ position if you like but Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski are all more than capable of weighing in with goals.

To aid the young players is the invaluable experience of Per Mertesacker, Miroslav Klose (who needs one goal to equal the record for world cup finals) and the indomitable Phillip Lahm. There is strength in depth also. Sami Khedira can play across the midfield and the squad has shown no signs of struggling without the services of talented youngster Marco Reuss, injured on the eve of the tournament. There is not a weakness to be found among Low’s 23.

Their performance on Monday night to demolish Portugal was the most complete team effort of the tournament so far. It is without hyperbole to suggest that the 4-0 scoreline flattered the men from Iberia. Portugal’s apologists might point to Pepe’s red card as a mitigating factor for the difference between the sides. However, Germany were already 2-0 up by that stage and looked threatening whereas Portugal (bar Ronaldo) had offered nothing.

Had Low left four years ago the story might be very different now. However, the fact that coach and players have developed together has created a fantastic spirit in the Germany squad. The reaction of all the players after Muller’s hat trick goal was one of shared delight, a marked contrast to the isolated celebrations of Arjen Robben on Friday night. There is a sense of common purpose pervading everything that the German players do. After coming up just short in recent tournaments, the players clearly believe that this is their time.

Readers must forgive me for my conservatism here. The brave pundit sticks his head above the parapet before a tournament starts and calls their winner. I have waited to see everyone play once before declaring that Germany are the most impressive team we’ve seen so far and that this is their tournament to lose.

No European team has ever won a world cup in South America. That unwanted record could soon be about to change.

World Cup 2014: How the big names performed in the opening round in Brazil

As the first round of matches of the group stage come to a close we take a look at the stars who were supposed to dazzle in Brazil.


He is one of the most exciting young footballers in the world, and at the age of 22, has already become somewhat of an icon in Brazil.


With 33 goals under his belt, Neymar carries the hopes of the hosts on his shoulders but in the two group stage matches, Neymar has failed to match his own lofty standards.

Against Croatia, he did get a brace but it was hardly a convincing performance. The first goal, a tentative shot from outside the box, which just managed to evade the stretched hands of Pletikosa.

The other- a dubious penalty which never should have been. But strikers make their own luck so Neymar does deserve some credit for helping Brazil take all three points.

In the second game against Mexico, Neymar was shut down. He was given no space and the Mexican midfield kept him at bay all evening. It was a frustrating match for the Brazilian who was unable to go on that trademark, weaving, dazzling runs as the Mexicans roughed him up.

Overall performance rating: 3/5

Robin van Persie:

The 30-year-old Manchester United striker came to Brazil on the back of a lackluster, injury plagued season but he has taken the world cup by storm.


RvP’s lob header for the first goal went viral and has become the subject for memes and has earned him the nicknames ‘Batman’ and the ‘Flying Dutchman’.

Overall performance rating: 5/5

Diego Costa:

The Brazilian in the Spanish squad generated a lot of buzz with his performances for Athletico Madrid in their odds defying title winning season.


Costa however failed to impress, and only added to the woes of Vicente Del Bosque. Costa’s physical style of play went completely against the possession based tiki-taka that the Armada enjoys.

Overall performance rating: 1/5

Yaya Toure:

The midfield marshal from Manchester, Toure would be hoping to lead the elephants to the second round.


While Ivory Coast came from being one goal down against Japan to win 2-1 on the day, Toure failed to leave his mark on the match raising doubts over his fitness. Playing a more advanced midfield role than what he is used to at City, Toure was often found stranded watching the match from the sidelines, so to speak. Toure remains one of the best box-to-box midfielder in the world, but seems ill suited as a number 10.

Overall performance rating 3/5


‘Madman Mario’ is a maverick. On a given day he can change the course of a match in a single moment and on another he can self-destruct.


Against England, to Prandelli’s relief, the good guy showed up. Balotelli scored the winner and put the Azzuri in charge of the group.

Overall performance rating 4/5

Wayne Rooney:

Nobody divides England like Rooney does. Sections of the English press love to berate him over his fitness and many think he is past his prime. Roy Hodgson meanwhile, has faith in him, but he played him out wide on the left.


While Rooney got an assist for the lone goal for England, but he remained a peripheral figure for most of the match.

However, Rooney is expected to return to his favoured number 10 position against Uruguay.

Overall performance rating: 2/5

Karim Benzema:

The Real Madrid striker could have had the first hat-trick of the 2014 World Cup if it wasn’t for the goal-line technology.

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France have a really exciting young squad with a very talented midfield. With Honduras down to 10-men, Benzema wreaked havoc at the Estádio Beira-Rio notching up two goals.

Overall performance rating 5/5

Lionel Messi:

The god of football, the genius from Barcelona, according to many experts, will be the key man at the world cup. Argentina have a star studded squad and fans hope that Messi will be able to finally bury his world cup hoodoo.


Messi did score the winner against Bosnia and Herzegovina, his first in a world cup in eight long years, but he hardly put in a commanding performance.

Overall performance rating 3/5

Thomas Muller:

The golden boot winner from 2010, Thomas Muller scored the first hat-trick of 2014 world cup.


In a scintillating performance Germany completely humiliated Portugal and Muller was in the thick of the action. His vision, and knack of finding spaces in the defense line rattled the Portuguese and allowed the German midfield take control in a completely one sided contest.

Overall performance rating 5/5

Cristiano Ronaldo:

The world footballer of the year looked like a child who had lost his favourite toy.

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Ronaldo started the match well, and then disappeared from the field. Portugal were at sixes-and-sevens against Der Mannschaft. Before the game Ronaldo had declared himself fit but he looked completely out-of-it as Portugal had a nightmare of an opening game. With Pepe sent off, and Coentrao ruled out of the tournament with a thigh injury Paulo Bento would be hoping for a miracle if Portugal have to qualify from the group.

