World Cup 2014 : A Case Of ‘After The Lord Mayor’s Show’

After the amazing scenes from the night before, this game would have to do a lot to even match the drama from the previous Semi Final.

Argentina started Benfica midfielder Enzo Perez to replace the injured Di Maria, who is now a doubt for the final, a big blow for Argentina. If Brazil’s crushing defeat wasn’t bad enough, it would rub salt into the wounds to see their arch rivals progress to the final. For Holland, they were looking to finally drop their ‘bridesmaid’ tag, which they have been carrying for many years due to their nature of always falling short. If Brazil showed how not to defend, these two nations most certainly could. Both teams played with the fear of losing, rather than the drive to win. The first half was virtually a non event in terms of goals, with defensive players shining. Especially Ron Vlaar and Javier Mascherano. Messi was marked out of the game, his only effort being a free kick hit straight at the keeper. Robben, who has been so effective all tournament was reduced to the periphery of the match, a half in which he only attempted a single pass. Van Persie who has been suffering from a stomach bug was evidently not at his best. Unsurprisingly, it was still goalless at half time.

The second half was slightly more open, but that wasn’t saying much. Higuain had the best chance for Argentina, Perez put in a lovely cross from the right, with the Napoli strikers effort just hitting the side netting, Nigel De Jong had an excellent game, he sat on Messi for the duration of his time on the field, and stifled the Argentina play-maker out of the game. There would always be one chance to win it, and it fell to Robben late on. Clean through on goal, it seemed certain he would fire Holland into the final, but a heavy touch allowed Mascherano who was having an amazing game, to get in the tackle. As Extra Time went on, Argentina had probably the best of the chances, with Palacio and Rodriguez both having good chances but fired right at the keeper. It was no surprise that the game went onto penalties, it was truly a mundane game. After the whirlwind of a match the night before. This match would always find it tough to live up to expectation, and this was most certainly the case. Messi did not have a single touch of the ball inside the Dutch area, which summed up the nature of the game. If the attacking was poor, you have to give credit for the work the defensive members of the teams put in. One note of interest was that due to Holland making all 3 changes, Van Gaal could not replace keeper Jasper Cillessen with Tim Krul as he did in the last game. How would this effect the Dutch goalkeeper, knowing he was pretty much not trusted to take part in the previous shootout.

Eyebrows were raised when Ron Vlaar stepped up for the first kick, he may have had an outstanding game, but his is not one of Hollands regular spot kick takers. This was shown, as his kick was saved down low by Romero. Messi put away his kick to give Argentina an early lead. Robben and Garay followed suit with their kicks. The pressure was on Holland after missing their opening kick, and the pressure told, as Sneijder had his effort well saved. With Aguero scoring his, it was effectively 2 match points to Argentina. Dirk Kuyt scored to keep Holland in it, but it was Maxi Rodriguez who sealed their fate. His powerful shot may very well have been saved, but Cillessen’s wrists were not strong enough to keep the ball out. The keeper did not look confident in any of the kicks, and maybe being dropped last time around had hit his confidence. Van Gaal did reveal post match that he would have thrown on Krul again if he had substitutes left. So it was heartbreak again for the Dutch, who once again played well, but have not got the big prize. Germany await for victors Argentina, the Germans were in a brutal mood against Brazil. Argentina will have to play much better if they are to hope to lift the trophy on the soil of their long term rivals.

Before the Final though, it will be the match no semi finalist wants to play, the 3rd place play off between Brazil and Holland on Saturday. Brazil may take this game more seriously out of the two, as they look to make some amends for their horror show.


The Nightmare In Belo Horizonte

Ever since 2007, when Brazil were confirmed as the hosts of the 2014 World Cup, the nation were believing in a World Cup win on home soil. But in the space of 6 brutal minutes in Belo Horizonte, that dream was destroyed, simply put, this was a massacre on the biggest of stages.

