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World Cup 2014 group phase

Published by marco on

Brazil vs. Croatia (3–1)
Brazil took a little while to get going but showed flashes of brilliance. They got lucky that the momentum didn’t go the other way before getting some fortuitous calls. Brazil almost always gets the benefit of calls. I’m on fence as to whether it’s an in-built, explicit prejudice, an unconscious tendency on the part of referees in awe of their reputation or just a natural outgrowth of their playing so well.
Mexico vs. Cameroon (1–0)
Can’t remember. I think Mexico played pretty well.
Spain vs. Netherlands (1–5)
The Netherlands was on fire that day, with the Arjen Robben/Robin van Persie show delivering four goals for the old-timers. Spain was an utter mess and deserved the shellacking that they got. I, for one, was happy to see that we wouldn’t be treated to a Spanish march to the finals on the back of 0–0 ties and 1–0 wins and 7 million passes.
Chile vs. Australia (3–1)
Despite occasional flashes of brilliance, Australia was definitely outclassed by a more solid Chile. I don’t really remember many details though.
Colombia vs. Greece (3–0)
Colombia showed a class that Greece couldn’t match. Not much more to say about this one.
England vs. Italy (1–2)
Italy and England put on a lovely show, with both offenses producing a lot of imaginative chances and both teams pressing until the very end. Though England played better than I’ve honestly ever seen them play, Italy totally deserved to win.
Uruguay vs. Costa Rica (1–3)
Uruguay started off strong and was upset by Costa Rica, which took the last three goals of the match. I only saw the first half.
Côte d’Ivoire vs. Japan (2–1)
I didn’t see this match, but read that Drogba’s presence on the field inspired his team to two goals in the second half to take the game from Japan.
France vs. Honduras (3–0)
France played a strong game—much stronger than their appearance four years ago in Africa—and Honduras was clearly outmatched. Honduras responded by fouling quite a bit and even ended up losing a man early in the second half.
Switzerland vs. Ecuador (2–1)
Switzerland played with more heart than I’ve seen them play in a long time. They didn’t always play well, but they kept trying hard, kept running hard and even scored the game-winner almost three minutes into extra time in the second half.
Argentina vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina (2–1)
Argentina played an utterly horrible first half, missing passes all over the place and getting a lucky goal. In the second half, Lionel Messi did an utterly brilliant give-and-go, passed three more defenders and bounced a laser off of the opposite post to take Argentina to 2–0. Bosnia clawed a goal back but Argentina had by then organized their defense and held on to the victory.
Germany vs. Portugal (4–0)
Germany utterly dismantled a bewildered Portugal, which could barely put together two passes to say nothing of any offense worth mentioning. Germany had their third goal in extra time of the first half and it was all over but the crying. Speaking of which, Christiano Ronaldo started off strong but his expression eventually descended into his “gonna cry” face, which became permanent when Pepe got his criminal ass thrown off the field for an aggressive and dead-ball head-butt on Müller, who was down after Pepe had already bitch-slapped him to the ground. The second half wasn’t worth mentioning other than seeing Müller round out his hat trick.
Iran vs. Nigeria (0–0)
A boring and terrible game of which we will not speak again. Not too many fouls, but neither team could settle the ball down to get down to the business of actually building a dangerous offense.
Ghana vs. United States (1–2)
Clint Dempsey scored within 30 seconds for the US and that was pretty much all we heard from the US offense for a long time. Ghana, meanwhile, dominated possession and offensive chances and inventiveness, but couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. The US keeper was tested a few times, but never really brought to desperation. Ghana finally scored to even things up at 80 minutes but the U.S. capitalized on a poorly defended corner to take the lead again. Summary: a hapless Ghanian offense produced a single goal book-ended by U.S. goals.
Belgium vs. Algeria (2–1)
Not many chances on either side in a quiet game interrupted by a shockingly stupid foul in the penalty box by Belgium. An Algerian penalty-kick goal soon followed. I missed the second half, where Belgium rallied with two strong goals.
Brazil vs. Mexico (0–0)
A well-played and tactical but still not uncreative match. Mexico had more than its share of chances, forcing Brazilian goaltender Júlio César to make some spectacular saves. On the other end, though, the goaltending magic sparked even more brightly, with Mexican goaltender Guillermo Ochoa making nearly inhuman saves to maintain the shutout. There were occasional glimpses of Brazil’s style, but only Neymar really shone, as well as perhaps Paulinho. The tie was well-deserved, but there could have easily been goals on either side, if it hadn’t have been for the amazing goal-tending.
