As the group stages of the 2014 World Cup draw to a close we review another night of World Cup action that threw up goals, sending offs and thrillers. Groups E and F have been finalised and in Group E there was an indirect showdown between Ecuador and Switzerland over who joined France in the last 16.
Unfortunately for Ecuador they had to contest with France in their last group game, which gave Switzerland an immediate advantage as they faced Honduras. Ecuador’s task was made all the more difficult when Antonio Valencia was sent off for a lunge on Lucas Digne, although commendably they managed to hold out for a 0-0 draw after keeper Alexander Dominguez produced a string of fine saves to deny the French.
Ecuador’s inability to produce any serious threat to French handed the initiative to Switzerland who dispatched Honduras thanks to a hat trick from Xherdan Shaqiri who scored a peach within 6 minutes to set the Swiss on their way.
Group F managed to provide a thriller, surprisingly from the two teams who were already through in Argentina and Nigeria. It was a real ding-dong battle with 1 goal each in two 1st half minutes and it was the same again at the start of the 2nd half. Bosnia’s 3-1 win over Iran proved academic as both nations were already condemned to play out a dead-rubber but it still produced goals, and yes Edin Džeko did score!
The Guts Award goes to Nigeria for running Argentina close and no one could have begrudged them at least an equaliser after a number of chances were created and they created endless problems for the Argentinian defence. Pablo Zabaleta at times was almost a 1-man barrier throwing himself in front of everything that Nigeria had to offer.
Nigeria also displayed how much African football has developed after their forward Ahmed Musa scored two composed finishes and showed that Nigeria will at least pose a test for their last-16 opponents.
A relatively simple award to determine after the Ecuadorian winger produced a late lunge on French left-back Lucas Digne and got himself sent off for his trouble. It was an incredibly stupid act from the national team captain and from an experienced player too.
Young players can be forgiven for mistakes such as this as they sometimes act rash in their eagerness to impress and try their best, however, Valencia was leading his country into a do-or-die clash vs. the group leaders – it was an incredibly naïve thing to do from a 28 year-old who was supposed to set an example to his teammates.
Xherdan Shaqiri produced a stunning goal to set his team on the way to a 3-0 win over Honduras and a last-16 place. Picking the ball up on the right wing and drifting inside all the while being pressured from the Honduran defence and heading slightly away from goal, Shaqiri produced a wonderful curling shot that deposited itself into the top corner of the goal. It was a truly wonderful strike and one of the best so far in World Cup 2014.
Ecuador never really tested France at all apart from one occasion in the 2nd half of their game in which Ecuador broke with speed and then proceeded to ruin the chance by producing a tame shot wide. They were fighting for their World Cup place, knowing that they needed a win to be sure of staying in the competition.
However, they produced a display which mirrored the ability of their chances within the game and apart from their keeper, not one of them seemed to step up to the mark of producing their best. France were equally happy that Ecuador allowed them to ‘train’ with the ball at their feet and allow them the time and space to practise attacking moves without pressure on the ball at all.
Another two groups have been finalised and there were some biting moments in fact. I’m sorry I just couldn’t resist. However, one thing is for sure – World Cup 2014 certainly isn’t boring and in fact it’s shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory. Goals, technology, controversy, it’s fair to say this World Cup has had the lot so far and last night didn’t disappoint either.
Greece somehow made it through after looking the least likely side to score after…well, Japan in the same group. You have to admire their sheer doggedness though to secure the result but as good as Greece were, Ivory Coast made it a possible achievement through poor defending and an unforgivable challenge in the last minute of the game to hand Greece the win and a place in the knockout stages of the World Cup.
Colombia ensured they headed into the knockout stages with a 100% record after comfortably dispatching Japan 4-1 in their final game with 2 goals from Jackson Martinez.
In Group D, there was a rather turgid affair as Costa Rica secured top spot with a 0-0 draw with England who bowed out of the competition without a single win and just 2 goals scored. However, Italy and Uruguay was anything but turgid. A sending off, a biting incident and a goal in the last 15 minutes ensured Uruguay went through over the Italians, but that’s just half of the story, the interesting part I’ll get to later on.
Not an easy award to decide but with Colombia all but through it had to go to whoever managed to secure 2nd place in Group C and that was Greece. It was a hard-fought win over the Ivory Coast and it came as late as it possibly could but the important thing is, it did come.