Even before the match started, Brazil seemed very emotional, with David Luiz lifting up a Neymar shirt during the anthems. A tad dramatic for a player who was just injured. This probably wasn’t the wisest of moves, and made Germany sense a weakness in the team. After a bright opening few minutes for Brazil, it soon become sour, it didn’t take long for the Germans to open the scoring. From a corner, Thomas Muller was left inexplicably free, and had the simple job of putting the ball into the net. The defending was woeful, and Brazil were punished. Not a great start, but if Brazil regrouped, they could get back into the game. In the space of 6 minutes, the game was over. Miroslav Klose, who has been looking for that one goal to finally become the all out leading goalscorer in World Cup history finally got his moment. Fernandinho failed to cut out a pass, and withing seconds, Germany were in, Klose had his initial shot saved, but put away the rebound. He now took the record away from Ronaldo, which just added to the Brazilian misery of the night. Minutes later, Lahm put in a cross from the right, which evaded all the defenders and found its way to Toni Kroos, who rifled in a powerful shot for the 3rd. It was Kroos right from the kick off who disposed Fernandinho, played a quick 1-2 with Khedira, to slot home his second goal, and the fourth for Germany. The stadium, and nation were stunned, and it got even worse. David Luiz came charging out from defense and failed to get the ball, the gap left behind was exposed swiftly, with Ozil playing in Khedira for a simple finish. An outstanding first half for Germany, no team has ever conceded 5 by half time in a Semi Final. If this was a boxing match, the referee would have called it. Unfortunately for Brazil, they would have to suffer another 45 minutes.

The second half was an improvement on the disaster of the opening half, Germany may have eased off, but Brazil were out to salvage some sort of pride. But Manuel Neuer was in no mood to give up his clean sheet so easily, even at 5-0 up. Paulinho had a good chance to pull a goal back, but a double save from Neuer kept him out. Soon Oscar had a great chance, but fired right at the keeper. Which pretty much summed up a gloomy night for the Brazilians. If the neutrals watching feared Germany would stop playing in the second half, it was not the case. Andre Schürrle on a sub, tucked home from close range for goal number 6. He then sealed the German display with a wonderful finish from a tight angle off the crossbar. A sublime goal, which even the Brazilians in the crowd applauded. For Brazil, there was no joy on the field, their forwards once again had a anonymous game, Fred was removed to the sound off boos raining from the stands, Hulk who was removed at half time failed to score all tournament. Many critics were not convinced by David Luiz, and he did not show much composure for a player who has just signed for PSG for a record £50m. Jose Mourinho must surely feel smug pulling off that deal. Brazil did manage to get a goal, Oscar, who bar Neymar has been their best player burst free in injury time, and scored smallest of consolation goals.

The final whistle bought down the curtains on a horror show for the home fans. It was a display the home crowd did not deserve to witness, but to their credit, most stayed for the entire game. Brazil may not have had their star player Neymar, and captain Thiago Silva to anchor the defense. But there was no excuse for their mass failings all over the pitch. There will now be a huge inquiry into the state of the game in Brazil. For Luiz Felipe Scolari, the highs of winning the tournament in 2002 seems an awful long time ago, and he will surely resign in the post mortem. Germany will now be the favorites after such a dismantling, they did not waste much energy in the second half, and will be in good shape against whoever they face on Sunday for the biggest prize of them all.


World Cup Day 2014 – Day 24 : Los Ticos Finally Fall

Not since Italia ’90 have Argentina appeared in the semi finals, a frankly underwhelming record for one of the superpowers of world football. They would be looking to end that long run against a Belgium team who would book only their second ever semi final place with a win. Argentina have been relying mainly on the genius of Lionel Messi for the majority of the tournament, and many were waiting for the rest of their multi-talented team to step up to the plate. It didn’t take too long, Gonzalo Higuain, who has yet to register this tournament sprung to life in the opening 10 minutes. Messi carried the ball in midfield past 2 players and played the pass to Di Maria. His attempted play in the bombarding right back Zabaleta was deflected away into the path of Higuain. Who instinctively rifled in an exquisite half volley from just inside the area into the far corner. The keeper had barely moved, but it was a great piece of improvisation from the Napoli hit-man. Belgium seemed to be following a similar pattern to how the French played the day before, a team of such attacking quality seemed very subdued. They were also having lots of trouble trying to contain Messi, with multiple players trying to tackle him on various occasions in the first half. Higuain was having a great game, and almost scored twice in the second half.The second of the chances was a great run from half way, with a cheeky nutmeg on Kompany on route, but crashed the shot off the bar. Hazard, who has had a poor tournament was having another quite game, and it wasn’t surprising to see him get replaced. It was only in the last 10-15 minutes did it look like Belgium would get back on level terms. Fellaini had a chance when his header flew wide of the goal. Lukaku was also bought on to provide some power and strength, but as Belgium pressed for the winner, Argentina almost doubled their lead. Messi was played through on goal, a goal seemed inevitable but a good save from Courtois kept the Europeans hopes alive briefly. Argentina never looked to be in too much trouble, and looked like they could have stepped it up if required. They finally end their barren run and move into the semi finals. For Belgium, their much lauded ‘Golden Generation’ seemed to suffer the fate of England’s Golden Generation, falling at the quarter finals.