Russia vs. South Korea (1–1)
Both sides have a precise midfield game, a strong and well-organized defense and a somewhat ponderous offense (at least for the first third). It kind of felt like watching the FIFA 2015 AI play against itself. Russia became a bit more dangerous at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half but nothing came of it. South Korea woke up a bit more in the second half as well. Both goalies had their problems holding on to the ball. The Russian keeper Akinfeev just totally flubbed a save and spilled it into the net (Kommentator ZDF[1]: “der ist der Depp des Tages. Ich will nicht despektierlich sein aber man kann das nicht anders bezeichnen”). It looked bad for Russia until substitute Kerzhakov brought a lot of energy to the game and was rewarded for it. From that point on, Russia dominated and had a lot more chances.
Netherlands vs. Australia (3–2)
Australia played better than expected and Holland took a while to find their rhythm. Still, Robben delivered a goal to take the lead, but Cahill equalized for Australia pretty much immediately. Australia got a weak penalty and Van Persie equalized, again almost immediately. DePay took the lead for Netherlands. Australia sought the equalizer until the very end, but Holland had the majority of chances and offense. Australia have a long flight ahead of them.
Spain vs. Chile (0–2)
Spain is still trying to find its rhythm. Initially, the Chileans were buzzing like bees and had the majority of the chances and long passes. Spain stuck to short passes (surprise!) but looked very disorganized, especially at the back. What a goal by Chile! Three beautiful passes and a falling-down finish by Vargas gives Chile the lead. Chile goes up 2–0 at the end of the first half and Spain is starting to panic. Spain takes some ugly fouls but manage to get it back under control, although Chile is still not giving them control of the midfield. Chile continues to build offense while Spain makes some very good attempts on set pieces. It is Chilean goaltender Claudio Bravo’s day, though, and Spain is going home.[2]
Cameroon vs. Croatia (0–4)
Cameroon started off with some very nice offensive flourishes but Croatia went against the run of play early and cashed in on a nice pass. By the middle of the first half, Croatia had established itself in the midfield and Cameroon was less on the offense than at the beginning. A shockingly stupid retaliation foul at the end of 45 minutes for Cameroon results in a red card. Croatia didn’t wait long in the second half to take advantage and pushed it to 2–0. They kept on coming and were at 3–0 at 60 minutes. A lot of the Cameroonians looked like they were going to cry. They still had flashes of offensive brilliance right up until the end, but they were too tired from playing a man down for an entire half to get an Ehrentor.[3]
Colombia vs. Côte d’Ivoire (2–1)
Côte d’Ivoire carried a lot of the play but couldn’t make anything of its chances. Colombia took advantage of some serious organization problems. After going down 2–0, Gervinho made a lovely individual effort to get past the Colombian keeper. They would keep trying heroically to get the equalizer. Colombia continued to probe and cause problems at the back, but weren’t able to score again. They also dawdled disgustingly at the end of the game, pissing away the last eight minutes of the game in a skilled display of time-wasting that even the referee was helpless to stop.
Uruguay vs. England (1–0)
Both teams came out with both barrels but Uruguay slowly but surely took control and put away an absolutely lovely header. In the second half, both teams came out storming again and had excellent chances in the early minutes. Poor Wayne Rooney seems to be absolutely cursed. Until, finally, in the 75th minute, he managed to score the same kind of goal he always scores: he shoveled it in from 2 meters out after Sturridge did all the work of getting the ball there. But even the German commentator falls all over himself, talking about Rooney’s “klasse”, which remains an utter mystery to me. Suarez, on the other hand, makes his own goals and fires them into the back of the net. Maybe there’s some room on the Spanish plane for England.
Honduras vs. Ecuador (1–2)
This was an exciting match with a lot of offense from both sides. The action roared back and forth across the field with Ecuador seeming to get the upper hand by the middle of the first half. Still, Honduras struck first during a collapse of the Ecuadorian defense. This woke up Ecuador, which redoubled its efforts and was nearly immediately rewarded with its own goal. The match continued at a high level of play and may be one of the more exciting matches of the tournament. Ecuador had a nice header off of a set piece to take it to the final score of 2–1.
Argentina vs. Iran (1–0)

