Dustin George-Miller is a life-long soccer fan, a sports blogger and a Goshen College staffer. His community blog on The Elkhart Truth, The Corner Flag: World Cup 2014, will cover the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
What a tournament! We’ve progressed through nearly a week of matches, and with yesterday’s games complete, every World Cup team has played its first match. Let’s take this opportunity to step back a bit and review the first “round” of games, giving a few ridiculously early (but hopefully fun) awards.
The current standings of each group can be found here, a helpful reference as we head into the next round of games.
Ridiculously Early World Cup Awards (“Los Dustinhos Pequenos”)
Most impressive team: The Netherlands
I wouldn’t have called you crazy if you had picked Holland to upset Spain in its rematch of the 2010 World Cup finals. Holland is a very good team, well-coached by Louis Van Gaal and has excellent players. However, I don’t think anyone expected a 5-1 drubbing in Brazil. Spain was made to look not just out of sorts, but downright pedestrian by Holland’s voracious attack, which was called “the biggest victory by the Dutch over the Spanish since the Eighty Years’ War.” The Dutch made a statement with this win: Don’t underestimate the Oranje, and the Spaniards’ reign over international soccer might just be over.
Best Player: Thomas Muller, Germany
Thomas Muller won the Golden Boot (top goal scorer award) at the precocious age of 20 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. So how does he top that? He goes out and scores a hat trick in his opening match in 2014. Muller has speed, trickery and a nose for goal that belies his age, and at his current pace (and with at least two more future World Cups to attend) he’s likely going to obliterate Ronaldo’s record of 15 total World Cup goals before his career is done. Plus, he managed to get Portugal hot-head Pepe red-carded for the team’s match against the USA. We Americans salute you for that, Herr Muller. Danke schön!
Biggest Upset: Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica
There are upsets, and then there are upsets. Costa Rica came into the World Cup banged up, placed in a tough group and missing its starting striker Alfónso Saborío, but instead of rolling over, the team went straight at 2010 semi-finalists Uruguay and came away with an impressive 3-1 victory. This puts Costa Rica in a prime position to -- amazingly -- progress out of Group D if it can nab a point from England or Italy. I love Costa Rica (I spent a semester there in college), and I love a good underdog story. This is as good as it gets.
Most Exciting Match: Brazil 0-0 Mexico (Tuesday)
Most people, I’m sure, expected me to put Monday’s USA-Ghana match here, but I’m not. I predicted earlier that Brazil-Mexico would be an absolutely fantastic match to watch, and I believe I was proven right. What this match lacked in goals it made up for in sheer, unbridled crazy. While Mexico keeper Guillermo Ochoa was deservedly man of the moment (seven saves! Holy moley!), this match was every bit as much about Brazil not converting its shots. Mexico had its chances too. You know how some non-soccer fans like to complain about how soccer has too many “boring scoreless draws?” This match is my counterpoint. Frankly, I think this Vine video of a woman reacting to an Ochoa save sums up the game better than I ever could. Wow.
Best Ending: (tie) Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador; Ghana 1-2 USA
You wanna know why I love soccer? It’s because every so often you get matches that hinge on events that happen in the waning moments. Ecuador looked like it was going to get a fortunate draw from Switzerland in its opening match only to watch see Haris Seferovic put in the winning goal deep into injury time with the last kick of the game. Stunning.
Meanwhile, we know how the USA-Ghana match ended. Here’s how it looked from the stands in Natal.
Worst match: Iran 0-0 Nigeria
You know how I talked about how exciting that scoreless Brazil-Mexico match was? This was the opposite. Ugh.
Best Fan Moments
One of the best things about World Cup 2014 has been the wonderful shots of the crowd during matches. This tournament actively encourages fans to get flamboyant and let their freak flags fly in the name of sport, patriotism and good fun. Here are some of my favorite fan moments, cribbed from Twitter and the web.
Australia’s Inflatable Kangaroo (Monty Python version).
Australia’s opening match against Chile may have resulted in a 3-1 loss for the Socceroos, but it did give us access to one of the most unequivocally Australian (and hilarious) fan moments of the tournament. Australia scored! WAVE THE INFLATABLE KANGAROO! Questions abound: What does he do with it when not in use? Did the fan need to purchase a second seat? Are there inflatable wallabies? Enquiring minds, etc.
Protip to Argentina fans: I really don’t think you need the help, but hey, any port in a storm I guess.
Diego Lugano’s Face.
This isn’t a crowd shot but it is one of my favorite videos in the World Cup Players Grimacing Hilariously While In Action category. The ball. The BALL! AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
The Flying Dutchman.
Every team’s World Cup fans has That Guy™. You know, the one that the invariably cameras will gravitate towards because of the outright care he put into his World Cup costume. Like this guy from the Netherlands. He’s like a cross between Captain Ahab and The Most Interesting Man in the World. Also doesn’t hurt that he’s wearing more flair than a waiter at Chotchkie’s.
Algerian Fez Guy.
Algeria led for a good part of its match against Belgium on Tuesday. That made this man happy. He was wearing a fez. Fezzes are cool.
Matches to Watch
Spain v. Chile, Group B, today, 3 p.m. (Estádio Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro)
Spain will be desperate to bounce back from its humiliation at the hands of the Dutch last week. Chile looked impressive in its opening win. If Chile can beat Spain, the team automatically qualifies for the next round... and Spain is eliminated. This is big.
Uruguay v. England, Group D, Thursday, 3 p.m. (Arena Corinthians, São Paulo)
Two teams with no points after their first matches. Luis Suarez, cannibal terror of England, is back for Uruguay. A draw does neither team any good here. They need points. Expect open, attacking football.
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