The last quarter final on paper looked to be a free pass for the Dutch. Costa Rica have done incredibly well to get to this stage, but surely Holland will be too far a step? The game though followed a similar pattern of Costa Rica’s previous games. They played with great tactical discipline. They were not drawn out by the Dutch attack, and they held their shape throughout the half. Holland saw plenty of the possession, but seemingly could not break down the resistance. The Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas was having another great display, keeping out Van Persie and Sneijder in the first half. The Dutch looked just like how they did against Mexico, their possession was not leading to any goals. The second half was a similar affair, but the last quarter of the match was all Dutch pressure. Sneijder hit the post with a free kick. Van Persie missed a sitter from close range, failing to make contact with the ball, and then had a shot cleared off the line. Costa Rica held on for extra time, and both teams had their chance to win it. Urena’s mazy run almost ended with a goal, and Sneijder again hit the woodwork, this time the ball crashing off the crossbar after a dipping shot from long range. With seconds of extra time left, Van Gaal made a big tactical call, withdrawing goalkeeper Cillessen with Tim Krul. In anticipation of the upcoming shootout. It was a move that worked wonders. Costa Rica progressed in the last round via a shoot out, but they could not repeat the feat, Tim Krul saving penalties from both Ruiz and Urena. Van Gaal rewarded for his substitution, for Costa Rica, their fairy tale run comes to an end, but they have done ever so well to even get this far.


World Cup 2014 – Day 23: Brazil Pay The Price For Glory

After a few days of rest, It was time to get the balling rolling again. Time for the quarter finals!

It was an all European affair for the first game of the day. Germany were looking to book their 4th consecutive semi final place.The French have already surpassed their horrid 2010 campaign, and were looking for an unlikely appearance in the final four. Germany had started off the better, with France not having much of the possession, and it was the Germans who took an early lead. 10 minutes into the game, a free kick was curled into the box, Mats Hummels easily shook off the attention of Varane and headed the ball past Lloris off the underside of the crossbar. A deserved lead, but France would hopefully wake up now, after their timid opening minutes. They did improve, but Germany were comfortable in holding them at bay. Though Valbuena had his shot wonderfully saved by Neuer.

The second half had all the impetus on France to do the attacking, they had to come out and put pressure on the German defense. It came to no avail, France created the odd chance, but nothing to concern the opponent. It wasn’t until the 71st minute when they made their first change, bringing on Koscielny, not the most attacking of options. Germany could have sealed the win on a few occasions, Andre Schürrle missing both chances to kill the game off. France threw on Remy and Giroud late on, but it was all too late. Germany held on, and never really looked in trouble, they move on to the semi final. For France, after their cavalier approach in the group stages, it was disappointing to see them crash out without all guns blazing.

The attention soon shifted to an all South American tussle for the evening match. Hosts Brazil took on the flying Colombians, who have won every game so far. This would by far, be the biggest test for a stuttering Brazil side, who just about scraped past Chile in the last round. The match was a spicy encounter, with fouls going in everywhere, Brazil committing 54 fouls in the game, the most in the tournament so far. Brazil identified James Rodriguez as the main threat, and did all they could to shake him up. It was rejoice for the home nation as Brazil took an early lead, Thiago Silva arriving at the far post to knee the ball in. But it was slack marking from Colombia which allowed the Brazil captain to sneak past. Brazil enjoyed a good period in which they could have extended their lead. Colombia were just not at the races.

Colombia turned it up in the second half, as they looked to get themselves back in the game, and had a goal disallowed for a marginally offside decision. Thiago Silva picked up a stupid yellow card for shoving the keeper, which will now mean he will miss the semi final, a big blow for Brazil. With their first shot on goal of the second half, Brazil doubled their lead. David Luiz with a devastating free kick for 40 yards into the top corner, a magnificent strike, and one of the best goals of the tournament so far! It was harsh on Colombia, but it was 2 set pieces that undid them. They found themselves back in the game with 10 minutes to go, Bacca taken out by Julio Cesar in the box, Rodriguez calmly slotted the penalty away, his 6th goal of the show. This set up a wonderful tense final few minutes, but Brazil held on, their dream is still alive. Colombia have shown great character and skill, and will for sure be one of the nations to look out for in the coming years. Post match, it was revealed that Neymar, who was taken off on a stretcher, had fractured a vertebra. Which will keep him out the rest of the tournament. Brutal news for Brazil, they may now be in the final 4, but they will have to do it without their star asset, and will now put huge pressure on Brazil’s misfiring forwards to step up.


