Own goals and close calls: Recap on first games of 2014 FIFA World Cup
>>By Andy Franklin, Guest Writer
Every four years, the world usually turns to one time zone as they welcome the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Brazil is hosting the World Cup for the first time since 1950, and the last time the World Cup was even hosted in South America was in 1978 with Argentina hosting and winning the cup.
So far, there has been a total 14 games played, with all top seeded teams winning except Spain — ranked by FIFA as number one in the world — and Uruguay — number seven.
The host country’s first day of World Cup action started off on a good note with a 3-1 win over Croatia. Brazil scored three unanswered goals on the number 18 Croatian team as they had some much needed help from their 22-year-old goal leader, Neymar.
Croatia came onto the pitch and lucked out with a Brazilian own goal off Marcelo’s leg in the 11th minute.
Brazil’s squad then caught intensity from their crowd as their native hero Neymar put in a curved shot off the post. To add insult to injury, Brazil added two more goals later at the 71st and 90th minutes, respectively. Neymar was the FIFA.com Man of the Match.
Following the inaugural day in Sao Paulo, three matches followed as Mexico faced Cameroon in Natal. Mexico’s Peralta put away a juicy rebound from Cameroon’s goalkeeper Charles Itandje.
As the Mexicans celebrated their victory, a revenge was settled on Arena Fonte Nova Salvador’s pitch between Netherlands and Spain.
The last time these two played in the World Cup was in the championship of the 2010 World Cup as the Spanish defeated the Dutch in a penalty kick shootout nailbiter. But that was not the case this time, as Netherlands beat Spain 5-1. Spain’s Xabi Alonso scored first goal from the penalty spot thanks to a questionable tackle from Dutchman Stefan De Vrij.
That goal was the only positive for Spain, as Robin Van Persie’s header over Spain’s keeper Iker Casillas soon leveled the scoreline.
The Netherlands went on to rout the world’s top ranked team, as Spain lost their first game since September 10, 2013, against Brazil. With that loss to Netherlands, Spain is now below Chile and Australia in Group B. Chile scored two goals on Australia within two minutes and won the game 3-1.
With the conclusion of the first two match days, Columbia faced Greece in Belo Horizante as the Columbians stole a shutout from number 12 Greece. A young Costa Rican team beat the well regarded Uruguay 3-1.
Italy faced off against England at the Amazon Arena in Manaus with an unfamiliar face. An ankle injury kept well known goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon off the field Saturday as he watched his backup Salvatore Sirgu help in Italy’s win. Buffon is expected to return for his match against Costa Rica on Friday according to The Guardian.
The Japanese struggled against favored Cote D’Ivoire, losing 2-1 against the number 23 ranked Ivory Coast.
Switzerland took down Ecuador with a late goal by Haris Seferovic in the 92nd minute of the 93-minute match.
France found themselves with an easy match against number 44 Honduras as they won the match 3-0.
Argentina struggled against Bosnia and Herzegovina, but came out on top 2-1. Argentinean captain Lionel Messi scored the game-winning goal in the 65th minute and was the Man of the Match according to FIFA.com.
Germany took the field Monday, June 16, looking for a win over number four Portugal. Germany pulled ahead early as Portugal showed few signs of offense, with Germany targeting star offensive Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo. Thomas Muller scored a hat trick as Germany played their 100th World Cup game in style, defeating the Portuguese 4-0.
Iran and Nigeria showed an even balance of offense and defense as they leveled out with a draw at 0-0. This was the first draw in the 2014 World Cup so far.
The Americans showed they had offensive power from the beginning of their match against Ghana as captain Clint Dempsey scored just 29 seconds in to regulation play, which is the fifth-fastest goal in the history of the World Cup.
USA would rode that goal all the way into the 80th minute, when Ghana evened the score with a goal by Andre Ayew. Yet, luck was on the Americans’ side as John Brooks broke through with a header from a corner kick to make the score 2-1 in favor of the Americans.
USA currently sits on top of Ghana and Portugal, but will face a tough Portugal squad that is coming off a disappointing loss to Germany. That game will be at Arena Amazonia on Sunday, June 22.