Georgios Samaras kept his cool and smashed the penalty to Barry’s left and then the celebrations started.
There was only ever going to be one winner for this award and that is the Uruguayan. There are some incidents and unforeseen circumstances in the world that you simply cannot explain at times – disappearing planes, UFO’s, why Luis Suarez bites people and expects to get away with it, that sort of thing.
Why do it? There is simply no advantage to be gained from it. Along with it being a despicable, cowardly and disgusting act it quite simply doesn’t make any sense. FIFA have to act now and surely ban Suarez not only for the rest of World Cup 2014 but extending into the next domestic season too thus putting paid to any chances or hopes that Uruguay had of winning the trophy.
James Rodriguez scored a sublime breakaway goal to end Japanese resistance and condemn the Japanese to a 3rd straight defeat. Racing away past one defender, he turned back onto his right before selling the defender another dummy, switching back onto his left and lifting a delightful finish over the Japanese goalkeeper. An excellent, composed finish that was worthy of winning nay game and proved that the Colombians have the confidence to go far in the competition.
Well it is a gripe that no more will we see the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon in an Italian shirt. Pirlo especially will be a big loss to the Italians as his unbelievable ball skills and set-piece prowess have provided many memorable moments for Italians and the rest of the world too.
I don’t know how many times I’m going to have to say it but what another day of World Cup action. Two groups are now finalised and there are some tasty clashes on the horizon. Group A ended with another quite superlative display from Brazilian hope and wonder Neymar; his two goals helping his side to a 4-1 victory over Cameroon who were quite frankly awful, again.
Croatia bowed out of the competition after holding out against the Mexican’s for 72 minutes before skipper Rafael Marquez planted a header off a corner past Pletikosa in the Croatian goal. Andres Guardado and Javier Hernandez took the result beyond doubt while a late consolation from Ivan Perisic gave the scoreline some respectability.
Group B and Spain finally got a win! Also, they kept a clean sheet, probably because Iker Casillas wasn’t in goal. Pepe Reina was given a starting role in goal and while it was a dead rubber for both teams, neither would have been happy to lose. Unfortunately for the Australians, Spain simply had too much firepower. David Villa on his last ever appearance ever appearance for the Spanish national team put them ahead while Fernando Torres and Juan Mata added gloss to the scoreline.
The Netherlands and Chile, in the other Group B matchup, fought it out over who topped the group and subsequently avoided the host nation Brazil. It was a fascinating tactical battle with Louis van Gaal mastering another Dutch victory over supposed superior opponents.
It has to be David Villa doesn’t it. What a servant he has been to the clubs and to the national side that he has played for. 97 caps and 59 goals tells you everything you need to know about David Villa. He rightfully scored on his final appearance, which was a nice way to crown his International career even if it wasn’t at the stage of the competition that he would have liked.
However, the sight of him crying walking off after being substituted is what will live long in the memory for Spanish fans as one of their greatest ever goalscorer’s (if not the greatest) bows out of the International stage. It was the passing of an era.
Well, Cameroon are out and definitely out. Trounced 4-1 by host nation Brazil in their final Group A game, the Cameroonians never seemed to take to this World Cup at all. There was in-fighting within the squad, problems before the actual tournament started with money and all sorts of tension amongst the players on the pitch, displayed when Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Alex Song squared up to each other.
A lovely finish from an inviting cross that had goal written all over it. Cameroonian complacency at the back was pounced on by Luiz Gustavo who produced a brilliant low-level cross to Neymar who had made the run to get in front of his marker, opened up his body to simply guide the ball into the bottom corner – simple brilliance.
It’s a real shame that one of these two has to go out early in the 1st Knockout Round. If the formbook is to be believed too, then that one has got to be Chile. Chile quite simply have an awful record vs. Brazil and will not take encouragement from the host nations’ 2nd half display against an albeit awful Cameroon side. Since 2000, there has been 12 matches between the two South American nations, in which Brazil have won 10 while the remaining 2 were draws. It doesn’t make for pretty reading does it?
It was another very good weekend of World Cup action and if this doesn’t stop it may just end up being one of the classic World Cup’s! I’m sure we all hope so. It’s been a while since there has been a good World Cup, possibly France 98 was the last.
