World Cup Groups A-D Review: Upsets and Surprises Galore!

     I am disappointed to say that my predictions for the first World Cup games were off the mark at best.  I’m writing this after a catastrophic start to group E which saw me missing both a game and a score prediction in stoppage time.  Thanks, Switzerland.  Anyways, here’s what I thought of groups A-D’s first games and what it means for the games ahead.
     Group A had some rather questionable refereeing decisions.  It’s too bad these errors clouded the games themselves because they were really pretty good.  Brazil and Croatia both played well in their opening match, and even though Croatia played well they did fall 3-1.  I don’t blame the ref for either major decision in that match because from his point of view the penalty was a penalty, and while their was a little embellishment, there still was some contact.  And with the goal from Croatia that was negated, the ref blew the whistle even before the player that scored received the ball, so it isn’t really like a goal was taken away.  However, in the Mexico v. Cameroon match, two goals were taken away from Giovani Dos Santos, and while Mexico still played strong enough to get the win, goal difference may be a deciding factor in who comes second, Mexico or Croatia.  I was not expecting Mexico to come out so strong, as I predicted a draw.  Cameroon does not look like a team with enough power to score goals, and thus is basically out of the group.  It’s tough to choose who comes second, but I think Croatia has a stronger chance of beating Mexico than Mexico does in beating Croatia.
     Can someone please tell me what happened to the Spain we all know?  This anger and want for revenge from the Netherlands completely destroyed the Spaniards and it looked like Xabi Alonso’s early penalty just made the Netherlands more ready to attack.  van Persie had a beautiful header which changed the momentum of the game and the onslaught that followed ended in a 5-1 victory for the Dutch.  Chile took care of business for the most part, despite a strong middle of the game from Australia.  Tim Cahill was able to net a header but Chile took the match 3-1.  Now Spain is really in trouble.  I say they need to win their next two games to have a chance of making it out of the group.  Their goal differential is just awful.  And even with two wins, there is still a decent chance that Spain, Chile, and the Netherlands all finish with six points, taking out the Spanish on the goal differential tiebreaker.
     Japan really gave me a heartbreak last night.  They played a strong first half, but Ivory Coast just took so many shots that they were bound to make one or two eventually.  The old 1-2 occurred in the middle of the second half when Didier Drogba, the beast himself, entered the game.  He immediately turned things around a brought a 2-1 win for the elephants.  Serge Aurier also provided assists on the two Ivorian goals.  I’m happy with how Japan played, however, and I think they have a chance at Greece.  Speaking of Greece, that was not pretty.  They struggled to get shots off while on the other end James Rodriguez orchestrated an offensive powerhouse as the young Colombians swiftly took care of their opposition, ending in a 3-0 win.  It also marked Greece’s fourth consecutive World Cup game conceding off a set piece.  That’s a really alarming statistic.  Overall, it seems like this group is pretty much decided, as Ivory Coast and Colombia looked really strong.  However, much stranger things have happened, so you can’t count out Japan and Greece.
     It’s crazy how much a difference one player’s absence makes.  Then again, who really knows whether Luis Suarez would’ve made a difference for Uruguay.  The favorites in the group were shellshocked when Costa Rica, the 1000-1 odds of winning the World Cup Costa Rica, scored not one or two, but three goals in the second half unanswered to score a 3-1 win.  Could Costa Rica advance now?  There’s a pretty good chance.  They played surprisingly well.  And how about Italy?  The Italians played very good against the Brits, and Antonio Candreva was a big difference maker on the right wing.  Mario Balotelli’s header seemed to really crush the English team, as they couldn’t get anything going.  Nothing happened on the left side for them, and key players such as Wayne Rooney couldn’t get an on-target shot off if their life depended on it.  Scary.  At least for them, Uruguay doesn’t seem to be strong either.  England will definitely need at least 4 points to move on, while Italy is sitting pretty at the moment, even without Gianluigi Buffon.
     It’s been a hard World Cup to call, but a really fun one to watch.  Argentina and Leo Messi kick off tonight, while the USA takes on Ghana in a rainy Natal tomorrow.  This is just the beginning of a great World Cup.
Thanks for reading,
Connor

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