Stat attack: the anorak’s guide to the group stages

136: there have been 136 goals so far. At a total of 2.83 per game this has been one of the most entertaining world cups in recent memory. 136 is a group stage record in a 32 team tournament. To put this into context, there were only 145 goals scored in the entire tournament in South Africa four years ago. Brazil 2014 is on course to beat the record of 171 goals in a 32 team tournament set in France 98.

32: all 32 teams have scored at least once in the group stages for the first time since France 98.

10: the Netherlands are the tournament’s top scorers with 10 goals so far. Lowest scorers Cameroon and Iran have netted just once each.

1: Costa Rica, Belgium and Mexico have had the meanest defences yielding just one goal apiece.

4: Thomas Muller, Lionel Messi and Neymar are the top scoring players with four goals each. Muller leads the race for the golden boot due to having an assist to his name.

7: the highest scoring match saw seven goals as France beat Switzerland 5-2 in Salvador. The same venue also saw the two biggest victory margins, Netherlands 5-1 Spain and Germany 4-0 Portugal.

2: there have been two hat tricks so far, Thomas Muller for Germany against Portugal and Xherdan Shaqiri for Switzerland against Honduras.

4: there have also been four own goals.

15: Miroslav Klose’s goal against Ghana was his record equalling 15th finals goal. He has scored these goals over the last four tournaments. In the same period of time, England have scored 17.

Best goal: there have been some outstanding contenders but Tim Cahill’s volley against the Dutch was reminiscent of Van Basten and will take some beating.

Best save: Guillermo Ochoa’s one handed reach to deny Neymar at full stretch has been compared with Gordon Banks’ similar stop against Pele in 1970.

Biggest flop: despite not being fully fit, Cristiano Ronaldo’s status as the best player in the world means that he will be desperately disappointed with one goal and a first round exit.

Biggest shock: With the three richest domestic leagues in the world, you’d have been given fantastic odds on England, Spain and Italy all exiting in the group stage.

Best sight: the atmosphere at every game has been tremendous and the zeal with which Brazil and Chile in particular have sung their national anthems has been a joy to behold. However, seeing Fifa restore some much needed credibility and finally coming down hard on a player deserving of punishment has made a welcome change. From a vindictive point of view, the four month ban for Luis Suarez was a tonic.

Best player: With the expectation of 200 million fans weighing heavy on his young shoulders, Neymar has been sensational. He has dazzled when Brazil have, at times, been ordinary.

The second round line up is as follows: Brazil vs Chile

Uruguay vs Colombia

Netherlands vs Mexico

Costa Rica vs Greece

France vs Nigeria

Argentina vs Switzerland

Germany vs Algeria

Belgium vs USA

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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.

 

 

 

Compelling Evidence to Suggest that Holland CANNOT Win the World Cup

There are few relationships in football more jealous than that between a Dutchman and the ball itself. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Dutch footballers are blessed with an extraordinary first touch. As these gems from Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Dennis Bergkamp demonstrate, once the ball is under control it seems to become a part of the player’s body.

However, it is also universally acknowledged that Dutch players are amongst the most egocentric in world football. The penchant for a beautiful first touch is symbolic of a desire to keep the ball exclusively. It is has often been the case that the individual takes precedent over the needs of the team and infighting has blighted many a Dutch world cup campaign. And despite their magnificent performance in demolishing world champions Spain 5-1 on Friday night there were signs that all may not be well in the Dutch camp.

Upon scoring the equaliser (an early contender for goal of the tournament) Robin Van Persie sprinted fifty yards to celebrate with manager Louis Van Gaal. The two will shortly be club colleagues at Manchester United. Van Persie was seen as a disruptive influence at Old Trafford last season and it is likely he would have walked away had Van Gaal not been appointed. Van Gaal is not renowned for being a genial manager and therefore his celebration with Van Persie implies a hint of favouritism towards his captain. The potential is there for disharmony among the other players in Van Gaal’s squad.

There appears to be no such tension between Van Persie and Arjen Robben. When the striker was substituted he handed the captain’s armband to Robben with great pomp and ceremony. However, there were hints that all is not well between Robben and the rest of his team mates. For Holland’s fifth goal, Georginio Wijnaldum was perfectly placed for a tap in yet there was never any danger of Robben passing the ball. The shrug of Wijnaldum’s shoulders as the ball hit the net told it’s own story.

