German Machines in very good order while Dutch Masters show some swagger
First round of previous world cups, normally, showed a few teams in good light and a few teams were seen as just making up numbers. In FIFA World Cup 2014, it is clear there are no easy fixtures or let’s just say no easy teams to play against. Fans and football lovers expected Iran & Algeria to be relatively easy and comfortable fixtures. USA & Costa Rica were supposedly the weaker teams. Heartening to see these teams playing up to the potential and bringing a smile on the faces of their proud country men, women and kids. Not only that some neutrals have appreciated their organised and defensively strong performances.
If the results are anything to go by, still early days, the first round whipping boys were the two European powerhouses in football, defending World and European Champions Spain and Ronaldo’s Portugal.
Dutch Masters make tactical gains while Spanish pride was dealt a blow
Holland hammered the regaining world champions 5-1 in what looked like the two ROs show, Robin and Robben. In fact, it was the Louis van Gaal and Vicente Del Bosque show. Both have been enough in the game to work out the weaknesses of their opponents and then make their team tactically adjust to the needs.
Spain has won everything in last 6 years with their short passing game. So, why change the system or style that has served them well? Their opponents have found a way to deal with them. Maybe the blue print is there from German club defeating the all-conquering Barcelona in Champions league in last two seasons and also in Spain’s Confederation cup defeat to Brazil last year. Execution of plan is all that is required. Easier said than done.
Louis Van Gaal knows that his front three can not only hurt their opponents in the game but also propel the orange army in to the deeper stages of the tournament. Against Spain he knew his players are short in experience and maybe ability against the mighty Spanish midfield. Who can match the midfield of Xavi, Iniesta, Silva, Alonso plus all the other household names? He knew he wanted the balls behind the weaker part of Spain’s team i.e. their defence. His chosen strategy was to pass the midfield with over the top balls from the wings. It paid off via spectacular RVP goal and what a goal it was. Ex Arsenal and now Manchester United man raised his arm early and was asking for the ball to be played in front of him, he had clarity about which area in the final third he wanted to run and Blind executed his pass to perfection. Rest, I just think, will go down as one of the best headed goal in World Cups.
Chasing a game after a goal down is not easy at this level. Robben’s pace hurt Spain on the counter and to make matters worse for champions, Iker Casillas showed why Jose Mourinho benched him for Real Madrid last year and Ancelotti didn’t bother changing the status. Spain look out of sorts and in my view will need a miracle to have a good world cup. Early flight home seems a possibility.
Self-destruct button pressed by Portugal while the Germans were precise
If ever one needs to push the self-destruct button for his country in any sports then out of many examples Pepe head butting Muller was one of very highest order. Mind you, not as high as the great Frenchman Zidane in 2006 World Cup final vs Italy. Can you see any connection? Both are Real Madrid players. Never mind we can visit that some other day. Fabio Coentrao’s injury and Pepe’s ban has made it worse for Portugal. Now the onus is totally on World player of the year, Cristiano Ronaldo. He has to deliver in the same way he delivered against Ibrahimovic’s Sweden to qualify for this tournament. He is capable but I reckon it might be too much. Never say never though.
In a tournament where the focus is on the likes of Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo and Suarez the man who scored five goals in last edition, Thomas Mullar, came into his first game under the radar and scored a deadly hat trick to punish the Portuguese. When in the box, he reminds us of the likes of Linekar and more recently Ruud Van Nistelrooy. The German team seemed well drilled under their manager Jogi Low. Players seem to know that they have the freedom to express themselves but they maintain strict discipline as well. Ozil looked good in patches but it will be worth noting if they have peaked early or not. In last few tournaments when they have progressed that seems to be the case. Don’t rule out Germans going very deep in this tournament. Neutrals won’t mind that because they are playing a direct sort of game that is pleasing to the eye.