However, how is Brazil 2014 shaping up? Well, pretty good is the answer. We witnessed another comprehensive French victory on Friday night together with a win for Ecuador, which throws up an interesting final round of games in Group E. Argentina had to rely on the genius of Lionel Messi to overcome Iran who put up another dogged defensive display and with a little bit more luck could have come away with a huge win. Meanwhile, in Group D we saw Costa Rica provide another big shock with their 1-0 win over Italy.
Group G provided the greatest entertainment though with two fascinating 2-2 draws between Germany and Ghana and USA and Portugal. Germany legend Miroslav Klose became only the fifth player to score in four World Cup’s when he equalised after Ghana had taken a shock lead. Portugal meanwhile continued to struggle and after taking the lead through Nani, they proceeded to trail 2-1 until deep into injury at the end of the 2nd half when Cristiano Ronaldo provided Silvestre Varela with a chance to plant a brilliant header past Tim Howard. Brilliant as well is this Guts sport bonus!
Costa Rica have proved that smaller nations can take the fight to the big ones. When Bryan Ruiz planted that header past Gianluigi Buffon in the Italian goal, people sat up and noticed that the Costa Ricans weren’t going to go away without a fight. They are deservedly through to the next round with only England, who have nothing to play for, left to play and with a comfortable and sizeable goal difference over both Italy and Uruguay, it would be reasonable to assume that they are in with a 99% chance of topping the Group.
The indignity of having a goal wrongly disallowed and then proceeding to miss three or four other guilt-edged chances – that’s Edin Džeko. The Bosnian top scorer didn’t have his shooting boots on when Bosnia met Nigeria (apart from one occasion). A £27m striker should be scoring at least 2 of those chances and if he had, Bosnia may well still be in with a chance of securing a place in the knockout stages of the World Cup.
When his team needed the win, when it looked like they had run out of ideas up steps Lionel Messi to bury a wonderful curling shot past Iran keeper Haghighi. You can never relax when Messi has the ball and Iran’s tired limbs proved to be too weary to double mark the little genius as they had done all game until in the dying minutes he found a little bit of space to whip the ball with that magical left-foot and secure Argentina’s place in the knockout stage.
HONOURABLE MENTION – Karim Benzema’s flicked half-volley vs. Switzerland after a wonderful through ball from Paul Pogba and Silvestre Varela’s magnificent header from an equally magnificent cross from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Again, a refereeing decision proved crucial in Nigeria’s win vs. Bosnia. A goal that was clearly onside was ruled offside and if there is to be a greater respect of match officials then there has to be better training and better understanding amongst them, surely?
So, England are almost out and Uruguay have a decent chance of progressing. What we expected though wasn’t it? Did anyone really believe that this really could be England’s time? The way a half-fit Luis Suarez simply danced around the England defence was inexcusable at this level and the lapses were deservedly punished – twice. Don't get punished with your bets, grab this Guts sport bonus instead.
England now need favours; two in particular and both off Italy if they’re to have any chance of progression beyond the group stage and avoid booking the flight home at this stage of the World Cup for the first time since 1958. It is, however, extremely unlikely that Italy will be concerned with their last result if they defeat Costa Rica in their second group match.
Group C is seemingly more clearer after yesterday’s results; Colombia are definitely through as they defeated Ivory Coast 2-1 while the African nations’ destiny is still in their own hands as they only need to avoid defeat vs. Greece in their next game while Japan would have to defeat Colombia by 3 clear goals to stand any chance of leapfrogging the Ivorian’s into 2nd place in the group.
When the pressure was on, Uruguay delivered a truly gutsy performance backed up by the prowess of Luis Suarez. Even half-fit, he proved to be still too much of a handful for an England defence that didn’t look capable of stopping anything remotely dangerous coming their way.
Also, with a lack of protection from the England midfield, the defence was exposed time and again and it was only a matter of time before England paid the price for poor positioning and allowing a world class striker such as Luis Suarez time and space to pick his spot for both goals. It was a clinical performance by the Uruguayans.
Fighting to remain in the World Cup, Japan had the perfect opportunity to lay down a marker against the ultra-conservative Greeks and stake a claim on the remaining Group C spot after Colombia had all secured qualification early on in the day.
However, with the Greeks down to 10 men for most of the encounter, Japan seemed reluctant to even attempt to try and secure the win. At best their performance could be described as laboured. It was an excruciating performance from a potential bright spot in the tournament.