Wijnaldum was then guilty of the cardinal sin of switching off after his late shot was saved by Iker Casillas. He threw his arms into the air and was stationary when a follow up shot form Wesley Sneijder was also saved. Sneijder’s own discontent with his lack of goals seemed to outweigh any joy he should have felt for the beautiful through ball he had played for Robben’s second goal.

Spain have been plagued with self doubt since last season’s 3-0 Confederations Cup Final defeat to Brazil. The aura of invincibility has gone and they were there to be shot at by Holland on Friday night. However, wilier teams will pose a much greater threat to Holland throughout this tournament. If the supply to Robben and Van Persie is cut then the frustration will start to grow. Few teams do individual skill like Holland. The legendary Johan Cruyff even had a piece of skill named after him. Yet the fact that the whole has never been greater than the sum of the parts has meant that Holland are the greatest nation never to win the world cup. In this observer’s eyes that trend looks set to continue.

Mexico v Cameroon

Mexico: Ochoa; Rodriguez, Marquez, Moreno, Layun, Aguilar; Guardado, Herrera, Vazquez; Dos Santos, Peralta.
Cameroon: Itandje; Assou-Ekotto, Nkoulou, Mbia, Chedjou; Djeugoue, Enoh Song; Moukandjo, Choupo Moting; Eto’o.

Ref : Wilmar Roldan Perez (Colombia)
Att : 39216

Story of the Match 

  • Oribe Peralta put Mexico in front in Natal with a goal in the 61st minute
  • Giovani dos Santos had early goal for Mexico disallowed due to offside
  • He then had ANOTHER goal disallowed after scoring header from corner
  • Javier Hernandez started on the bench for Mexico

Mexico have beaten Cameroon 1-0 in a rain-drenched Natal but the World Cup match was once again scarred by more refereeing blunders. Mexico enjoyed greater possession, and had to overcome the frustration of two disallowed first-half goals, a stubborn opponent and torrential rain to earn three vital points in Group A.The rain was relentless, descending in thick sheets to turn this city’s glistening new soccer stadium into an overstuffed water park.

Many in the stands did not seem to mind. The crowd was crammed with expectant Mexico supporters, who had traveled to Natal in huge numbers and were percolating in team colors through the city’s beachside pubs and restaurants during the week. Cameroonian midfielder Eyong Enoh said it felt like the game was taking place in Mexico, and the play reflected that. Fans yelled “Olé!” as Mexico tapped the ball around the sodden field. Mexico’s wingbacks, Layún and Paul Aguilar, took advantage of the considerable space Cameroon’s defense conceded to them. In Miguel Herrera’s system, the two essentially become attacking midfielders in transition. Cameroon, save for a brief bright stretch midway through the first half and a few desperate runs in the final minutes, looked toothless.

Cameroon have now lost five #WorldCup games in a row, the longest ever losing streak by an African team. Gloom.

Oribe Peralta grabbed the only goal after 61 minutes but Mexico will consider themselves unlucky not to have been more comfortable winners after Giovani Dos Santos had two goals ruled out for dubious offside decisions in the first-half.

In the 11th minute, the Villarreal player found the target with a sweet, stabbed volley from a cross by Porto’s Hector Herrara but his effort was ruled out for being offside.  On the 30-minute mark, a Dos Santos header from a corner by Miguel Layun was also not allowed to stand. In between, Cameroon skipper Samuel Eto’o had a goal chalked off for offside, although this time the referee made the right decision.

The blunders came just a day after Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura controversially awarded a penalty which set Brazil on their way to a 3-1 win over Croatia.

The one thing to worry about for Mexico is the two blown offside calls. Goal differential could easily be a factor in Group A.

Peralta deservedly put Mexico in front just after the hour mark. Dos Santos’s shot was parried into his path and the Club Santos Laguna striker slotted in from close range.

Cameroon’s Benjamin Moukandjo had a chance to rescue a point in injury time but his header was well-saved by Guillermo Ochoa.

As it Happened.

  • 11′  Kitchen Sink Or Caution?
  • 30′  Dos Santos Penalized Again
  • 45+2  Halftime: Cameroon-Mexico 0-0
  • 61′  The Brush Sweeps Home
  • 71′  Mexico In Command
  • 81′  Chicharito Struts His Stuff
  • 90+4  Full Time

It was the team’s best performance under Herrera, who was named as coach late last year, and a hugely important win for the players, who want to put the embarrassment of their erratic qualification campaign behind them and advance this summer to what their fans often refer to as the World Cup’s “fifth game.” In each of the past five World Cups, the team has been eliminated after four games, in the Round of 16, creating a frustrating pattern.

