Apologies for my lack of blog posts. I haven’t been able to cover any games like I said 😦 I have been really poorly, but Sean has held down the fort and posted some really interesting insights into a few key games so DO go check them out.
I’m working on a 1st round of group matches highlight, for anyone that wants so info, and looking forward to cracking on with the 2nd batch of group games! COME ON ENGLAND!
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.
Group F at the 2014 FIFA World Cup comprises of South American giants Argentina, European newcomers Bosnia-Herzegovina, African champions Nigeria and Asian representatives Iran. Argentina, a traditional football powerhouse, have flattered to deceive in recent international competitions but have been blessed with a fairly comfortable group to wade through.
Bosnia-Herzegovina will be making their debut in the FIFA World Cup finals, having failed to qualify in four previous attempts. Nigeria, crowned African champions in 2013, are making their fifth appearance at the World Cup while Iran have benefitted from their diasporas in European nations to continue their unusual trend of qualifying for alternate World Cup finals since the turn of the century.
Group F Schedule
Argentina vs Bosnia-Herzegovina
Rio de Janeiro
Iran vs Nigeria
Argentina vs Iran
Nigeria vs Bosnia-Herzegovina
Nigeria vs Argentina
Bosnia-Herzegovina vs Iran
Each of the six encounters in Group F will be hosted by different cities – Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Belo Horizonte, Cuiaba, Porto Alegre and Salvador. The opening game between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina will be staged at the fabled Maracana Stadium in the picturesque seaside city of Rio de Janeiro.
Estadio do Maracana (Rio de Janeiro)
This historical venue was once the largest stadium in the world with a capacity close to 200,000. Originally built for the 1950 FIFA World Cup, the Maracana underwent major reconstruction prior to the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. It will also host this year’s final.
A modernisation project which cost $287 million has completely changed the look and feel of this arena located in the third largest city in Brazil. This venue will also have the privilege of hosting a semi-final.
Arena Fonte Nova (Salvador)
The Arena Fonte Nova is a brand new stadium constructed for this tournament. Completed in April, it was in the news recently after a part of the roof collapsed due to torrential rains in the port-city. It will play host to the final game of Group F and one quarter final.
Beira-Rio Stadium (Porto Alegre)
It’s a race against time for the organisers to get this stadium ready for the event with FIFA also recently voicing its concern over the progress of work. Fans from Argentina and Nigeria have a treat on their hands in this football-mad city, also home to local clubs Gremio and Internacional.
Arena Pantanal (Cuiaba)
Located in the western part of the country, this stadium is slated to host four group stage fixtures. This region experiences scorching weather conditions in the summer with temperatures rising upto 40 degrees centigrade.
Arena da Baixada (Curitiba)
Home to Atletico Paranaense, this stadium was almost stripped off its World Cup hosting rights after an inspection by FIFA at the turn of the year. It is considered to be one the most modern stadiums in Brazil equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for players, fans and media personnel.
Argentina, ranked fifth in the world, would want to take the trophy in their regional arch-rivals Brazil’s home turf this time. They displayed their class in the friendly they won 3-0 against Trinidad & Tobago, letting everyone know that they are playing in the 2014 World Cup to take home no less than a win.
The team’s record at the mega event has been impressive, as they have bagged the biggest title twice. In this edition of the tournament, the squad has been prepared by Alejandro Sabella, also known as ‘the Magician’, while the beloved Lionel Messi will continue to lead the team.
Ever since Mario Kempes and Diego Maradona led their country to two World Cup trophies in 1978 and 1986, respectively, Argentina have failed to fulfil their potential and make a mark in the international arena. They have failed to get past the quarter-finals stage since 1990. But with a frontline (Messi, Aguero, Higuain, Di Maria) that would scare the living daylights out of any defence in the world, expectations have risen but so has the pressure on Sabella’s side to deliver.
The Sabella-Messi combination has proved to be fruitful for Argentina, and Sabella’s first decision as the coach was to make Messi the captain of the side in 2011.
The mystery team for the Group F will be Bosnia and Herzegovina. The team’s most impressive feat on paper is their Fifa ranking. They are the second best team after Argentina in the group, ranked at 21 in the world. This will be the debut for a nation that arrived at the football circuit in 1995.
