La Roja Wedding (Or, Oranje Crush)
It began the same way as so many of the previous matches; Spain held the ball, playing short triangles, slowly working their way up the pitch and back to Casillas when the passing lanes clogged up. It was Xabi Alonso who opened the scoring, converting a penalty after Diego Costa simulated (pc enough?) contact and the Spanish looked on their way. And then a minute before the break, Daley Blind swung in a wonderful cross that a diving van Persie headed over Casillas. It was a goal that seemed to convince the Dutch that they could in fact play with the Spanish – and play did they. Four goals in the second half (another from RVP, one from the superb Robben, and one for World Cup debutante, Stefan de Vrij), saw this Spanish Inquisition draw to a close, with Casillas, Pique and Ramos found particularly at fault.
Still, is this an outlier, a mere road block in the Spanish highway to an unprecedented (and altogether absurd) fourth major title in a row? Or is it in fact, a changing of the guard? The final nail in tiki-taka’s proverbial coffin. We’ll know soon enough, but one thing is certain: Group B just got a lot more interesting, as this generation’s finest country assumes the role of cellar dweller.
Mexico leaves qualifying struggles behind
After their truly abysmal CONCACAF qualifying campaign that saw the Mexicans finish behind Costa Rica and Honduras and advance to the World Cup only through a playoff with New Zealand, many considered Mexico little more than a B-list cast member Walking Dead episode. But their World Cup opener against Cameroon told a different story. Playing a 3-5-2, Miguel Herrera’s side dominated their African opposition with very little trouble. Indeed, the scoreline should be higher as Gio dos Santos twice scored goals that were wrongly ruled offside. Ironically enough, Mexico’s winner came from one of Gio’s missed chances, as Oribe Peralta tapped home a rebound following a creative move.
Mexico’s road only gets more difficult from here, with host-nation Brazil coming next followed by a match that would almost surely see the winner advance against Croatia.
More to come from Chile
Scoring two goals in the first 14 minutes (coming from a goal and an assist by Alexis Sanchez), Chile threatened to blow the doors off the Socceroos. Fortunately for Australia though, they responded well to going down, tightening the defence, while better servicing Tim Cahill – who unsurprisingly scored on a header. Chile, a team who treats defence as if something reserved for mere plebeians, attacks with vigor from nearly every position on the pitch, throwing caution to the wind in an effort to find goals. An approach that might pay dividends in a group that, after Spain’s shocking defeat, looks ripe for the taking.
An attacking World Cup
In a much needed change from South Africa, this World Cup has brought with it goals, drama and open, attacking play. Following day one’s four goal opener between Brazil and Croatia, day two yielded another 11. While Mexico’s scoreline seems perhaps sparse, it perhaps doesn't tell the whole story; it was an open game with chances at each end. Meanwhile, Chile’s 3-1 victory against Australia provided goals to go with the exciting football. If the opening two days are anything to judge by (and they often are), this World Cup promises to delight.
How many chefs can one kitchen hold?
Having watched Neymar and Alexis provide the impetus and scoring for their respective sides, it makes me wonder if they’ve "under-performed" at Club side Barcelona, simply because they can’t play to their potential in a system (understandably) centered around Messi. Is there a limit to how many creative, attacking players one team should have? And if so, what’s the number? Two? Three? Is it a matter of needing just that one mercurial player that a team relies on, or is it merely a matter of accommodating players to a bigger system?
Until tomorrow then, ta!