HONOURABLE MENTION: - The Uruguayan medical team for allowing Alvaro Pereira to remain on the pitch after a clash with Raheem Sterling’s knee which clearly seemed to knock him unconscious. He should have been taken off immediately after the incident and not been allowed to ‘bully’ management into letting him stay on.
Is there really any other choice than the Uruguayan’s 2nd goal complete with an assist from his club captain? Literally, it was a smashing finish after he had looked dead on his feet.
England were poor, there really is no other way to describe the performance and even after Wayne Rooney equalised there was a noticeable drop in performance from England as if they were settling for a point. Then BANG! Steven Gerrard’s mistake let in his Liverpool colleague and England were once again on the brink of elimination.
On the subject of Steven Gerrard, his performance was quite poor throughout the two games and had clearly carried his end of season form into his last International tournament.
Another barnstorming day of World Cup action has passed and it seems that the top two of Group B has been decided, just not the order they'll finish in and Croatia gave themselves a fighting chance with the demolition of Cameroon in Group A.
The Netherlands secured a knockout spot with a hard fought 3-2 win over plucky Australia who scored one of the best goals in World Cup history, which we’ll get to soon! Unluckily for the Australians it couldn’t propel them to victory and along with defending World Champions Spain, are out of the competition with one game to spare. Don't be left out of the mix and grab the newest Guts sports promotion well in time before tomorrow's matches.
An easy award to gift really, Chile came out of the traps quickly and could have taken the lead in the first 30 seconds vs. Spain and from then on the tone was set for the remaining 89-and-a-half minutes. Spain really had no answer to the constant harassment of their midfield featuring World and European Championship winners Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta.
Along with that, Eduardo Vargas pounced on an error by Alonso and Spain were behind in a match they desperately needed to win. Any hope of them remaining in the competition was really extinguished at that point as the defending champs were never really in the game. A mention too for Arturo Vidal who, after injury, was superb in closing the Spanish down and never allowing them time and space while also providing a willing outlet for Chilean attacks.
Alex, what were you thinking man? To elbow an opponent from behind while they’re on the counter-attack is simply inexcusable. A tactical foul would have been more appropriate given the Cameroonian situation at that point but to rake your elbow down an opponents’ back…
Cameroon’s defeat means that they now have won only one of their last 14 World Cup games, a miserable record for the proud African nation who had the potential to cause one or two upsets along the way but are now out of the competition with a game to spare.
An easy choice as this perfectly executed, Dutch-esque volley was simply sublime. It is a pity that it had to come in match where Australia were ultimately up against a team determined to secure World Cup knockout qualification at the earliest possible stage.
Allowing deep long ball to float over his shoulder onto his wrong foot (left) and then to execute a perfect dipping volley which smashed into the goal via the underside of the bar…brilliant. This as well after the Dutch had scored a good goal themselves through Arjen Robben just a minute earlier.
Where were Spain? Did they even take part in the competition at all? Tika-taka is well and truly dead. We’d become accustomed to the thought after the demolition of Bayern under Pep Guardiola this season and Barcelona under Tito Vilanova the season before but we all thought Spain would turn up and defend their crown with aplomb.
As it turns out, they bow out of the competition along with Australia with a game to spare and before England! Also, the selection Diego Costa, clearly suited to Brazil’s style, poached by Spain and then misused while Brazil were left with Fred as their main spearhead. Unbelievable!
Another important day of World Cup action and the end of the first round of group games. Now you could say this is where it starts to get interesting. Group H ended with a flourish after starting with a whimper through late goals in each game; turning around the result for Belgium v Algeria and subsequently rescuing one for Russia v South Korea.
Group A moved into the second round of games and after a somewhat tepid first half, Brazil v Mexico turned into an entertaining draw. Brazil didn’t perform well though and the crowd were audibly unhappy with the host nation's performance.
Mexico showed some guts to take the game to Brazil and arguably deserved to win the game after peppering Julio Cesar with long-range efforts for most of the second-half. 35 year-old skipper Rafael Marquez enabling his experience and know how to control the Mexican tempo throughout the game.
However, it was the goalkeeper, Guillermo Ochoa who caught the attention of everyone in the stadium and watching on TV with a serious of wonderful instinctive saves to prevent an undeserved defeat for the Mexico and an unjust win for the hosts.