Arsenal FA Cup Parade

Well I wasn’t aware you could post a gallery on here! So thought I may as well share some photos from the Arsenal FA Cup Parade! It was a lovely Sunday afternoon, blues skies, red everywhere, and a carnival atmosphere. Surprised 250,000 managed to line the roads! Suppose 9 years was a long time to wait! Back to the World Cup posts tomorrow!

Enjoy :)


World Cup 2014 – Day 20 : 16 Become 8

The final round of games for the round of 16 would fill up the last 2 slots in the Quarter Final line up. There have been no upsets so far in this round, will today throw a spanner in the works?

Argentina have been stumbling through the tournament so far, Lionel Messi has carried them through with his goals, the rest of the team has been misfiring. Switzerland are a usually defensively solid team, but the French sliced them apart, Argentina would be looking for the same kind of game.
The Swiss put up good resistance, and could have been ahead early on when Xhaka fired straight at the keeper from inside the box. They had an even better chance soon after, Argentina were cut open with a counter attack, and Drmic was free on goal. Romero was not keen on rushing out from goal which invited Drmic to have a strike, but his tame lobbed effort landed right in the arms of the keeper. Argentina were having another frustrating game, Di Maria being very wasteful with the ball, it looked again that only Messi had turned up. The second half showed an more improved Argentine side, Higuaín’s goal bound header was pushed over the bar. Messi’s low drive was also saved, with the rebound just falling safe for the Swiss. The Swiss team were clearly tiring towards the end of the game, but Argentina could not break down the Swiss resistance. The game went into extra time, and Argentina were looking flush out of ideas. Di Maria had a horrible game, who gave the ball away 51 times, and pass completion of 63% was the worse of any outfield player this Summer! But he had the final laugh, minutes away from the game going into a penalty shoot out, Messi worked his way past some desperate lunging challenges, and passed the ball to Di Maria free in the box, he calmly rolled the ball into the opposite corner. Di Maria may have scored, but the goal was made by Messi and his surging run. Di Maria after having a shocker of a game, ended up scoring what looked to be the winner! The game had one more twist left, the goal seemed to wake up the Swiss, and with seconds left. Dzemaili had a free header from inside the box, the shot came off the foot of the post, the ball hit him on the rebound and just crept slowly wide of the open goal. It would have been a goal Switzerland would have deserved, but once again, it was Messi who had carried them through. Surely they have to improve sooner than later? For Switzerland, it bought down the curtains on the managerial career of their boss Ottmar Hitzfeld, who was twice voted Manager of the Year.

Belgium, just like Argentina have not hit the ground running, they would be up against a determined USA team, who have done well to reach this stage. The opening half was very open, with both teams having their chances to score. The talented Belgian youngster Origi almost fired the Europeans in front in the opening minute, but it was saved by Howard. Micheal Bradley later set up Clint Dempsey for a shot from inside the area, and it was well held by Courtois. The USA were playing well, and were matching the more talented Belgians. The second half was a different matter, the quality of the Belgian team was starting to show, and they were dominating the play. The Americans were being forced back deep in their half. The game would have been over in 90 minutes if not for the wonderful performance of US keeper Tim Howard. A string of saves kept out shots from Origi, Miralles and Kompany. USA were hanging on, but Belgium could not find a way through. Another extra 30 minutes would be needed to try and separate the two nations. Lightning struck twice, just as yesterday, where Germany broke the Algerian resistance minutes into Extra Time. Belgium finally got past the valiant Tim Howard, 3 minutes into extra time, Lukaku, who had come on as a sub for extra time, burst free down the right, and played in De Bruyne. Some nice footwork created himself a little bit of space, in which he rifled in a low shot. Just before the end of the first half of Extra Time, Lukaku scored the second, and surely confirming their place in the last 8. Things got interesting minutes later, when Julian Green’s excellent volley got USA back into the game. The Americans did pile on the pressure in the closing minutes, but could not find the goal that would force penalties. Belgium, although not having shone, have backed their tournament hype and have made it to the last 8. America go home, but they fought tooth and nail, Tim Howard recorded the most saves ever in a game at the World Cup. but it was just not enough. They have done wonders to raise the profile of football in the States.


World Cup 2014 – Day 19: Europe 2 Africa 0

Just as the day before, Day 19 threw up another set of fixtures with a similarity, this time it was Europe vs Africa. Both of the European nations (Germany & France) would have been the favorites to go through, but the 2 previous days have shown, there really are no easy games at this stage, regardless of the quality of the opposition.