Manchester City star Edin Dzeko together with Vedad Ibisevic and Miralem Pjanic will be the players to watch from Bosnia and Herzegovina. With a growing number of players from this country plying their trade in some of the best clubs across Europe, Bosnia-Herzegovina have finally found the right mix of talent which has propelled them to their first-ever World Cup finals. The likes of Dzeko, Spahic, Pjanic and Begovic have successfully carried their excellent club form to the international level which also resulted in a stellar qualifying campaign. The Bosnian side scored 30 goals and conceded just six in their ten qualifying games.
Iran are a single step ahead of Nigeria on the 43rd position in the Fifa world rankings. Their team is led by Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz, who is a former Real Madrid manager. He signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Iran’s national football team, which will end after the World Cup.
Their forward Reza Ghoochannejhad, captain Javad Nekounam and Karim Ansari will be on the radar of the players to watch.
With a tough group stage staring at them, Iran might not be able to make much headway in the tournament, but the standard of football in Iran has been given a huge boost with several players now foraying into European club football. A victory for Iran would be counted as an upset and will put the cat among the pigeons in Group F.
The Nigeria-Argentina fixture in the world cup has now become a tradition. They have met four times before. Nigeria are better known as the team against which Argentina legend Diego Maradona played his last match in the World Cup. The South Americans won 2-1 in 1994.
The main players who can make an impact for Nigeria in the grand event are midfielders John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses and Victor Obinna. Stephen Keshi has steadily groomed a side with the right mix of youth and experience and the seeds of his efforts bore fruit when Nigeria romped to glory at the African Cup of Nations in 2013. Nigeria’s squad for Brazil 2014 resembles the squad which lifted the trophy last year. But Nigeria have failed to go past the first hurdle in their last two World Cup finals and with a group as tightly contested as theirs, John Obi Mikel and his boys will have to perform out of their skins to upset the odds.
Argentina vs Bosnia & Herzegovina (June 16, Rio de Janeiro)
While most people have predicted a relaxed group stage journey for Argentina, Alejandro Sabella will be mindful of the form that Bosnia and Herzegovina are carrying into the tournament. Edin Dzeko would be itching to take advantage of the South Americans’ defensive deficiencies and any kind of complacency that might creep into the Argentinian camp. Bosnia won’t have anything to lose and they can be expected to go all out in the opening clash of Group F. The winners of this game are certain to emerge as table-toppers.
Nigeria vs Bosnia & Herzegovina (June 22, Cuiaba)
The likely tussle between Bosnia and Nigeria for the second place will reach its summit when the two sides go head-to-head in Cuiaba. With both sides expected to lose to Argentina and defeat Iran, this game could turn into a potential knock-out for either side. A draw would bring Iran into the picture and make the permutations even more interesting. Coaches from both camps, Stephen Keshi and Safet Susic, would already be preparing for this tie which could have far reaching repercussions on their World Cup aspirations.
Group F Predictions
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Argentina, with all their class and oodles of talent, should end up as comfortable group winners with the physical Bosnian side the only one that could bother the South Americans. Messi and co. will be hoping to bag all nine points on offer and avoid a potential round-of-16 encounter with France.
It will be a close fight between Bosnia and Nigeria for the second spot and whichever team comes out on top in their duel should qualify for the knock-out stages. The quality of the Bosnian team should be able to surmount the challenge of the Africans. Carlos Queiroz and his team should savour the experience of the World Cup finals while they can, as Iran might have to return home empty-handed from Brazil.
Switzerland were strong in the qualifiers, getting through to the finals with a game to spare and have a great chance of topping Group E. France has a squad of big name players but the focus will be on whether they can play as a team, and not have a finals dominated by player politics as in previous world cups. Controversially Didier Deschamps decided to leave Sami Nasri at home for these reasons. Ecuador have an outside chance, they will be better equipped to deal with the climate over their European rivals who hale from a much milder climate.
