Friday, 13 June 2014

A Day Of De-Throning?

After the previous night's incompetence, the day's opening salvo of action was something of an encore for the officials. This time it was the linesman (not Russian, Colombian) who did his best to spoil the party. This time however he was merely delaying the inevitable, as his two incorrect offside calls were insufficent to stop Mexico brushing Cameroon aside. Both defences were somewhat shoddy, but it will take a more on-form striker than Samuel Eto'o to breach the Mexican rearguard. Neymar will be licking his lips.

As far as Mexican's own goal threat goes, well boss Miguel Herrera felt confident enough to leave poacher-supreme Javier Hernandez out, although the shanked effort that would have made it 2-0 after his introduction as substitute would suggest the right call was made. Oribe Peralta scored the decisive goal, in a pleasingly predatory fashion, although Giovanni dos Santos will feel mighty aggrieved should he finish two goals shy of the golden boot award at the tournament's end. His first disallowed goal was a combination of perfectly-timed run and perfectly-timed volley.

Cameroon showed little to suggest they can trouble either Croatia or Brazil, and will be preparing for a fruitless exit, much to my distaste, as I was landed with them in my work sweepstake!

Next, as Thierry Henry claimed in the aftermath, 'The Dutch got their style back'. Man United fans will be salivating at the sight of their star striker and new coach dismantling the holders. A 5-1 victory over Spain will go down as one of the most stunning results in World Cup history, yet Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben are already world-renowned. Should we really be that shocked? Well yes. Spain were yet to even concede one goal in this calendar year, and to leak five in one game was shocking.

Yet the first half had provided little to suggest the mayhem ahead. Van Persie's fabulous header was already the best goal so far in the tournament, but Robben's second and Holland's fifth was a magnificent solo effort, making household names such as Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas look silly before composing himself and finding the corner.

The second half will surely go down as the defining image of the tournament - the moment where football took a final definitive turn away from the Barcelona/Spain monopoly - and it looks like Spain's crown has been snatched away. They may yet make it out of their group, but are looking long shots to defend their title. In boxing, this would make Holland world champions, and you would have to say, if this was a final, they would be worthy of that title. Cue two defeats, and an early exit. In all seriousness, this was a warning shot to the rest of the world. Anyone to beat the Dutch will go far.

Chile looked set to fire a warning shot of their own, racing into a two-goal lead with less than 20 minutes gone, but Tim Cahill and Australia made them sweat it out, pulling a goal back and doggedly staying in the game before Jean Beausejour's resounding finish finally put the game beyond doubt.

If you switched off after the 2nd goal, you'd have missed a surprising Aussie revival, and better teams than them will take advantage of Chile's soft centre. All hope is not lost for Spain in this group.

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