18 June, 2014 - 12:06

2014 World Cup revelations. Top surprises and disappointments after six days

Six days after the beginning of the tournament all 32 teams have played a game (Brazil and Mexico have had two). Obviously, it is too early to make any conclusions, but we have been struck with the form of some of the squads in opening matches, both positively and negatively.

So, here are the national teams, who impressed us most in the first week:

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1. Netherlands
It wouldn’t be too bold to claim that nobody expected that kind of performance from Louis van Gaal’s team. Yes, the Oranje cruised in qualification campaign. Yes, they have Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder in the squad. But they were playing against world cup holders. They were playing with home-based back line of youngsters against the likes of Iniesta, Costa, Silva, Xabi and Xabi Alonso. Yet, they managed to put in stellar performance and tore Vicente del Bosque’s men apart. Playing long crosses for brilliant Robbern and van Persie made the result for Holland as they turned into one of the main title contenders in the space of 90 minutes.

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2. Mexico
Well, we can actually judge by two matches, and Miguel Herrera’s Mexico have impressed against both Cameroon and World Cup hosts Brazil. The Aztecs look a totally different team from the one that scraped through CONCACAF qualification. And if beating Cameroon on the rainy night was ok, holding the Selecao to a goalless draw was something to be proud of. Plus, Guillermo Ochoa has kept a clean sheet for 180 minutues now.

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3. Italy
Squadra Azzurra are not the team who can surprise with fine performance. However, it should be mentioned that their opponents, England, were really good on the night. They used the flanks with high tempo and had enough determination to start well in Brazil. With that kind of performance England probably could have beaten most of the teams. But not Italy. Cesare Prandelli’s men excelled in midfield, completing around 94% of the passes, with about 100 coming from maestro Andrea Pirlo. Accompanied by Daniele De Rossi, Claudio Marchisio, Antonio Candreva and Marco Verratti, the veteran propelled Italy to a 2-1 victory against the main group rivals and put the other teams on alert.

However, there are teams that must have disappointed the fans and pundits:

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1. Spain
There is no avoiding to mention La Furia Roja in this list. Things got as bad as they could for current champions in the opening game. They simply were not ready for quick Robben and van Persie, and for Daley Blind’s crosses. What was also strange to look at was Spain’s lack of creativity. Having won the last three major tournaments, Xavi and co. looked slow and unmotivated against hungry, predatory Holland.

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2. Brazil
Questionable inclusion in our list, but to our taste the hosts have not shown even 50% of their potential in the opening two matches. Fred should have been booked for simulation against Croatia, but instead earned a penalty. And that was not the only referee’s decision in favor of Selecao. Had they not beaten Croatia in the first game, Luis Felipe Scolari would have been under immense pressure after a goalless draw with Mexico. Having Cameroon to play in the last group match, Brazil will probably top the group, but they need a huge boost if they want to get the sixth World Cup title at home.

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3. Uruguay
That might play a cruel trick with England, but Uruguay were terrible against Costa-Rica. Toothless, lacking composure, they were unable to prove the favorite’s status and fell to a 1-3 defeat. They played without the main star, Luis Suarez, who could return in time for crucial England clash, but they are South America champions! They are not all one-man team! Their qualification campaign, where Uruguay finished fifth and had to make it through intercontinental play-off, was a hint there is some downfall in the team, but still that kind of performance was somewhat astonishing.

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Author: Leon Smolski

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