One of the good things about the World Cup is that it throws up some interesting moments that will live long in the memory of every football fan. Whether it’s a refereeing blunder, a great goal or a sublime piece of skill, the biggest stage of them all, brings out the very best in all the players. Although this World Cup is just over a week old, but it has already provided us some fascinating encounters, plenty of goals and more importantly more than its fair share of upsets.
Whether it was Netherlands’ demolition of Spain or Germany’s destruction of Portugal, there have been some stunning clashes between the top teams. But what is so interesting about this World Cup is not the top teams, but the teams below them. Teams who, before the tournament, were called as dark horses for the title. While the term, dark horses has certainly been done to death, the fact of the matter is that they are called dark horses for a reason.
Before the start of the tournament, there were many who predicted that South American sides would do well as this was the first World Cup in the continent since 1978. Neither hosts Brazil nor the highly-fancied Argentina have taken the World Cup by storm so far, but a couple of other South American sides have. Chile and Colombia have both been impressive so far scoring five and conceding just once.
Led by the mercurial James Rodriguez in attack, Colombia have thus far shown that they aren’t missing their talismanic skipper Radamel Falcao as much as many predicted they would. Chile on the other hand continue to impress one and all with their high intensity and tempo of both their pressing and passing. The other two South American sides Uruguay and Ecuador have also shown that they are no mugs either, but neither look like they are going to win the tournament.
Among the European teams, the two teams on whom there was little or no expectations are the two sides who have been thoroughly impressive so far. While holders Spain, England have already been knocked out, Italy and Germany face crucial clashes in their final game to secure a berth in the Round of 16. France and Holland, both relatively young sides, renowned for their attacking instincts have been the two standout European sides so far.
Louis Van Gaal has been able to inspire a largely inexperienced Holland side to two straight victories over Spain and Australia and a place in the Round of 16. The Dutch had to come from behind to win both encounters and have shown plenty of steel and resilience, something that bodes well for the rest of the tournament. France on the other hand, have completely blown apart both Honduras and the sixth-ranked Swiss side to secure a place in knock out round and increase their expectations exponentially.
No African or Asian side has shone through so far. And it is Nigeria, who are surprisingly the best placed of all the African sides, to progress into the next round. No Asian side has won so far and unless that changes, none of them are going to go through either.
Irrespective of who wins the World Cup, the tournament has already seen plenty of upsets so far. Whether it was the Dutch demolition of Spain or Costa Rica’s two wins over Uruguay and Italy or Spain being knocked out in the Group Stages, Brazil has seen some shocks. If this trend continues, expect some high-profile knockouts in the next round. And maybe just maybe, if that happens, a side that has never won the World Cup might win it this time.
The Dutch have come second thrice and look hungry for their maiden title, while Chile and Colombia on the other hand, are the sides no one will be looking forward to face in the next round. Belgium have played just once and haven’t clicked into gear so far and Costa Rica look like the sort of side who are likely to put a spanner in the works of a top side.
It might be a long shot, but given the amount of excitement and entertainment the tournament has provided so far, it would be foolish to expect nothing less in the next three weeks. And if things fall into place, we might just be looking at a maiden World Cup winner. Even if that doesn’t, expect some more shocks and upsets for sure. For the mantra of the World Cup so far has been, “expect the unexpected”.