Let the Cup Begin: Explosive Start to the (Possibly) Best World Cup Ever
The World Cup only happens once every four years, which is why for every football fan out there, 2014 is a good year to be more enamored with the sport. Plus, it is held on perhaps the best country for such a huge occasion: Brazil. In fact, months before the competition officially started, many are already expecting a lot from the footballing nations competing in the Cup.
If the opening group matches of this year's World Cup are any indication of the later stages, football aficionados are in for a huge treat. The fixtures were nothing short of riveting. From amazing comebacks to stunning defeats, from a flying Dutchman to a flummoxed Spanish keeper, the fans have every reason to believe that the World Cup in Brazil is shaping up to be an extraordinary one.
Here is a brief roundup of what happened in the opening matches of the group stage:
As the early favorites to win the cup, the onus was on the Brazilian players to win the opener and to show to the home support they can bag the crown in their home soil. Croatia, however, failed to read the script and put up a great fight. In fact, they had the early lead when Marcelo accidentally put the ball into the back of their own net. The Selecao fought back, led by Neymar and Oscar, and eventually won the tie.
In a vaguely similar storyline, Japan looked to be cruising to victory over Ivory Coast in Group C. Keisuke Honda held his composure in the 16th minute and finished strongly, giving the Blue Samurai the lead. Everything changed once Didier Drogba came on, though. The man almost single-handedly turned the game around. While he did not score the next two goals from Ivory Coast, his presence was enough to inspire Les Elephants.
Two Footballing Giants
The fans were treated to an evenly fought match when England faced Italy in Group D. The two sides put on a performance from what they showed back in 2010 in South Africa. Italy scored the first goal, courtesy of Machisio's strike, 10 minutes before half-time. England responded quickly, though. Barely after two minutes, Daniel Sturridge equalized for the Three Lions. In the end, Mario Balotelli made the winner with a fine header. Italy won, 2-1.
In what was billed to be the most awaited rematch of the 2010 World Cup finals, fans around the world were stunned to witness current title holders Spain get trampled upon by the rampaging Dutchmen. The goals were a mixed result of goalkeeping blunders and individual skills. Robin van Persie, ever-lethal up front, put two past Iker Casillas, with a fine flying header as his first goal. Arjen Robben also scored a brace, rounding up the broken Spanish goalkeeper for the Oranje's fifth goal. Newcomer Stephan de Vrij also managed to get into the scoresheet.
Joachim Loew's men were also ruthless in their opening match against Portugal. With Thomas Mueller bagging the first hat-trick of the competition, the Germans pushed up the Portuguese side and showed why they should be feared. It did not help that Pepe was send off in the first half, Fabio Coentrao was injured, and Cristiano Ronaldo not reaching his top form yet. Germany won, 4 - 0.
The World Cup is not complete without the spectacular upsets. This year, Costa Rica was the first one to that honor. The Costa Ricans, considered CONCACAF minnows, provided a stirring victory over a Luis Suarez-less Uruguay. After going down in the first half, courtesy of Edinson Cavani, the Central American pushed for the spaces and managed to put three past Uruguay's defense. The nation now shares the summit in Group D with Italy.
While the Socceroos did not really defeat Chile, they gave a performance that betrayed their current FIFA ranking. They breezed through the Chilean defense, banking on their veteran players for their attacks. Tim Cahill obliged with his customary header, which gave the Australians a flicker of hope. Chile won in the end, 3 - 1.
The explosive matches were not the only ones making headlines around the world; anti-FIFA demonstrations broke out in different parts of the country. Protesters cry of the injustices and poverty that common Brazilians experience. They claim the World Cup do not help their cause at all. On the contrary, the funds that should have gone to more important social services went to the developments of football stadia. As the World Cup progresses, all the world's eyes are turned to Brazil and how the government will address the growing social unrest.
The World Cup this year has only begun, but there are many good reasons to stay updated and be in the know about the latest match results, whether you are crazy about football or not.