Group E Schedule
Switzerland v Ecuador
Estadio Nacional, Brasilia
France v Honduras
Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Switzerland v France
Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Honduras v Ecuador
Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Ecuador v France
Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro
Honduras v Switzerland
Arena Amazonia, Manaus
Estadio Nacional in Brasiilia will be among the more comfortable stadiums to play in, especially for the European teams. Mean temperatures in June are around 27-29 degrees celsius, but humidity levels could be a concern. In mid June, when Group E’s Brasilia match is scheduled to be held, humidity levels average in excess of 90%. Therefore again, tiring and frequent breaks can be expected
Estadio Biera-Rio having a capacity of 50,000 people approximately, will host the 2nd game of group E between France and Honduras. The stadium is known for its unique location in Porto Alegre, as it is placed right next to the Guaiba River.
Arena Fonte Nova (Salvador)
Capacity: 55,000 The Arena Fonte Nova is a brand new stadium constructed for this tournament. Completed in April, it was in the news recently after a part of the roof collapsed due to torrential rains in the port-city. It will play host to the 3rd game of Group E and one quarter final.
The Arena da Baixada located in Curitiba, Parana is one of the oldest stadiums in the world and has been renovated several times before the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It was opened in 1914 and has a capacity of 42,000 people approximately. The stadium will play host to the game between Honduras and Ecuador
The Estadio do Maracana located in Rio de Janiero, is the grandest stadium of the Selecao. With a capacity of 75,000 people approximately, it will host the game between Ecuador and France and will also play host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup final.
Arena Amazonia in Manaus follows suit with wet conditions and a 40% chance of thunderstorms and expected humidity up to 80 %. Honduras, should have climate as an advantage in their clash at Manaus v Switzerland.
World Cup 1998 winners France hung by a thread during their qualification for the 2014 tournament. They went down 2-0 to Ukraine in the first leg of a qualifier and were forced into a win or walk-away situation. But Les Bleus came back with a 3-0 performance to aggregate a win. Didier Deschamps’ side do not provide their fans with high hopes, but they will be striving to improve after a bad run at the 2010 tournament.
The team will fight with a mix of youth and experience this year. However, if we look at the goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris, midfielder Paul Pogba and strikers Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud, France do have a strong spine. They also form a strong defence line with Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal) and Raphael Varane (Real Madrid). But in a group containing mostly underdogs, it is beyond any doubt that they won’t be tested much.
Deschamps will face concerns while choosing his goal-scoring options. Ribery was the top scorer with five goals in qualifiers, while Giroud and Benzema could only muster a brace apiece, however Ribery has ruled himself out with a back injury.
From 1966 to 2006, Switzerland had qualified only once for the World Cup in 1994, which was held in the US. But their entry in the 2014 edition of the tournament sees them qualifying for the third consecutive time. They beat Albania 2-1 in their second-last qualifier to guarantee their place in the event with a match to spare.
With promising players making the cut, the satisfaction among the squad is palpable. But judging from their inexperience, it seems they have come four years too early in the tournament. Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld may be happy with his team topping their qualification group, but the task at hand will prove to be a much tougher test.
With Gokhan Inler – who plays for Napoli – leading the pack of the Swiss, they come into the tournament with only a few big names such as defenders Stephen Lichtsteiner (Juventus) and Philippe Senderos (Valencia). In the midfield, Inler and Bayern Munich’s midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri will be holding possession for the side. Meanwhile, forward Granit Xhaka, who has forged a very good reputation for himself in the Bundesliga with Borussia Monchengladbach, is being courted by a number of top European clubs, including Liverpool and Juventus. He is one player who can be tasked with rejuvenating the front line.
Ecuador are coming into the 2014 World Cup as a surprise package. This will be their third appearance in the tournament after they finished fourth in the South American qualification. La tri may have arrived with little historical success, but they beat Uruguay, their more well-known neighbours on the penultimate match in Quinto for a spot in Brazil.
Coach Reinaldo Rueda has been playing his team in an economic style, with major emphasis on teamwork, which they are hoping will see them qualify for the second round. They will have an advantage of playing in familiar conditions as two other teams in the group, France and Switzerland, come from a more moderate European zone.
Their best World Cup result was qualifying for the round of 16 in 2006, and they will be looking to equal, if not improve, this record.
