World Cup Groups E-H Review: USA! USA! USA!

     The World Cup started out a bit shaky.  Spain and Uruguay both lost horrendously, Costa Rica came out on top of Group D, and England and Greece forgot how to play the beautiful game.  There was a referee conspiracy, a nude photo scandal, and memes filled the internet.  While we were consumed by the opening few days, worker productivity went down.  The world was captivated by the games and the teams playing in them, fighting so hard for the countries they love.  These are the things everyone loves about soccer.  The emotion, the passion, the celebration.  These greats things continued into the rest of the opening set of matches.  Groups E-H proved to be just as exciting, and without the scandals.
     Group E began with a bang.  Specifically, a 93rd minute bang that stole a point from Ecuador and gave three to Switzerland.  It was a moment of clutch unrivaled so far in the World Cup.  If that shot doesn’t go in, Ecuador has a reasonable shot at this group.  Not to say their hopes are over, but they will need some luck.  Honduras I believe had the first red card of the World Cup.  To be honest, however, it didn’t really matter if they had 11 men or 10.  Either way they ran into a surprisingly good France team that had definitely recovered from the news that Ribery and Nasri wouldn’t be going to Brazil.  France is practically through already just because of the high goal differential they have now at +3.  Switzerland is a strong side that comes in second, and it will be tough for Ecuador to come back and take their place because that would require a win against Honduras and some points against France.  It will be very difficult for Ecuador to defeat the French, but the possibility remains.  Similarly, Honduras looks down and out, but if they can stir up some magic in the dressing room, who knows what’s in store.  I still see my original predictions of Switzerland and France in this group.
     Argentina struggled a bit in their opening match, but then again it was against a stronger than expected Bosnia side.  Lionel Messi did have a nice goal that was one of the better scores of the still young World Cup.  Bosnia had a nice goal late in the game to make the score a very respectable 2-1.  Through that performance I now like them to take the second spot in group F.  From an Argentina team that is the second favorite to hoist the Cup next month, I didn’t like what I saw.  They seemed a little too relaxed for my liking, although they did have some beautiful runs.  At least they got the three points.  It took 13 games in this World Cup for there to be a draw, and it didn’t come from one of the likely candidates.  It seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Iranian team would be last in the group, but that’s only if you look from the surface.  The underdogs Iran are actually ranked higher in the FIFA rankings than Nigeria.  They are 43rd and 45th, respectively.  Looking at it from that angle, it seemed like a draw was fair, and that’s just what occurred, with the match culminating in a scoreless tie.  With Nigeria and Iran with only one point, Bosnia is in great position to take at least 4 and possibly 6 points out of their remaining two matches while Iran and Nigeria will struggle for points.  I see a come from behind victory for second in the group, with Messi leading Argentina to a first-place finish.
     As you read in the title of this article, the US of A had a great start to their World Cup, avenging previous defeats against Ghana with a 2-1 victory in Monday’s clash.  This game was heated.  Kicks were coming everywhere and going everywhere, including Clint Dempsey’s nose, which is now broken.  Jozy Altidore had to leave early, and will miss Portugal’s game, but should be back against Germany.  I feel bad for Ghana.  Despite their rough style of play, they played just as good if not better than the US for 80 minutes, but started and ended poorly, conceding in the first and 86th minutes.  In the end, it will be a bitter defeat for Ghana but a big motivation for two more tough games in the “Group of Death.”  As for the other group G teams, it was a lopsided game between two top 5 ranked teams.  Unfortunately, I was unable to see this game, but from the 4-0 score, and friends telling me it could’ve been more, I think it’s really obvious how this went down.  Germany stands strong as a leading World Cup contender, and Portugal will need Ronaldo more now than ever.
     Belgium, the dark horses of the World Cup, struggled against Algeria in their first match.  They conceded an early penalty, which Sofiane Feghouli was able to convert.  In the second half, however, Belgium played much harder and through substitutes Dries Mertens and Marouane Fellaini they were able to get the two goals that put them ahead, and hold their lead until the ref blew his final whistle.  The Belgians got the three points in the end, and that’s all that really matters.  Algeria played a good game, but in the end, while it may have been a good game for them, it won’t help them get out of the group.  Russia’s match against South Korea was a huge one for me because it was the first game whose score I predicted correctly in my Yahoo Pick’em.  The 1-1 draw came alive in the middle of the second half, where both sides were rapidly going back and forth, including a goal for each side.  With the emergence of Algeria as a second place contender and only one point to South Korea and Russia, the second spot in group H is for the taking.
     I’m still enjoying every moment I see of this World Cup, so my main suggestion is to soak in as much of it as you can, because what you get now will have to last four another four years.

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