World Cup 2014: Talking Points from the 1st Group Phase


by Fridah Kariuki


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The World Cup will either remain in South America or leave with a European nation

The prestigious trophy will remain in either of the two above regions. The other regions are not up to standard and do not pose enough competition. Africa and Asia are performing dismally. North and Central America may reach the quarter finals at best.


 Strikers are joining pandas and rhinos in extinction

It would be safe to say that strikers are going extinct faster than the endangered species of animals. From the first round of matches most goals have come from wingers and midfielders. The out and out strikers have generally been ineffective or non-existent for their teams. The likes of Diego Costa, Fred, Gonzalo Higuain, Wilfred Bony (despite his 1 goal) have struggled in front of goal. The best performances by strikers thus far have been by Robin van Persie for the Netherlands and Colombia’s Teo Gutierrez. Outside shot — Karim Benzema of France.

Germany on the other hand started their match against Portugal with an attacking midfielder as a ‘false 9’. He netted a hat-trick.


 African teams are winging this tournament

This statement has two meanings:

a)African teams (except Algeria) seem to playing with no plan whatsoever. They can neither be classified as proactive or reactive in their approach. No attacking prowess or defensive ability that is worth noting.

b) The excessive use of wingers. All African team’s attacks are channeled through the wings. This is trying to exploit the pace and power of the wingers but unfortunately most of the wingers have no technical ability.

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 Strength on the bench is key to success

Teams are winning from the players they have on the bench. In the hot Brazilian weather, a fresh pair of legs accompanied by a good brain is the difference between 3 points or none. Switzerland’s Haris Seferovic, and the Belgian duo of Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens are the best examples of players who came off the bench to good effect for their teams. Similarly as well was Didier Drogba for Ivory Coast. His presence changed the mood of the game.


 The field is not a paper

Some teams look really good on paper. The Argentines look like world beaters but their first match against first timers Bosnia told a slightly different story as their win was not very convincing. The same applies to Belgium who struggled to break down Algeria and  Uruguay who were humbled by Costa Rica.

Brazil on the other hand…


 Inconsistent officiating 

Undeserved penalties, good goals disallowed, inconsistencies in dishing out the cards and other odd decisions. Maybe video technology — despite the argument that it will turn the game robotic — is needed. Then again, its use in determining France’s second goal against Honduras was just as confusing.


 Tiki-taka is not dead yet but it is old.

A style that has brought Spain glory in the past few years was seriously exposed by the ruthless flying Dutchmen. It had worked for the first few minutes of the game but the aging Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta could not match the Dutch over a 90 minute period. The high pressing, high demanding game of the Spanish may not be dead yet but the players are getting too old for it.

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 Game time at club level matters for a decent World Cup performance

It’s inevitable that some countries have players who hardly play for their clubs. Players like Victor Moses and Xherdan Shaqiri are excellent talents but the time they spend on the bench reduces their efficiency and thus degrades their World Cup performance for their country. Maybe the same could also be said of Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas.


 Lower Expectations= Having fun = Winning

Teams that come to the World Cup with nothing much expected tend to play beautifully, with no pressure and thus win. The Dutch had nothing to lose and they played their game, had fun and won. The same applies to Costa Rica who defeated the semifinalists of 2010 and South American champions, the Uruguay. Australians may not have won the 3 points but they won the hearts of many with their brilliant attacking football.


 The German Machine is definitely efficient

Die Mannschaft were ruthless to the Portuguese. The result was not in doubt eveb before Pepe’s red card. The Germans were well organized, every player played their part and their game was very fluid. It will be very hard to beat them.

Jürgen Klinsmann, the German leading the Americans, also displayed that German efficiency. The USA put up a very great performance. They don’t have the technical ability of the other teams but they have efficiency, clinicality, discipline and attitude.


 Football is an individual team sport

Most teams have a key player whose performance or presence determines how the rest of the team performs.  Neymar for Brazil, Mathieu Valbuena for France, Lionel Messi for Argentina, Andrea Pirlo for Italy…

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 If you can’t fight for it, fall for it

There has been an increase in diving and hyperbolic theatrical reactions to tackles. Most players are doing this to win penalties and free-kicks, get players sent off and to agitate opponents. This is the sad, sorry state of football lately. The stakes are too high, the temptation almost irresistible.


 Attacking full backs and goalkeepers have been key players

These two groups of players have been hugely important. Switzerland and Ivory Coast have Ricardo Rodriguez and Serge Aurier to thank forproviding the crosses that ensured their comeback wins in their respective matches. Daley Blind of the Netherlands is also another at the leaderboard of assists with two so far.

Goalkeepers will either make your game or ruin it. Iker Casillas had a day he will not wish to remember, while in contrast, Boubabcar Barry and Rais displayed some great saves in their games.


 There is hope for football

The world won’t get to see a Cruyff turn, a Juninho free kick, the Chilena (better known as bicycle kick) goal or Domingada but the first round of matches has offered some hope. The crazy van Persie goal, Messi’s slalom, Valdivia’s strike, Dempsey’s quick feet, Neymar’s step-overs are among the many other lovely movements. The beautiful game always promises some beautiful moments.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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