Igor, Igor, Igor…what were you thinking? Talk about keepers saving their team, and then you come across Igor Akinfeev! Poor Igor managed to somehow throw a South Korean pot shot into his own net after a rather dull encounter played in stifling heat.
However, it wasn’t merely a mistake on Akinfeev’s part as he had been threatening to ‘let slip’ all night, eventually he did and Russia had to battle to salvage the draw.
Fellani’s goal for Belgium v Algeria has to be the choice here, although Belgium’s second runs it close. Fellaini got across his man to beat the defender to a well executed floated cross to flick a wonderful header into the net via the underside of the bar. Get in!
A serious gripe this, a really serious gripe. Is Fred really the best that Brazil has to offer up front? I mean REALLY? The striker may as well have been a mannequin as he had all the movement of one throughout his 68 minutes on the pitch and it’s a wonder he managed to complete that. For a striker who has quite a decent scoring record, it makes you wonder how on Earth he managed to accomplish it!
Well! That was quite an opening weekend and just like the opening day, the football did not disappoint. The colour on show and the atmosphere at the stadiums across the country has been impressive and also the counter-attacking, free-flowing style that has been on show (apart from Greece!) has been a breath of fresh air.
We also had the first England outing, and while it was visibly an improvement on the Euro 2012 match-up, it still ended up with the same result: an English defeat. However, there are certain reasons to be optimistic if you’re Roy Hodgson.
This was a close call but this award has to go to the Flying Dutchman. His first goal on the eve of half time in a closely fought first-half of the opening Group B game was nothing short of technical brilliance.
Van Persie and Arjen Robben quite frankly made mugs out of the world-class Spanish defensive trio of Iker Casillas, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos all match and van Persie began that 'mugging' with an audacious attempt from the perfect pass by Daley Blind to execute the perfect finish and score possibly one of the greatest World Cup goals we’ve seen in modern times.
There were some individuals who could have been awarded the Nuts Award, some officials, others players but I’ve selected Honduras because quite simply they never looked like playing any sort of football!
In their Group E game vs. France, Honduras resorted to anything from petty fouls to potential leg breakers in their attempt to rile the French. Thankfully, there were no such incidents and football was the winner (who’d have thought we’d be cheering on the French?).
Seeing as each one was brilliant in it’s own right, how can we possibly pick one over the other in this case?
1. Robin van Persie (1st goal) v Spain
2. Arjen Robben (2nd goal) v Spain
3. Lionel Messi v Bosnia & Herzegovina
The subject of goal-line technology reared its ugly head again. Only this time it appeared for working correctly!
BBC commentator Jonathan Pearce appeared angry at an incident where Benzema hit the post before the ball rolled across the line and was knocked over it by the Honduran keeper
That’s ok but it wasn’t the ball hitting the post they were concentrating on Jonathan. The keeper knocked it over the line with his hand, stop panicking. Mind you, why show two replays? It appeared to be unnecessary icing on the cake.
We asked 1,000 Americans who Wayne Rooney is and the overwhelming majority either don’t know or frankly couldn’t care less.
So don’t worry, Wazza. If you’re sick of making the back pages in England, it seems you can always emigrate to the USA and enjoy a life of anonymous obscurity. Enjoy our promos as well! Clik here for the latest Guts bonus sports.
Here’s the top answers from our survey asking 1,000 Americans: “Who is Wayne Rooney?”
And, you know what, Wazza? If playing down the left for Roy Hodgson isn’t your thing, then maybe you can turn your hand to acting, ice hockey, stand up comedy or even poetry. On second thoughts, maybe give the poetry a miss, eh?
Yep, some respondents gave some more “out there” answers, with some special mentions for the individuals who gave the following answers:
Just in case you’re struggling to envisage Rooney in one of these roles, we’ve done it for you:
We’ve all seen the slogans FIFA have generously handed over to the public for the World Cup in Brazil, right? No? Well if not, let me begin by saying they’re not the best. Nor are they exactly what you would call, erm, truthful - they somewhat appear to lack a “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” element.
So, here at Guts HQ we’ve decided to do something about that. We’ve concocted truthful slogans designed to capture the nations football ideology and the moments we hold dear!
Bosnia & Herzegovina
There we have it. All 32 Nations taking part in that tournament somewhere in the world accompanied with slogans more truthful that those nominated by FIFA. Someone had to show Mr. Blatter how to do it!