Nigeria were looking to qualify for the quarter final for the first time, but they would have to beat an on fire French team in order to achieve that. Brazil and Holland limped their way into the final 8, and this match repeated the same pattern. it was the perceived underdogs that came out strongly in the first half. The pace of Ahmed Musa & Odemwinge was proving troublesome for France, and they struggled to make any impact on the Nigerian goal. Nigeria almost got their reward, when Emenike managed to redirect a low cross into the net, but he was marginally offside. A close call, and a lucky escape for France. Paul Pogba almost fired France into the lead, combining well with Valbuena, but had his powerful drive saved by Enyeama. Nigeria had been the better side in the first half, but the first period ended goalless, would Nigeria rue not making the most out of their domination? France came out in the second half much improved, Benzema almost scoring as his initial shot was saved by Enyeama, but the ball almost found its way in before Victor Moses cleared off the line. Later it was Yohan Cabaye’s chance to come close, his half volley from outside the box cannoned off the crossbar. The French pressure was building as the game approached its end. France should have been down to 10 men, after Blaise Matuid put in a shocking challenge, which lead to Ogenyi Onazi being taken off. France would have suffered if they had lost their powerful midfielder. With 10 minutes to go, Nigeria’s resistance finally broke, a corner was fluffed by Enyeama. The ball fell to Pogba, who headed into the open goal. It was harsh on Enyeama, as he had a great game, but he really should have done better. Nigeria’s fate was sealed in injury time, the tricky Valbeuna wriggled his way free down the right touchline, and fired in a low cross. The ball deflected of Joseph Yobo and into his own net. The score did flatter the French, Nigeria were equal to the French threat for large portions of the game, and should have had a man advantage. But it was France, just like the games earlier, who managed to find their way out of a tight spot.

For Algeria, 1982 has been been a burden for a long time, it was in that world cup in which they were the fall guys in a match between West Germany & Austria. The two European nations played out a 1-0 win to Germany, which took both team through at the expense of Algeria. It was this game which made FIFA change the rules and made sure all final round games were now played simultaneously, in order to prevent a repeat of the fiasco. Algeria finally had the chance to get some revenge for the foul play all those years ago. Germany have somewhat slowed down since their opening rout, with a draw and narrow win over USA. Algeria had impressed many with their powerful attacking vigor. They would have sensed they could steal the win. It was Algeria who started the game on fire, Germany were all over the place, with Neuer having to play as a sweeper to clean up several dangerous Algerian chances. Just as the earlier game, the team in green had a goal ruled out. Slimani was narrowly offside as his diving header found its way past Neuer. Germany were rocking, Algeria were not going to give up the fight easily. Algeria goalkeeper M’Bolhi was having a great game, keeping out Gotze, Lahm and Muller, who all had good chances. Algeria may have done well to keep out the German assault for the 90 minutes, but it only took 2 minutes of Extra Time for Germany to finally take the lead. Muller’s cross was cheekily put away by a back heel finish from Andre Schurrle. A sucker punch for the Algerians who had held firm for so long, but they almost found themselves level when Mostefa just fired wide from inside the box. Ozil sealed the win late on, after some nice play between Schurrle, his first goal of this World Cup. Algeria got their consolation, Djabou sliding in at the far post. Germany, as they usually do, found a way past even though they were not at their best, Algeria pushed them all the way. For the African nation, they can go home with the heads held high, taking Algeria to the last 16 for the first time ever.


World Cup 2014 – Day 18 : UEFA 1 CONCACAF 1

Today’s fixtures had a Europe vs Central America theme. With Holland & Greece representing UEFA, and Mexico & Costa Rica representing CONCACAF. The CONCACAF confederation has has its most successful World Cup, with 3 of its members making it through to the final 16 (USA will play on Tuesday). The first day of knockout matches were thrilling, and today carried on that thrill ride.