The least fancied team of the tournament, Honduras come into the 2014 World Cup by taking much heart from the defeat they inflicted upon Mexico in the qualifiers at the Azteca. The win earned them a third place in their group.
However, Luiz Fernando Suarez’s side has a dearth of star names and will be relying on a collective effort of the team. Full-back Maynor Figueroa of Hull City is the only player worth mentioning in a side mostly comprising local players, a few from Chinese second division and a contingent that play in England who have had very little game time for their respective clubs.
The team, which lost to Spain and Chile and drew against Switzerland in the 2010 edition, is wanting in experience and talent. The most probable result for the team seems to be a group stage knockout, and anything other than that will be a shock for the football fans.
Switzerland topped the European section of qualifying with a margin of seven points to the closest chasers Iceland, and the team seems to be the most promising to qualify for the second round behind France. Despite some serious performance issues with France, Deschamps’ side has some big names in its squad and they showed glimpses of their greatness against European and world champions Spain by pushing them to a draw and finally sweating it out against Ukraine in the qualifications. Honduras and Ecuador, who barely made it through the qualifiers, will surely be wary of the threat French and Swiss players pose to their dreams of qualifying for the second round.
At the age of 22, Neymar is playing in his first ever World Cup
The World Cup is just days away, and thanks to the Red Bulletin app, Betting Instinct is able to provide you an exclusive sneak-preview of an interview with Brazil’s golden boy Neymar.
The 22-year-old is second-favourite for the Golden Boot (11.00 with AllYouBet.ag), and in this interview he speaks about his World Cup memories, and the pressure of leading his home country to a potential World Cup triumph on home soil.
The Red Bulletin:How do you deal with the pressure of the whole country asking you to win the World Cup?
Neymar: It’s been a dream since I was young, and today it’s right before me: I’m Brazil’s number 10, I’m going to play the World Cup, in my own country. I can’t see that as pressure. It has to give me pride…
Group B of the 2014 Fifa World Cup kicks off in style as Spain take on the Dutch, in what would be a reunion of the 2010 World Cup finalists. The La Rojas have yet another familiar foe in Chile, who have found them yet again seeded in the same group as Spain and the remaining berth occupied by Australia, who aren’t likely to put a spoke in the wheels of the World Cup finalists. Group B might not be termed the ‘Group of Death’ in this year’s edition but certainly a group perfectly poised and ‘B’ may well stand for brilliance.
Group B Schedule
Spain vs Netherlands
Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Chile vs Australia
Arena Pantanal, Culaba
Australia vs Netherlands
Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Spain vs Chile
Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janiero
Australia vs Spain
Arena de Baixada, Curitiba
Netherlands vs Chile
Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo
The Estadio do Maracana located in Rio de Janiero, is the grandest stadium of the Selecao. With a capacity of 75,000 people approximately, it will host the game between the Spaniards and Chileans and will also play host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup final.
Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova is the stadium where group B kicks off as the World Cup finalists battle it out. It is located in Salvador, Bahia with a maximum capacity of 55,000 people.
Arena Pantanal stadium was completed in the April, 2014 in Culaba. The Pantanal has a capacity of 40,000 people and will be inaugurated by Chile and Australia as they square off against each other at the newest stadium in Brazil.
Estadio Biera-Rio having a capacity of 50,000 people approximately, will host the 3rd game of group B between Australia and the Netherlands. The stadium is known for its unique location in Porto Alegre, as it is placed right next to the Guaiba River.
The Arena da Baixada located in Curitiba, Parana is one of the oldest stadiums in the world and has been renovated several times before the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It was opened in 1914 and has a capacity of 42,000 people approximately. The stadium will play host to the game between Spain and Australia.
Arena de Sao Paulo located in the Sao Paulo, will kick-off this year’s edition of FIFA World Cup as the opening game is to be held in the illustrious arena. It has a capacity of 65,000 people and will play host to the group game between Chile and Netherlands.
Defending Champions Spain will enter the 2014 World Cup as one of the favourites to retain the title. In their qualification for the World Cup, they finished at the top of their group ahead of France, despite a 1-1 draw against Didier Deschamps’ side at the Vincente Calderon.