A not uninteresting match with Iran playing Argentina to a standstill for the first half, stifling all of its chances and putting Argentina on the back foot. Argentina seemed out of ideas offensively and less organized than they needed to be at the back, but Iran couldn’t figure out how to punish them for it. As the second half unfolded, you could see Iran slowly gaining confidence, realizing that they were playing Argentina on an even footing and weren’t even needing a lot of luck to do it. Iran had the best chances and they took their confidence to the midfield, where they even managed to outdribble the fabled Argentinians a few times.

Towards the end of the match, Argentina had the clear upper hand in the midfield, but was still not coming up with any big ideas at finishing time, partly because Iran’s air game was much, much better. Iran tried to break out a few times, but had mostly collapsed to a turtle shell by then and were playing for the tie. There was an exciting attack at the 85th minute by Reza but the Argentinian keeper did well to parry it. Four minutes of extra time: no way to explain that but that they wanted to make sure that Argentina gets enough time to score. And score they did, with Messi firing a beautiful bender at 30 seconds into extra time. Iranians fans will still be pleased at how well their team played; Argentinians will be happy with the win, but justifiably worried about their team’s overall performance.

Germany vs. Ghana (2–2)

Germany had a lot of early chances and seemed to have Ghana bottled up in the half for a while, but Ghana exploded out of their half in the 30th minute with a few very dangerous attacks. A few minutes later and it was Germany’s turn, but the Ghanian goaltender was up to the task…and Germany was shooting almost directly at him. The first half ended with both teams having played each other to a standstill, each having had some good chances, but no goals.

In the second half, Germany lobbed in a beautiful ball and Götze headed/kneed it in. Ghana didn’t hang their heads and responded three minutes later with a beautiful header of their own. And then Ghana strikes again with a beautiful through pass to a strong finish! And Germany brings on Klose, who finishes a Schweinsteiger header with perfect positioning! And it’s 2–2 and it’s a wide-open game! They’re flying up and down the field like they’re playing basketball! What a game! Ghana trembles at the German offense and vice versa. Watching on SAT-1 with a German commentator is fantastic. He’s so excited but very fair, just happy to be part of such a good game. The US was damned lucky that a different Ghana showed up for their game; this one is playing the best of Germany to a standstill. Best game of the tournament so far.

Nigeria vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina (1–0)
I watched some of this game, but fast-forwarded a bit because I had places to be. The teams looked relatively evenly matched, with Bosnia able to get the ball to the Nigerian net but not really even get close to scoring—other than one goalpost, I saw no finishing skill whatsoever on that day. Nigeria was similar with the exception of one right-wing advance to a cross in front of the net that was hammered home for the sole goal.
Belgium vs. Russia (1–0)
I didn’t see most of this match, but the replay I fast-forwarded through showed a match that remained scoreless until the 87th minute. Just before the goal, the announcer on ZDF said that “at least we’ve had three minutes of decent football” and, after the goal had been scored, he described it as Belgium “capitalizing on the only good pass they’d made all game”.
South Korea vs. Algeria (2–4)
Though Korea made a few good attacks , particularly Son, Algeria soon took the upper hand and capitalized on a wonderful individual effort and a nice header off of a corner kick. They followed up a few minutes later with a lovely long ball to a cross to an easy goal. The German commentators were quite harsh with the Korean team: they said not only that the Algerian team was a class better than Korea, but that Korea might be playing the worst in the tournament. But Korea managed to pull themselves together and Son earned his reputation with a nice turnaround and quick strike to claw back to 3–1. The goal would spark their team awake—and back to life. Korea showed much more class in the second half, at times dominating the midfield even if not exactly producing too many dangerous chances. But they flew too high and played too far forward, opening up the back for an eager Algeria, which made a World Cup goal look easy. Korea would take advantage of disorganization in Algeria’s defense to get one more goal, but that would be it for them.
USA vs. Portugal (2–2)

