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By: Ibrahim Naser
The 2014 World Cup officially launched with hosting its opening ceremony at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paolo, Brazil on the 13th of June. The ceremony itself captured both praise and the attention of the world with its innovative and dazzling performances by the hundreds of locals and the spectacular sphere which opened up to a stage resembling a flower was the launching pad used by world renowned stars like Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull and Brazilian Pop Singer Jennifer Little, captivating the audience, singing and dancing with the official song of the World Cup, “We Are One.”

The high hopes and bearing the dreams of the whole nation in their shoulders, Brazil kicked off their World Cup mission by playing their opening game against Croatia with a steeled resolve to win their Sixth FIFA World Cup. The whole Stadium was a sea of yellow and green as fans came to support their favorite team. Brazil started off nicely but mishap struck soon when one of their defender, Marcello kicked the ball into the nets in an attempt to clear the ball and gave Croatia their first lead. It was Brazil’s first goal and sadly, they scored against themselves. However, the smiles and roars of the fan son returned as Neymar Jr., their Star forward scored a stunning goal with a mixture of skill and dribbling backed up by a beautiful setup by Oscar, making his World Cup goal a memorable. Brazil got awarded a controversial penalty in the second half which Neymar took and gave Brazil a decisive lead of 2-1 before finishing the match, with Oscar scoring the third goal, at 3-1 against Croatia.

Brazil’s glorious record of remaining unbeaten in the Group Stages of World Cups since 1958 was broken as their next match with Mexico ended with nil-nil (0-0) draw. Sometimes, the score line does not reveal the full picture. All credits goes to the Mexico Team as they executed their game plan beautifully and defended even better against the Brazilians, creating a barrage of chances in both the first and the second halves especially in the last 20 minutes of the game. However, luck was not with them as they tested Brazil’s Goalkeeper Julio Cesar’s Range, shooting from 25-30 yards range but every single time the ball went over the Goalpost. The real hero of the day was clearly Mexico’s last defense, their goalie, Guillarmo Ochoa as he denied Brazil at least 4 goals, Neymar being denied 3 times as he unquestionably produced the best saves of this World Cup. Brazil must win against Nigeria in order for them to proceed to the next round.

Perhaps the most shocking and unexpected turnout match that rolled out the next day was the match between the last two Finalists of the previous World Cup, Spain vs. The Netherlands. It must came as a shock when the strategy Spain tried to employ with their “Tiki Taka” style was proving to be downright ineffective and The Netherlands made sure they show the world what they are made of. The Netherlands proved to be an unstoppable force against a distraught Spain as they displayed a combination of skill, mastery and tenacity with Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben leading from the front, scoring two goals each with Van Persie giving Netherlands their second lead with an unbelievable mid-air Header which may well be this World Cup’s best goal ever. Arjen Robben absolutely tore through Spain’s defense to score his two trademark goals with amazing precision and finesse.


Spain, on the other hand, needed a must win in their next match against Chile and failed to deliver yet again as they struggled more than their previous game against The Netherlands and Chile played with absolute confidence and teamwork to gift Spain their second defeat in quick succession, having won 3-1 against Australia beforehand and eliminating any chance of then advancing to the knockout rounds by winning 2-0. Ultimately, the current World Cup Champions were knocked out of the Group Stage as they wondered what went so horribly wrong.

Uruguay suffered an upset after they were beaten by Costa Rica 3-0 in their opening game. Much were riding on Luis Suarez’s shoulders as Costa Rica’s Breakout Star Joel Campbell stole the spotlight to help Costa Rica post their superb victory against Uruguay. He scored, assisted and played magnificently throughout the game. Uruguay, on the other hand, bounced back against England with Luis Suarez showed his flare as he scored two amazing and decisive goals to seal his team’s victory over England. England also had to leave the biggest stage in World Soccer having lost their opening against Italy, 1-2 or more specifically against the “Super Mario Balotelli” who scored the two winning goals against England.

Germany, in their opening game, blew away a weak and clueless Portugal as they showed their attacking spirit and German Power as they attacked the Portuguese Defense right from the word ‘Go’. The result was as clear as a perfect sunny day as Germany clinched a whopping 4-0 victory over Portugal. Portugal’s inability to stop the brilliant display of German onslaught provided by the trio Thomas Muller, Mario Geortze and Frank Ribery combined with their poor defending led to their huge defeat where Thomas Muller, the Star of the Match, scored this World Cup’s first Hat trick in the match. However, Germany has drawn against Ghana 2-2 at the time of writing this article and both teams must now win their final matches in their respective groups as Germany will face USA Team who made history in their opening game as they outplayed by Ghana and emerged as the victor, the score line being 2-1, having never won against Ghana in previous World Cups, this was an unforgettable win by the USA as Clint Dempsey was the hero of the day. Miroslav Klose has touched Ronaldo’s (Brazil) record of most goals in World Cups (15) in this match. Ghana and USA will face Portugal in their next matches.

Australia played well and poured all their efforts into their match against The Netherlands but The Dutch came out victorious as it was not an easy win for them. They also had to keep up the intensity and ball possession throughout the entire game as the pendulum swung both ways during the match. Arjen Robben, Van Persie and Memphis Depay helped The Dutch to post their second victory on the board, thereby making their team advance to the Round of Sixteen. Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak scored for Australia. The score line being 3-2 as The Netherlands sent out a message to the other teams that they are one of the strong contenders to take the title in this World Cup. With this loss, Australia is also eliminated from the World Cup.

Argentina was seen as the Team as the second best contender to take the World Cup this year but after witnessing their play in their first two matches in the Group Stage, It is evident that they need to seriously turn it around in the Knockout stages as their attacking line is packed with names like Lionel Messi – The World’s Best Player and is an absolute treat to watch, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain. However, sometimes things don’t happen as we claim to be. Bosnia & Herzegovina and Iran, being small teams compared to the likes of the Argentina Team but they surely are playing the games of their lives, Argentina have yet to step up to the plate like the rest of the big teams have already shown their spectacular gameplay and what can they offer.

‘Magical Messi’ scored his second goal in the match against Bosnia with absolute precision and perfect execution, taking Argentina to victory as they finished the game, 2-1. However, Iran almost held Argentina to a nil-nil (0-0) draw till the 91st minute when Messi came to the rescue for Argentina as he finally found an opening to score a perfect curled left footed trademark shot past Iranian Goalkeeper, Asghar Haghighi to reserve their spot in Knockout Rounds (1-0). Iran have never played this well before as their defending skills were truly praiseworthy as they came all down to defend and all up to attack as well. Iran almost scored two goals but could not due to the efforts of the Argentine Goalie. Iran showed their true spirit and played valiantly but heartbreaks followed after Lionel Messi scored the decisive goal. This means Iran will go have to go home as their first match Nigeria ended up in a draw.
France and Colombia were the first two teams to advance to the second round, having won comfortably in their first two match with France dominating their opponents, Honduras and Switzerland, scoring 3 and 5 goals against them respectively. Costa Rica will surely be on its way. Belgium, Nigeria, Ghana, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Algeria, S. Korea, Ecuador and the rest of the teams will give their all to win their final matches and book their places in the Knockout Stage. The expectations and the performance exhibited in the first 10 days of this World Cup are already mind blowing and captivated thousands of fans from all over the world who flocked to Brazil to support their respective teams and raise their spirits up high. Who knows what hidden surprises the Knockout round has in store for us?
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