The first match of the day was between Holland and Mexico. The Dutch have become one of the favorites to win the tournament, after their impressive group stage performance. Mexico defied their pre-tournament pessimism and were hoping to finally make it to the Quarter Finals after making it to the last 16 for the last 5 competitions. The Mexicans started the game the better team, and were pulling the Dutch all over the pitch. The high temperatures seemed to make it harder for Holland to settle into their game. For the first time ever, we were scheduled to have an official ‘Cooling Break’ once during each half, as the tropical conditions reached as high as 38 degrees Celsius. Robin Van Persie found himself isolated up front for most of the match, while Robben was kept quite. Mexico had a good claim for a penalty, after Herrera was caught by a high foot in the box. The Mexicans soon got their deserved lead early in the second half. Giovanni Dos Santos, who has yet to score after having 2 goals ruled out against Cameroon. Finally got on the score sheet, picking up the ball some 30 yards from goal, riding a few challenges and driving a low powerful shot into the back of the net. A wonderful goal, but surely now the Dutch would step up a notch? The goal for Mexico suddenly gave them something to defend, and Holland soon started to get a foot back in the game. They could have been level soon after, but Ochoa once again proved his class and kept out a header from Stefan de Vrij. The key moment for Holland was substituting Van Persie for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar with 15 minutes to go. With minutes left of the 90, Huntelaar managed to get a head to a corner, this fell to Wesley Sneijder just on the edge of the box, and rifled home an unstoppable thunderbolt. Four years ago, it was Sneijder who inspired the team with 5 goal in their path to the final, this time around he has been a much more peripheral figure, but his first goal in Brazil could not have come at a more important time. It looked as if we were going to need another extra half hour to split the teams, but Robben, who was becoming more dangerous as the game went on, burst free into the box, Marquez stuck out a foot. Although contact was minimal, Robben fell to the ground in dramatic fashion. The referee awarding the penalty. Huntelaar kept his cool and put away the spot kick. The Dutch were minutes away from going out, and managed to turn it around. A brutal result for Mexico, who finally looked like they would make it to the last 8, and were so close to an upset. The nature of Robben’s antics will aggrieve Mexico, but it was Huntelaar who made the difference, with just 7 touches, he had an assist and a goal.

The Dutch would face the winner of the Costa Rica v Greece tie. This was a match up no one expected to see, when the groups were drawn, but now they were dueling for a place in the last 8. The first 45 minutes was a cagey affair, Costa Rica were somewhat subdued, compared to their earlier matches. This was the first time they entered a game as the favorite in the tournament, a different kind of pressure. The Greeks set out as they always do, an organised, well drilled team. Greece would be looking to channel the same spirit that took them to glory at Euro 2004. It was Greece who had the best chance of the half, Dimitris Salpingidis having his volley kept out by Keylor Navas. The Costa Rican goalkeeper would go on and have an inspirational game. Bryan Ruiz had already scored the vital winner against Italy, and it was the Fulham man who stepped up to the plate to send Costa Rica in front. Bolaños found the striker free on the edge of the box, and with a first time shot, calmly rolled the ball into the far corner, the keeper rooted to the spot. A sublime finish, and the fairy tale run was looking to continue! Things soon got bad for Costa Rica, Oscar Duarte was shown a second yellow for a poor challenge, and suddenly Greece had a way back into the game. With seconds left of the game, Greece finally breached the tired Costa Rican defense, and long ball in could not be cleared, the initial shot was well saved, but the rebound fell to Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who smashed the ball in. Seconds later, Greece almost stole the win, Navas keeping out a powerful header from Kostas Mitroglou. As Extra Time started, you could sense if any team were to score, it would be the Greeks. Christodoulopoulos and Mitroglou were both denied by the superb Navas in goal. Costa Rica had defended valiantly, and held out for penalty kicks. After the first 7 kicks were converted, it was Gekas of Greece who blinked first, Navas keeping out his shot with another great save. So it came down to Michael Umaña, who had the chance to fire Costa Rica in an unlikely Quarter Final appearance, a chance he took, firing high into the top corner. The magnificent story of Costa Rica continues, and they now have a match with Holland. But after beating Italy and Uruguay, they will play with no fear. Greece were made to rue all the great chances they had, but making the last 16 alone was a great achievement for the nation.


World Cup 2014:Day 17 ~ Brave Chile Fall, Colombia On The Charge

The first day of knockout games had a Latin flavor to it, with 4 of the 5 remaining South American nations all involved. Hosts Brazil entertained Chile, while Colombia faced off with Uruguay.

