We’ve got such a buzz for the World Cup – have you noticed? Then again, if you’re not psyched as a sports journalist for the World Cup then you’re in the wrong job. We’re so worked up that when we heard there were no games today, we decided we had to do a piece anyway. So read on to check out our thoughts on the tournament so far and what we think of what is to come!
Stephen Hayward (Editor):
This year’s World Cup has probably been the most exciting I’ve seen in my lifetime. Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise with it being in the spiritual birthplace of football but nobody could have predicted some of the fantastic goals we have witnessed, nor could they have predicted the amount of poor defending.
Many pundits and fans alike have claimed Brazil are going to be a force to be reckoned with, however they haven’t impressed me in the way I thought they would. Lucky against Croatia, average against Mexico yet dominant against Cameroon, we would all be asking serious questions had the poster boy, Neymar, not delivered. Chile will be a serious test for the hosts and it’s a game I can see them losing easily if their defence does not improve drastically over the next 24 hours. However, should Scolari’s squad see off the Chileans, we’re likely to see them in the semi-final against a strong team in either France or Germany. But we’ll get to that.
Both Holland and Argentina have looked strong throughout the group stages but they have relied on individuals and I can see these individuals being the difference should they meet in the semi-finals, which I fully anticipate will be the case. This game could well come down to Messi Vs Robben, with both in incredible form. However, an in-form Robin Van Persie could settle the score between the two sides. I refuse to even make a prediction between these two but it should make for great entertainment.
Although surprising to some, my favourites for the tournament are France. After a shambolic World Cup in South Africa last time out, the squad seem to have really come together under Didier Deschamps, not to mention the run of form Champions League winner Karim Benzema has built in the national side during this tournament. I would be in utter shock should they not meet Germany in the quarters after Joachim Loew’s side drew the easiest last-16 tie against Algeria and with the Germans having a poor and uncharacteristic defence, I’d be surprised if the French didn’t make the final four.
No matter who wins the tournament, the big story could be that of the USA. Drawn in the “group of death”, nobody expected the States to come near winning a game, never mind progressing to the final 16 after playing a strong German squad as well as the best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal side. However, Jurgen Klinsmann’s team defied the odds and made their way through to the first knockout stage with a win over Ghana and an unfortunate draw with Portugal, in which they conceded a last minute equaliser. Now they will face Belgium in the last 16, although not a 50/50 game, the odds are not completely stacked against them, especially with more and more Americans coming down with World Cup fever. Should they make the quarter-finals, there is a real chance of Football (or Soccer) rapidly increasing in popularity in the good ol’ U S of A, something FIFA and the whole of Association Football has been crying out for. This World Cup could be a real game changer and it will have nothing to do with Brazil. Imagine.
Jamie Thomas (Co-editor):
What a brilliant tournament it’s been so far, right? Spain out, Italy out, England out; who’d have thought?! The great thing about being Welsh in a World Cup is that you can be completely impartial; if I supported someone that was there, the defensive fragilities of most teams so far might’ve annoyed me but as a truly independent sports journalist I’m loving every second of it!
For me, only five teams have really shown their stuff so far in this tournament: Holland, France, Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica. Holland have been absolutely untouchable tactically and it’s a real thrill as a man who wants to learn more about this beautiful game to see how Louis Van Gaal goes through the motions with regards to his tactical decisions and how he gets his team to implement them! I must admit, part of the thrill comes from the fact that I’m a Manchester United fan and I hope he can do the same for us next season but I’m mostly thrilled with what he’s doing now for Holland, I swear! Chile are similarly joyful to watch; they’re just absolutely tireless – you get the sense watching them that there’s nothing one team member wouldn’t do to help the other and that kind of team spirit is wonderful to watch especially since there are so many teams in the tournament who champion individualism. France and Colombia have just played some beautiful football so far in this tournament; both of them are missing their best players too which makes it more impressive. Thierry Henry said recently that if France perform at a World Cup they tend to go all the way; they’ve performed so far but maybe a tournament victory is a bit beyond them this time? Who knows? They’re definitely in good shape for hosting Euro 2016 though! I don’t know what to say about Costa Rica; they’ve just blown me away – I did not expect them to do what they’ve done; I didn’t expect them to win a game to be honest. How far these five sides go in the tournament remains to be seen but they’ve given me immense pleasure so far, that’s for sure!
Everyone else has shown something in flashes but equally they’ve not show much on other occasions. Argentina and Brazil would be perfect examples of this; thanks to the awesome talent of their respective talismans they’ve qualified for the knockout rounds – Messi and Neymar have both scored four goals. But they’ve shown some real fragility at times too, and had a bit of luck i.e. Brazil versus Croatia and Argentina against Iran – but you don’t win the World Cup without a bit of luck. Maybe they’ve had all of theirs now and are going to have to just rely on the abilities they obviously have to be able to carry out good, consistent play from all areas if they’re to advance further; only time will tell!
