World Cup 2014: Second Round

World Cup coverage continues, and the surprises just keep coming!

Memo Ochoa, the greatest goalkeeper in the World Cup so far

BRA-MEX (0-0)
What a game! Ochoa is rightfully the Man of the Match, making 8 stunning saves in addition to recovering the ball in the box. Mexico is a resilient, talented bunch, and they gave Brazil a good run for their money. On the other hand, Brazil played sloppy and unimpressive for a team of their caliber.

AUS-NED (2-3)
It was an exhilarating game, and almost a tie! The Netherlands didn’t play as well as they did their first game, but I can still see them in the finals. Australia played admirably, and Cahill is undeniably a new Australian hero.

ESP-CHI (0-2)
Chile did a spectacular job in putting the world champions to shame. The game highlighted how the mighty have fallen, from Casillas’ fumbles, to the nonexistent defense, to Costa doing “the Torres” and choking last minute. Chile deserved the win and Spain goes home regardless of their next game, which I feel guiltily happy about.

CAM-CRO (0-4)
I did not expect such a high scoring game! Cameroon had given up by goal 3, and my heart went out to them. Croatia played tighter and more focused. Despite Croatia’s score, I think there’s plenty to improve. However, I will not be upset if they advanced into the knockout stages; they are a solid team.

COL-CIV (2-1)
It was a great game, but it showed that even with Drogba on pitch, CIV can’t put finishing touches on the ball. Colombia is showing the world how cohesive they are as a team, despite not having textbook “star players”.

Happier times for Suarez

URU-ENG (2-1)
England has a knack for putting players in positions they don’t usually play, which makes it very frustrating to watch. Sterling gets shoehorned into a far right position, right against the line, swarmed by Uruguayan players – it’s no wonder he can’t get a cross in! Rooney finally got to play forward, and he did his job and got in a goal. I think the English squad could be a true power if they got a proper coach. Uruguay played iffy, and their players are always disjointed from one another. They also play too aggressively and dive when they get the same back. The greatest issue with this game is how concussed player Periera was allowed to continue playing, despite him being incoherent and poorly coordinated.

JAP-GRC (0-0)
Both these teams “park the bus” and refuse to utilize their forwards properly. Honda is a stellar player, but he does not have the support he needs to pursue a proper attack. Japan is very timid and Greece is very incompetent – both these teams don’t deserve to advance, because not only are they boring and frustrating to watch, but they showcase less skills and strategy that other teams.

ITA-COR (0-1)
Costa Rica put their team in a genius position: with 5 defenders constantly keeping together, Italy’s offense not only had little chances to advance, but also caught Balotelli constantly offside. Italians struggled the whole time to create a chance to score, but Costa Rica shot every attempt down with tactical superiority. First in the “group of death” to qualify, Costa Rica is a dark horse and a new favorite.

SUI-FRA (2-5)
The game was a massacre! I’m not sure what happened to the Swiss defense, but I know that their morale reached a World Cup low. France, on the other hand, played cool and calculating, which is a stark contrast to their former WC squads. France definitely is a formidable foe for any of their future contenders.

HON-ECU (1-2)
I’m not-so-secretly happy that Honduras lost; their thuggish, overly-aggressive playing style has no place in the World Cup. Ecuador played with heart, and they deserved their win, whereas Honduras should take a good look at the kind of tactics they rely on to win.

Iran, master of defensive tactics

ARG-IRA (0-1)
After the last game, nobody expected much from Iran, but we were all so wrong. The only goal of the day came in last minute (90’+3″) from Messi, who single-handedly carried his team on. Iran parked the bus *and* made plenty of shots on target, while Argentina’s offense and defense crumbled. Argentina is no team, and does not really belong in the WC if their victories are the result of one team member’s toiling. Iran deserved a tie, for they outplayed their opponents many times, and surprised everyone. At least they can go home with their heads held high.

GER-GHA (2-2)
Now this is a WC game! The level of skill, speed, ability was stunning. It wasn’t a game where one team is getting pummeled, it was a war of attrition between two amazing teams. It was a clean game (only one yellow card, and that was in the last few minutes), surprisingly, yet still both teams lay everything on the line. I think we were all on the edge of our seats watching the tense second half. The few complaints I have is with not staring Schweinsteiger, despite his injury, and subbing Klose for Khedira a little later in the game. Within minutes of coming on, Klose scored a goal, proving he still got it. I love both these teams, and this game was a delight to watch.

NGA-BIH (1-0)
Nigeria proves that the awful NGA-IRA game was a fluke; they are an apt team, although they lack some finesse. I enjoyed watching them play, even more so than Bosnia and Herzegovina. This seems to be the WC of disallowed goals, and I feel for Bosia, but they did not keep it together in the box and constantly choked instead of taking a shot. I hope both can continue to improve for the next WC and harnessing their talent into a focused, singular team effort.

A sleeping fan during the Belgium-Russia game

BEL-RUS (1-0)
This game gives the most boring game in the World Cup so far a run for its money. It was an incompetent, frustrating match, highlighting all of Russia and Belgium’s shortcomings. Everyone’s performance was lackluster, and Belgium only woke up in injury time, when they finally scored a goal. There are no winners here, just an easily forgettable game.

KOR-ALG (2-4)
This World Cup has been very offense-driven, which explains the high scoring games so far. South Korea played poorly, their defense was nonexistent and Algeria exploited their opponents weaknesses skillfully. I wish Algeria brought this passion and skill to their previous game; if anyone deserves to advance in this group, it’s them.

Ronaldo showing off his signature impressive footwork

USA-POR (2-2)
I had a lot of bias going into this game, and the excitement made the game electric. The teams were equal in skill and passion, but this was the US at their best (as best as they can do with Dempsey’s broken nose and Altidore being out) and Portugal at their not-so-best, which leveled their playing field. The tie means every team in the group is alive, and it makes the Thursday matches even more thrilling. There’s plenty to improve – the US’ crosses, for example – but both teams put up an admirable fight.

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