Portugal establishes themselves as the better team in the beginning, taking the early lead in the 7th minute. The USA continued to make use of their fast forwards to make dangerous stabs toward the net, but nothing that really made the Portuguese keeper sweat. By the middle of the first half, the US was pressing far forward and Portugal seemed to just be weathering the storm. The US had some dangerous and very hard shots from outside that got quite close. Toward the end of the first half, Portugal was able to take advantage of the more open defense to get a few good chances, but Tim Howard in goal stepped up in a big way to keep the game close.

The US had a huge chance in the 55th minute, but Bradley was too careful with the finishing touch. Despite the Portuguese keeper Beto having already been beaten, he played right up the middle of the goal and into the leg of a defender. And then, out of nowhere, Jermaine Jones rips a bending laser just inside the far post: Beto didn’t even have time to move. Portugal may come to regret having tried to sit on a 1–0 lead rather than trying harder for a bigger lead.

The US is playing with heart and very fairly, taking few fouls and only one yellow card so far. Portugal is getting a bit sulky, taking some ugly fouls and starting to dive in the box (no cards, though). Portugal settled down, took control of the middle field more and got down to work of playing actual football. Then the US took control again, built up and, in the 81st minute, blew apart the Portuguese defense and Dempsey put it away with his stomach for a 2–1 lead.

Portugal will, of course, get five minutes to try to prevent an early flight home. And they would get their goal with a really nice ball from the left to a header. The US was dead on its feet and gave up the goal with 25 seconds left in extra time.

Spain vs. Australia (3–0)
I didn’t watch this game.
Netherlands vs. Chile (2–0)
Holland continues to improve and had most of the good chances in this game. Robben continues to amaze with his inventiveness, strength and speed on offense. Even at the very end of the game, he had real wheels and produced a perfect cross in extra time for Memphis to knock in to finally crush Chile’s hopes of winning the group. Fun game.
Cameroon vs. Brazil (1–4)
Brazil comes out firing on all cylinders and Neymar in particular seems to be able to do what he wants where he wants. This finally pays off when the Brazilian left wing just seizes the ball, tears up the line and crosses to Neymar, who puts it away. The Cameroonian keeper did his best to keep it close during the onslaught. His teammates paid him back by copying Brazil’s goal from before, fighting the ball out of the corner and laying off a perfect cross. Neymar responded soon after with his second goal of the game—and fourth of the tournament. Brazil soon picked up another one to seal the win and then kept their promise to “get a lot of goals” with another.
Croatia vs. Mexico (1–3)
I didn’t watch much of this game, but the little I saw had Mexico getting the better chances, including one crossbar on a nice outside attempt. This would finally pay off late in the second half when Croatia’s defense wilted and Mexico profited three times in quick succession from the confusion. The third goal was less a result of collapse and more a failure to mark a man carefully, but it was a nice. sneaky goal. At that point, they needed one more to pull past Brazil to win the group, but Brazil scored soon after to take away that chance. And then Croatia got their Ehrentor in the 86th minute to settle things down a bit.
Italy vs. Uruguay (0–1)

Italy had the majority of the possession but didn’t really do anything with it. Uruguay needs a win; Italy is OK with a tie. Buffon didn’t see much, if any, work in this half. The statistics claim more shots on goal, but I can’t recall having seen anything dangerous.

The second half was a bit more interesting, but Italy was given a red card with about 30 minutes left. Jumping straight to red was far too harsh, but that’s how it is. No video replay, so no checking the ref’s initial reaction. Italy played quite strong with 10 men and Uruguay would have had the chance to do the same if anyone had seen Suárez take a bite out of Chiellini’s shoulder. However, no one saw it—despite the fact that he’s been caught doing it twice before, according to the German commentator—and Suárez got no card at all.