Mexico will now play host nation Brazil on June 17 in Fortaleza, while Cameroon will travel to Manaus to play Croatia June 18.

Brazil 3 – 1 Croatia

Brazil: Cesar; Alves, Silva, Luiz, Marcelo; Paulinho, Gustavo; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred. Croatia: Pletikosa; Srna, Corluka, Lovren, Vrsaijko; Kovacic, Modric; Rakitic, Perisic, Olic; Jelavic.

Ref: Yuichi Nishimura
Att: 62,103

Story of the match:

  • Neymar scores twice for hosts
  • Croatia angry at penalty decision
  • Oscar also on target for Brazil
  • Vanishing spray and goal-line technology used for first time at World Cup

Brazil are off and running.

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — It was Dia dos Namorados on Thursday, the Brazilian equivalent of Valentine’s Day, which meant there were chocolates and flowers and couples holding hands tucked among the sea of yellow jerseys that stretched from the Itaquera neighborhood over to Jardins. From sunrise all the way until the shimmering moon peeked above the skyline, Brazilians showed their passion for one another, and for soccer, as the World Cup began.

But love — in any form — is a complicated matter. While there were moments of heat and adoration, particularly when Neymar scored the first of his two goals with a shot that bounced in off the post, Brazil’s 3-1 victory over Croatia hardly made for the perfect date. Inside and outside Arena Corinthians, emotions were mixed even before a referee’s decision in favor of Brazil plunged the tournament into controversy in the first game.

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I’m feeling rather sorry for Croatia who were quite hard done by. Neymar should have been sent off before both goals for a high elbow, a soft soft Peno, and perhaps an equaliser unfairly disallowed.

As it Happened.

  • 11′  It Was An Auto-Gol!
  • 26′ Reeee -nope YELLOW card
  • 29′ GOAAAALL NEYMARR
  • 69′  Penalty To Brazil! Brazil Leads 2-1!
  • 84′  No Goal
  • 92′  Gooooooooooool Brazil!

The moments before kick-off had been typically rousing. A passionate Brazilian crowd delivered another fervent rendition of the national anthem. Croatia were no more than an afterthought to most outside the thousand travelling fans.

Brazil actually fell behind early when Marcelo turned the ball into his own net in the 11th minute, after Ivica Olic had sprinted down the left side and sent a dangerous cross in front of the goal.

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Marcelo, who was retreating, basically ran the ball into his own net. Most in the announced crowd of 62,103 stood in stunned silence and then began booing and whistling angrily, having witnessed Brazil’s first own goal in World Cup history.

But when they needed a moment of magic, the man whose image had been splashed across every newspaper and TV station in Brazil provided it. Chelsea midfielder Oscar fought through two challenges and found Neymar. When the striker turned for goal, moving the ball on to his left foot, he had one thing in mind. The contact was not pure but the shot was unerringly accurate, creeping in from 25 yards, glancing the right post on its way.

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 50 Games 32 Goals And now Brazils 8th highest top scorer..

And he’s just 22 years old

Neymar pressed “rb” + “b” on that shot. Smart move. #fifa #fineseshot #BRAvsCRO

His second, 19 minutes before the end, was altogether more controversial. Dejan Lovren was judged to have fouled Fred in the box. Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura pointed to the spot, despite replays showing little contact had been made. Neymar converted, the ball deflecting in off the out-stretched arm of goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, to spark scenes of celebration. article-2656644-1EB7355200000578-114_634x624

Lol Neymar didn’t have the bottle to try an Abdoun #pussy #AbdounTheGreat #NottinghamForestJoke

Oscar put a gloss on the final score with a tremendous late goal that his man-of-the-match performance warranted. With Croatia committed upfield, he burst forward and toe-poked in from 25 yards, taking Pletikosa by surprise with a low drive.

It ensured a 10th consecutive win for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side but Brazil demonstrated flaws and fragilities. They did not play with the fluency or flamboyance that saw them swat aside Spain to win the Confederations Cup so emphatically last year. I still stand by my prediction that both these two sides will progress to the next round, but Brazil are going to have to play much better if they want to win the World Cup.

Man of the Match

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The Referee – Great influence in helping Brazil claim victory and excellent spray paint work! 10/10