Brazil have yet to convince many so far, and the game against Chile had many wondering if the Chileans should pull off a dramatic upset. The game was played at a blistering pace, with both teams going for the win. It was Brazil who broke the deadlock, a corner was flicked on, and David Luiz was at the back post to get the vital touch. Replays did suggest it may have come off the defender, but Luiz will claim it! Brazil have never lost to Chile on home turf, and it looked like that record would be extended. But Chile were not pushed back for too long, they continued with their high tempo and hardly giving Brazil any time on the ball. Their hard work was rewarded. Their pressure paid off as Hulk’s error was pounced upon by Vargas. He played in Alexis Sanchez, who finished with a cool low drive into the far corner. An excellent finish, and Chile were deservedly back on level terms. The second half was not as manic, as Chile grew into the game, Brazil were trying their best to find a way through the resolute Chilean wall. Chile were marshaled by Gary Medal, who was having an outstanding game. Brazil did have the lead, or so they thought after Hulk had his goal disallowed. The ball appeared to be controlled with his arm, before scuffing the shot in at the far post. Brazil, as before, were not having a good match, Fred having another subdued performance, and Hulk failing to shine. The game went into Extra Time, Chile were hanging on, with their players running on fumes. Brazil removed Oscar and threw on Jo in order to steal the game. It wasn’t until the very last seconds of the extra half hour did we get a good chance, Mauricio Pinilla from the edge of the box, crashed the ball off the crossbar, Brazil which just inches from crashing out of their own tournament. The game went to penalties, one team would suffer the cruel heartbreak of the shoot out. Chile were the first to blink, after David Luiz scored the first, Mauricio Pinilla missed his. The subsequent 2 kicks from Willian and Sanchez were also misses. At the end, it came down to Gonzalo Jara to keep Chile in the shoot out. His shot cruelly bounced out from the inside of the post. Over 200m Brazilians were sent into ecstasy, but absolute heartbreak for Chile, a cruel way to lose after they had such a great tournament. For Brazil, they will have to improve greatly for the quarter-final.

Colombia and Uruguay faced off for the right to play Brazil. Colombia have been in amazing form, almost averaging 3 goals a game. Even without their talismanic striker Falcao, they have shown they are still a dangerous team. Uruguay were in quite some disarray. The fall out from the Suarez incident has been very counter productive for the team, and more attention seemed to be on the Liverpool striker than the team. Uruguay had managed to recover from their horrible start to their campaign, and are a very experienced team, they would provide tough opposition even without Suarez. Colombia started the game impressively, dominating most of the possession, creating most of the chances and running the game. Uruguay were left to hold station, and try to hit them on the break. The plan was working well until the half hour mark when their player of the tournament, James Rodriguez scored a stunning goal. After controlling the ball with his chest, he turned and smashed in a thunderbolt from outside the box and in off the underside of the crossbar. A goal of immense quality, and in a game that appeared to be canceled out by both sides. His 4th goal of the show, a one that will rival Tim Cahill’s amazing volley against Holland. Uruguay were still in the game, Cavani came close with a free kick, and González had a well struck shot saved. The second half started with another goal. James Rodriguez scoring from close range after Cuadrado headed back a cross. A wonderful team goal. That goal took Rodrigeuz to the top of the table for the Golden Boot with 5 goals. Uruguay still looked for a goal, knowing one goal could bring them right back into it. Christian Rodriguez forcing a fine save from distance and Maxi Pereira found himself free in the 6 yard box but failed to get enough on the ball. But Colombia held firm and booked their place in a showdown with Brazil. A game which has the makings of being one of the best games so far. Uruguay crash out, it has been a messy tournament for them, and not many neutrals have been impressed by their antics surrounding Suarez.


World Cup 2014 – Time To Get Serious

After 2 weeks of fun, the group games are now complete. It may be the end of the ’4 match days’ and the enjoyable late night games, but now things get serious, its time for the Knock Out phase. Lets take a quick look at the last 16 line up.

Brazil v Chile

The hosts kick off the round of 16 with a tie against neighbouring Chile. On previous form, this match up appears to be very one-sided, Brazil lead the head to head record with 48 wins, compared to just 7 for Chile. Brazil have eased their way through the tournament, never really impressing until they tore apart a dysfunctional Cameroon team in their last game. Neymar has been in fine form, scoring 4 goals. Defensively they look sturdy, only conceding 2 goals so far. Chile finished second in a very tough group. They comprehensively beat and dumped out the reigning champions, and deserved to go through. Though the Dutch did beat them with quite some ease. Chile have done very well to get this far, but Brazil should have just about enough quality to sneak this one.

Colombia v Uruguay

Uruguay have not had the best of tournaments, they started off with a shock defeat to Costa Rica, and although they managed to beat England with the help of Luis Suarez. His suspension from the tournament for his biting incident will haunt not just Suarez, but the Uruguay team too. Uruguay may have other stars such as Cavani, but it is Suarez’s attacking prowess that provided Uruguay with their cutting edge. Colombia on the other hand have had an excellent summer, 3 game, 3 wins. Scoring 9 goals in the process. They have shown great quality of attack, even without their star striker Falcao, Colombia have another star. In the form of James Rodriguez, who has scored in all 3 games. They also have the impressive Jackson Martinez in their midfield. Colombia should have enough to despatch Uruguay.