Who will win it? I always go for Brazil and this year is no exception. If they can get past Chile in the next round then they’ll have no trouble getting to the final in my opinion. With the likes of Holland and Argentina in the other side of the draw, Chile (on current form) are the toughest team they’ll have to face before the final. To get past Chile will mean that Brazil are absolutely at their best and if that’s the case I’m not sure whether or not France or Germany will be able to cope with them either. Tournaments aren’t won on ifs and buts though, as we all know, so come 5pm on Saturday Brazil must perform to the best of their ability or they’ll be out. There’s no two ways about it.
One way or another it’s going to be a hell of a good few weeks for football fans everywhere; be sure to join us on that journey!
As an Englishman I’ve come to expect disappointment, but at this World Cup I’ve oddly not been too disappointed – partly because of the sheer number of games and the excitement that each game has had to offer (with the exception of Iran vs Nigeria). I would say however that, with the exception of Netherlands and France, the ‘big teams’ are yet to fire on all cylinders but with players like Messi and Neymar getting Brazil and Argentina through their respective groups, hopefully the best of some of the other pre-tournament favourites is yet to come? As far as the Netherlands are concerned, fans will remember their blistering group stage form in 2008 against France, Italy and Romania and yet they still fell at the quarter-final stage to Russia so maybe they’ve shown their best and will run out of steam? That is the wonder of football; who knows what’s going to happen?!
So far there have been some truly magnificent moments that will have people talking for years to come such as the Henry-Seedorf bromance that is clearly blooming over on BBC1. My favourite moment so far though has not been a footballing moment but a human moment. It came on June 13th – Australia vs Chile and Mark Bresciano, who was wearing black boots and that was refreshing to see, and arguably worthy of a place in this blog on its own, had a mascot who was on crutches and just before the national anthems played the mascots laces came undone and, before one of his country’s biggest footballing moments in four years, Bresciano bent down and tied the boys laces for him and amid all the talk of fast cars, high wages and huge egos it really was great to see something so humbling.
My other favourite moment has been provided by Columbia and it’s just been their superb performances which have led to 3 unpredictable wins. Furthermore, in each game the entire team have celebrated together in perfect harmony and choreographed great dance routines. This has led me to think perhaps England’s best chance ahead of Euro 2016 in France is to just practice dancing so the nation at least has something to smile about.
Will the knock out stages provide as much excitement? Only time will tell, but one thing that is for certain, you can follow every flick, kick and bite (!) right here at Fortitude Sport.
The World cup is finally here and what a spectacle we have been treated to! Goals, upsets, controversy and not to mention 100% less Vuvuzelas which is always a good thing! So far we have already seen Holland thrash Spain (as well as witnessing the holders crash out), England fail to win a single game, Italy go out in controversial circumstances and Germany demolish Portugal. Not to mention the emergence of Costa Rica who topped Group D after being deemed as pre-tournament also-rans.
It really has been a tournament for the underdogs because, as well as Costa Rica, we have also seen Chile, Greece, Algeria and The USA all qualify from groups that many thought they didn’t have much chance of advancing from. I was even guilty of this for some of the aforementioned sides, especially Costa Rica. Colombia have shown that they are more than just a one-trick pony. With Falcao out of the tournament, James Rodriguez, Jackson Martinez and co. have all shown that they really do fit the tag of Tournament Dark Horses. Belgium have been disappointing, so far looking more like a group of individuals than the world class team everyone was touting them to be.
As for eventual winners, I can see it being either Germany or Argentina. Germany looks the more complete team but with Messi Argentina can go a long way. Holland are worth a shout but I can see the wheels falling off during the latter stages of the tournament.
For me, this World Cup has been the best in my lifetime; it’s just had it all in the first couple of weeks. If you would have said to me before the tournament that this many great teams would have been knocked out at the group stages, then I would’ve said you were nuts. It just shows you that no game at this tournament is going to be easy. A particular joy has been watching the North and South American sides; all have played well. It’s great to see the American nation get so involved in the game too. Costa Rica shocked everyone too by finishing top of Group D, especially considering the calibre of their opposition
The team I’ve enjoyed watching most so far has been Colombia. I went into this tournament not knowing much about them, apart from the fact that James Rodriguez and Falcao were their star players. They have completely surprised me with how well they have played so far and their incredible team spirit. It makes you wonder how much better they would have been if Falcao had been fit for the tournament.
However, for all the good that’s happened, I think this tournament will be remembered for the acts of Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan striker has been banned by FIFA for appearing to bite Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini and has yet again found himself on the front pages of the world’s newspapers.
I fully expect for the tournament to continue with its array of good finishes and close games and I predict that Lionel Messi will lead Argentina to glory.