Two minutes later Diego Godín of Uruguay scored with his back on a corner kick. Italy put in a lot of effort and had Uruguay squeezed into one quarter of the field[4], but couldn’t score. Godín played a big role in preventing a goal too, so he’s probably the man of the match for Uruguay. As Buffon said, Italy could not find their offensive rhythm from the first game and went scoreless in the last two. As a colleague wrote, “Italy did not deserve to advance, but that ref is an ASS”. Italy is going home.

Greece vs. Ivory Coast (1–1)
Both teams played well, but I’m forced to admit that Greece had the better plan and better discipline, taking advantage of the Ivory Coast twice to seal their spot in the next round. Poor Didier is going home.
Colombia vs. Japan (4–1)
I didn’t see this match, just the goals.
Nigeria vs. Argentina (2–3)
Messi hammered home a rebound to put Argentina in an early lead in the third minute, but Nigeria responded in the fourth minute to even up the score. After some struggle in the midfield, Argentina grabbed most of the control and had most of the chances. Messi, in particular, is really finding his form and, after being denied at the corners by the Nigerian goaltender, he finally landed one just before the end of extra time in the first half to make it 2–1. The second half saw Nigeria pull even almost immediately. Argentina shrugged it off quickly and scored the game winner soon after. Nigeria would try many times, but wouldn’t find a finish. Good game from both sides.
Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Iran (3–1)
I didn’t see this match, just the goals. The first Bosnian goal was flat on the ground, from way outside and just off the inside of the post. They would score another precision goal, then Iran pulled within one and Bosnia put it away soon after.
Honduras vs. Switzerland (0–3)
Switzerland came out swinging and got an early couple of chances with an excellent cross to Shaqiri, who was denied by the goaltender. In the sixth minute, though, Shaqiri blasted a beautiful left-footed bender just under the crossbar on the far post to put Switzerland in the lead. And then, just like that, Shaqiri was 2/3 of the way to his hat trick. It was 2–0 at the end of the first half. Shaqiri bagged his third of the match and Switzerland defended the 3–0 lead with the help of Diego Benaglio, who was back in his former form after the horrible game against France. Hopp Schwiiz!
Ecuador vs. France (0–0)
I didn’t see really watch this match. The little I saw showed France with a lot of chances, a lot of pressure and no goals.
United States vs. Germany (0–1)
The US played Germany quite well but Germany played the US badly. Both sides played quite carefully and weren’t very exciting. Both teams would progress to the next round because nothing exciting happened in the Portugal vs. Ghana game either.
Portugal vs. Ghana (2–1)
I didn’t watch much of this game, either. Portugal struck first, Ghana got a quick equalizer. Portugal took the lead again later. Both are still going home.
Korea Republic vs. Belgium (0–1)
Belgium got a late goal to go past Korea and seal their spot at the top of their group with 3 wins. It wasn’t hugely impressive, though.
Algeria vs. Russia (1-1)
Both teams played OK with Algeria really playing a level higher than expected. Russia took the lead, but Algeria picked up the pace and equalized on a corner. The tie was enough for them to move on to the next round with Belgium.

[1] So far, I’m glad that I switched to ZDF/German TV for my world cup coverage. They are so much more knowledgeable than the Swiss commentators—they know player names, histories and they are much more likely to call it as they see it. I haven’t tried British TV yet but know from other years that they are often quite rude and not very good. TSI/Swiss Italian TV was better than SFR/Swiss German TV but ZDF is still better IMHO.
[2] The only goal scored by a team that lost by a good margin. I don’t know that there’s a word for it in English.
[3] Not before they get a full six extra minutes to try to score another goal, though. It always seems like, when a favorite is losing, the extra time is more or less doubled. That was the case again in the Uruguay vs. England game, where England got a full five minutes to try to score an equalizer. Brazil also always seems to get a lot of time—even in the tie against Mexico, you know the five extra minutes were tacked on for Brazil’s benefit.
[4] Despite what that flaming idiot Oliver Khan says, who seemed to have prepared his match report before the game and spent the whole 90 minutes drinking and practicing his Arnold Schwarzenegger impression.