Overall performance rating 1/5

Eden Hazard:

The Chelsea winger is seen as one the young stars who will take the world cup by storm. With a sensational run up to Brazil, Belgium have got lots of critics excited with their attacking football.

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Against the lowly Algeria however, Belgium, and Eden Hazard, left it late. After going a goal down in the first half hour thanks to a penalty, Belgium scored two goals in the space of ten minutes in the second half to take all three points. The second goal saw the Red Devils mount a stunning counter attack with Hazard running through the Algerian midfield. He set up Mertens with a defense splitting pass. Hazard made some nice runs down the left wing, but struggled to find an opening till the 80th minute.

Overall performance rating: 3/5

World Cup 2014: Five record-breaking moments from the 1st round of group games

The first round of group stage matches in the FIFA World Cup 2014 have been completed.

Some teams find themselves already in dire straits in the tournament with do-or-die matches coming up. It is all started with revenge and vindication but heartbreaks also became the part for some teams.

The World Cup’s opening group games have produced several record-breaking moments in a scintillating start to the tournament.

1. The first 16 games produced 49 goals, an average of 3.06 per game.

The scoring spree has made this World Cup one of the most exciting in memory and it is on track to be the highest scoring since the 1958 finals in Sweden which averaged 3.60 goals.

Hosts Brazil helped push up the tally with a 3-1 victory against Croatia while Germany’s 4-0 win over Portugal in their opener boosted the total.

So far the Dutch have netted the most in a match, thrashing Spain 5-1 in the tournament’s highest scoring game. Only one match has so far finished goalless – Iran v Nigeria.

The 1998 World Cup in France produced 171 goals, the most overall in a tournament.

2. Clint Dempsey scores fifth-fastest World Cup goal

The United States captain shocked Ghana 30 seconds into the match when he slammed a left-footed shot in off the post in their Group G opener.

The strike, behind Bryan Robson’s goal in 27 seconds for England in 1982 and ahead of Emile Veinante’s 35-second goal for France in 1938, also made Dempsey the first American to score in three World Cups.

The fastest goal at a World Cup was scored after 11 seconds by Turkey’s Hakan Sukur against hosts South Korea in 2002 in the third-place playoff match.

3. Six come from behind wins in the first 16 games

The see-saw action has shown that no lead is safe. Brazil fell behind to an own goal to Croatia to start tournament but fought back for a 3-1 win.

World champions Spain opened the scoring with a Xabi Alonso penalty before Robin Van Persie led a Dutch fightback.

Costa Rica recovered to shock Uruguay, Switzerland regrouped to defeat Ecuador in stoppage time and the Ivory Coast rebounded to beat Japan. Belgium came from behind to win against Algeria.

4. Germany become first team to play 100 World Cup games

Germany became the first side to play 100 matches as the three-time champions strolled to a 4-0 victory against Portugal.

Germany boast a record of 61 wins, 19 draws and 20 defeats while scoring 210 goals and conceding 117. They won the World Cup in 1954, 1974 and 1990.

5. Juergen Klinsmann maintains undefeated opening day record

United States coach Klinsmann preserved his record of having won the opening match at every World Cup he has competed in as a player and coach after a last-gasp 2-1 victory against Ghana.

Klinsmann played for Germany at the 1990, ’94 and ’98 World Cups and guided them to third spot at the 2006 finals on home soil.

A Sweet Defeat or a Bitter Victory?

It seems that no matter what he does, Roy Hodgson will always be damned with the tag of conservatism. Despite throwing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in to Euro 2012, Andros Townsend in to crucial World Cup qualifiers and a host of young players in his final 23, there will always be those who prefer to remember the man who seemed almost deferential to Manchester United during his ill fated reign as Liverpool manager.

England started this world cup as massive underdogs. The announcement of a group containing Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica was met with a cut throat gesture by FA Chairman Greg Dyke. Ahead of last night’s game with the Azzurri, England supporters were clamouring for Hodgson to throw the youngsters into the deep end to see how well they could swim in the Amazonian humidity. The general consensus was that it will be better for England to crash out of this tournament swinging from the hip as opposed to the plodding, tentative ineptitude of South Africa four years ago.

It was therefore, a pleasant surprise to see Hodgson and England throw caution to the wind last night and start with Liverpool’s highly rated youngster Raheem Sterling. His inclusion illuminated the first half and one early shot from long range that rippled the side netting had the broadcasters convinced that England were one nil ahead.

England’s performance as a whole was by far the most adventurous and enterprising in a major tournament match since the group stages of Euro 2004. Yet England still, agonisingly, lost the game. Herein, lies the catch 22 situation facing Roy Hodgson for the remaining two group games. Had he not started with Sterling and played an extra man in midfield, England might not have been caught out as easily as they were for either of Italy’s goals. Had England sacrificed their adventure for greater stability, the match would almost certainly have ended in a draw. England must beat Uruguay on Thursday night to have any chance of progressing to the knockout stages but defeat will see them almost certainly out. Do England continue with their attacking intent and risk defeat or do they go back into their shells? For the supporters there is no debate. Watching England on Saturday night was almost a cathartic experience. There was pride in the team’s performance and a sense that the players were connecting with the fans again after being so detached in South Africa. The feeling among England fans was that the defensive naivety and the defeat could be forgiven because of the courageous aspects of the performance. There is definitely a good way to lose and this was it.

If England continue in this attacking vein on Thursday night and still come up short then so be it. The fans will get behind a team that sets out to entertain. After so many years of seeing England go down with a whimper, it was perversely all the more upsetting to see them lose when playing well, And yet, at the same time, it was undoubtedly more uplifting.