Holland v Mexico

The Dutch have been in fine form this tournament, and were the headline makers in the group stages after destroying reigning champions Spain 5-1. It was a result that announced Holland’s intent. They may have eased off during the rest of the games, with a tight win against the plucky Australians and a modest win against Chile. All their main players have been firing, Van Persie has scored 3, and Arjen Robben has been inspirational. For many tournaments he has been criticised for not stepping up, but he has been on of Brazil’s finest performers so far. Mexico will just be happy to be in the last 16, after a horrendous qualification, where they needed a last-minute goal from rivals USA to send them to the playoffs. Mexico have done quite well, with 2 wins and a draw. Their dismantling of Croatia in their crucial final match was very impressive. But overall, Holland should pack too much power and should progress to the Quarter Finals.

Costa Rica v Greece

Lets be honest, no one saw this tie appearing in the last 16! But both teams have shown great teamwork and determination to make their way here. Costa Rica surprisingly won their group. with 2 stunning upsets against Uruguay and Italy. A draw against England confirmed them as group winners, and have been rewarded with a tie they should be confident about. Greece is a team that know their strengths, and that is to defend in numbers, and try to steal a goal, They may have many critics to their style of play, but it has served them well here. After tame affairs with Colombia and Japan, it seemed a daunting task to beat Ivory Coast in their showdown, but they were victors, Ivory Coast failing to take their many chances. The Greeks winning a penalty in the very last seconds of the game, to send them into joy! This should be a tight game between 2 evenly matched teams, but Costa Rica should prevail after their heroics previously have shown they are not intimidated by the big stage.

France v Nigeria

France cruised through their group games, with 7 points and 8 goals recorded. Their highlight being the blistering attacking performance that shredded the usually defensive Switzerland. Unlike 4 years ago in South Africa, the team look in harmony, no sense of mutiny and in-fighting. This has been rewarded by their fine play so far. The absence of Ribery may hurt them in the later phases, as they never really came under any pressure in any of their group games. But Benzema, Valbuena and Matuidi have all gone very well so far. Nigeria, as expected qualified from their group. The current African champions were the only west african team to qualify out of the group of 4. They recovered well after a very poor display against Iran, with a narrow win against Bosnia. Although they lost to Argentina, they had plenty to cheer for, an impressive double from Musa pushed Argentina to their highest in order to beat them. Doubts still remain about the team, and France should brush past them with ease.

Germany v Algeria

For Algeria, its history, as they have managed to reach this phase for the first time. It is the mighty Germans which now stand in their way if they are to make a shocking appearance in the Quarter Finals. Germany started their tournament with a resounding win over Portugal, followed by an action packed draw against Ghana. A tight 1-0 win over the States sealed their path to the last 16. A squad brimming with talent, their one weakness still is the lack of a starting striker, Klose, as good as he may be, is no longer a starter. Algeria have shown great belief to make their way here, they were very unlucky to lose their opener to Belgium. It was against South Korea, and their first half blitz which showed everyone what they were made off. Algeria do not possess many world-class players, but they will be driven by the great injustice they suffered at the hands of West Germany in 1982, and that could be great motivation for them. Though at the end, the Germans may be a step to far for them. Germany should march on.

Argentina v Switzerland

Lionel Messi has finally arrived for Argentina at a World Cup, his haul of 4 has carried Argentina into the last 16. Messi scored the winner in both of the first 2 games, securing qualification, and his brace v Nigeria set up their final win. The rest of the team has not fully fired yet. Argentina as a whole have been quite disappointing, considering all the attacking talent they have (Di Maria, Aguero, Lavezzi etc.), they have not yet put in that blistering display that many are awaiting. Switzerland made tricky work of their group, even though they were seeded as the top team. A late, late goal sealed a fortunate victory against Ecuador, this was followed by a mauling by the French. It was only until the last game against bottom team Honduras, did they confirm their place. The Swiss are always there, or there abuts. But after the French debacle, Argentina should finally click and make easy work of the Swiss.

Belgium v USA

If there is to be an upset anywhere in the last 16, this is most certainly the tie you would most expect it from. Belgium, were billed as the Dark Horses of 2014, their youthful, multi-talented team was tipped by many to do well. They may have won all 3 games, but all 3 were won by just a single goal margin. They have been grinding out the results, but they will have to finally up their game if they are to progress. The USA have done impressively well to get here, considering their group contained Portugal, Germany and Ghana. They were dreadfully unlucky not to seal their place in the last 16 against Portugal, switching off in the dying seconds to concede an equalizer. A narrow defeat to Germany may have been expected, but overall they have played well in their other matches. If the USA can channel the same grit and motivation from their games against Ghana and Portugal, they may very well cause an upset. I shall say the USA may cause an upset here!