Questions have been asked about Spain’s era of world dominance after they received a 3-0 thrashing from record five-time World Cup winners Brazil in the final of the Confederations Cup. Although there are still doubts but the squad is being rated better than the Euro 2012 side.
Spain’s monopoly of possession will prove to be a tough task for the opponents. They can restrict scoring by holding possession, and can upset the other team with a calculated move to find the net by exploiting spaces in defence. Their opponents were able to find the net only six times in the last three major tournaments, while they have not conceded a single goal in the knockout stages. Iker Casillas will be wearing the team’s red band while constantly guarding the net. He remains one of the main forces in Spain’s defence to restrict teams from scoring against them.
In the midfield, stars like Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantra will be caucusing to form the nucleus of Spain’s attack; however La Furia Roja face uncertainty in their offensive options. Juan Mata stays a strong contender while Diego Costa is also at the top his game despite recently struggling with Injuries. Meanwhile, David Villa and Fernando Torres’ influence has waned over the last two seasons and they have been selected to add experience in Spain’s successful defence of the World Cup title.
The 2010 World Cup runners-up Netherlands went through a very easy qualification phase, but there is little hope among the supporters that the Oranjes can make a significant impact in the tournament.
Despite the below-par display in the bigger stages, the Netherlands qualified to the FIFA World Cup finals in a convincing manner. Having seeded against a tricky group comprising of Romania, Hungary, Turkey, Estonia and Andorra, the Dutch managed to add 28 points to their kitty as captain Robin Van Persie finished as top scorer of the UEFA qualification zone with 11 goals.
They have been placed in what is being considered as a tough group, and even if they earn a second spot behind the most probable top spot contenders Spain, they will have a likely face-off against a refreshed Brazil team in the second round.
Chile will be hoping to go into the second round but the task requires them to slay either Spain or the Netherlands, something they are definitely capable of.
Chile, known for their tactical innovation, have been mostly overshadowed by their South American counterparts. They were appreciated for their high pressing game in the 2010 World Cup under Marcelo Bielsa, where they used a 3-3-1-3 formation to formulate an up-beat tempo in their match.
With the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Bravo, Chile are more than capable of springing a surprise in this year’s edition. Chile have hardly tasted any success at the international arena with their best performance in a World Cup being a third-place finish way back in 1962 and have often failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals. However, the Chileans’ sublime form over the last 10 months have earned them the 14th place in the FIFA rankings, one place ahead of their group rivals Netherlands.
Jorge Sampaoli’s men had a good deal of success in the CONMEBOL qualifications, finishing third behind Argentina and Columbia. Arturo Vidal and Eduardo Vargas finished as top scorers for the Chileans with 5 goals.
Australia, one of the proudest sporting nations in the world, will have little expectations while coming into the 2014 World Cup
The Australians have qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals only for the fourth time but undoubtedly deserve credit for having pulled it off for the third consecutive time. However, their best performance had come in their maiden World Cup finals in 1974 when they finished 14th place. The recent performances have caused the Australians to slip three places in the FIFA rankings to 62nd position.
The Socceroos had an impressive run in the AFC qualifications losing just a game each in the fourth and fifth rounds. Joshua Kennedy finished as top scorer for the Australians with 5 goals.
Spain vs Netherlands and Chile vs Netherlands are undoubtedly the most decisive fixtures of the group. Assuming Spain would see the Netherlands off, Chile would square off against the Dutch in a do-or-die fixture to reserve a berth in the Round-of-16 stage. Hence, Chile vs Netherlands is the most decisive game of the group.
A win for either of them could take them straight through to the Round-of-16 as runners-up of the group while a draw could take it other factors such as goal-difference and most goals scored, if required.
The Spaniards might not be in the best shape but undoubtedly remain one of the most formidable sides of this year’s edition and likely to emerge winners of the group. The Australians have to be given due credit for an impressive showing in the qualifications but in honesty, the buck stops here for the Socceroos and Chile vs Netherlands are the possible runners-up of the group. Given the recent performances of the Dutch and Chileans, we can boldly predict Chile to edge the Netherlands out to join Spain to the Round-of-16 stage.