First off, the opening match. Questionable decisions by the ref led to a lopsided victory by Brazil over Croatia. This match was important in that it gave us just the first taste of what has been one of the worst groups of refs I have ever seen in a World Cup.
The ref clearly did not have a good handle of what was going on around him, and as a result blew several calls that ultimately helped Brazil and cost Croatia dearly. Brazil also proved that while it had momentum going in, it has begun to lose steam with the tie against Mexico.
Be sure to keep an eye on Brazil, as we may have our first upset if they cannot regroup. Going in, Brazil was the team of destiny, but now, they need to stay on their toes if they want to avoid the same mistakes made by past teams.
Next, I want to talk about France’s victory against Honduras. While we all expected this to happen, France has had a rather nasty history of losing matches that it should have won easily.
Fortunately for Les Blues, history was not repeated. In fact, France’s dominance may be an indication of things to come. In previous World Cups, whenever France has gotten off to a good start there is usually no stopping them.
Expect at least one more lopsided victory in the Group Stage, and for France to make a very deep run after that. To say that it is possible for this year’s French team to make it to the final is not an exaggeration yet, but still be ready for them to be knocked out in the semifinals if they end up facing a team like Germany.
Speaking of Germany, let’s talk about its match against Portugal. While I expected Germany to win, I did not think it would be by so large of a margin, and that Portugal would look so terrible on the pitch.
Something is obviously wrong with Cristiano Ronaldo; you can plainly see that by both the photos of him with ice on his knee at practice, and by the way he carried himself during the match. He is clearly hurt, but Portugal is unwilling to face facts here; Ronaldo needs to be sat if they want him to play in top form.
Without Ronaldo in top shape, Portugal is only half a team, and sending a half a team to face one of the toughest teams in the world is never a recipe for success. Germany, meanwhile, seems to be in great shape, and will likely make a deep run again.Embed from Getty Images
It is important to note that the upsets by Costa Rica and Cote d’Ivore, as well as the tie between Russia and South Korea, have had a huge impact on the dynamics of their respective groups. While it is clear that Belgium and Italy will likely advance, the race to join them is now up in the air
Russia did not live up to its hype, and opened the door for really any of its opponents to advance.
England underperformed against the Italians, and Uruguay exposed its weaknesses against Costa Rica. Costa Rica may very well pull off another upset in the near future, and advance alongside Italy.
England meanwhile needs to improve its overall team style if it wants to advance. Meanwhile Japan seemed to be outmatched by Cote d’Ivore, and if it cannot pull off a victory against Greece, then its hopes of advancing can be kissed goodbye.
Colombia proved this week that it is a tough team to face, and if Japan cannot rally to beat even Greece, then it has no hope against Colombia.
Now the moment you all have been waiting for, the U.S.-Ghana game. Despite injuries, the US was able to pull off what is arguably one of the most important victories in recent team history. The U.S. finally proved that it can take on one of the powerhouses in the sport, and beat it, albeit in a very ugly match.
Ghana had the potential going in to once again beat the U.S., and possibly even advance to the next round. Jurgen Klinsmann set out to prove the naysayers wrong, and showed that he has the skills necessary to build a winning team.
Watching the U.S. play, it is clear that Klinsmann is now trying to emulate the German style of play; starting off with strong attacks and keeping them up for the rest of the game. Had Jozy Altidore not been injured, then the U.S. could have easily kept the momentum going after its 30-second goal. Instead, one key injury led to another and another and the U.S. quickly seemed overwhelmed by the Ghanaian side.
While the end was a win for the Yanks, it is clear that unless the team is able to find a replacement for Altidore, then Klinsmann’s dreams of advancing may end sooner rather than later.
Don’t expect Portugal to just roll over when they play the US after the humiliation by Germany. The Portuguese will, just as the Ghanaians did, see the holes in Klinsmann’s strategy, and will exploit them. If Ronaldo is healthy, then this could spell the end of the US’s World Cup run.