Saturday, June 14, 2014

World Cup Group B Update

The first two games in Group B were absolutely enthralling, with the Netherlands beating Spain 5-1 and Chile winning out over Australia 3-1. These games told us tons about the four teams and maybe gave us a new outlook on the group as a whole.

What We Learned About The Netherlands - What a stunning effort from the Netherlands... After going down 1-0 to reigning world champions Spain, they came back to score five straight goals in a performance that caught pretty much everyone by surprise. The consensus before the game was that the Netherlands had a good attack but were very poor at the back. However, the back five was fantastic after settling in and left back Daley Blind could even make a shout for man of the match. Outside of the fact that the back five is pretty solid, we learned that when Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie are at the races, there might not be a better striker combination in the entire world cup.
Netherlands' Best Player - Arjen Robben, Striker - Could have been so many people here, but Robben put in an absolutely masterclass performance, with two goals and in general a dominant effort. Once he got in his groove late, there was absolutely nothing Spain could do to stop him.
Netherlands' Worst Player - Nobody - I've been thinking for a while but there literally was nobody that put in a bad effort for the Netherlands.

What We Learned About Spain - Everybody knew Spain was aging but nobody expected it would be this bad. The team looked fairly decent until Robin Van Persie's diving header, and it was all downhill from there. Even when the game was tied at just 1-1, Spain looked tired, sloppy, and like they didn't really want to be there. Diego Costa was supposed to be Spain's newest injection of talent but he was wasteful and struggled to connect with his teammates. Meanwhile, Spain's back line was absolutely abysmal, especially the two center backs, Pique and Ramos, as well as keeper Iker Casillas.
Spain's Best Player - Andres Iniesta, Attacking Midfielder - Spain's midfield was not the most of their troubles and that was largely due to Iniesta's efforts.
Spain's Worst Player - Iker Casillas, Goalkeeper - This honestly could have gone to anybody on Spain's back line, but Casillas was probably the worst, compounding mistake after mistake to make for a performance that he will want to forget.

What We Learned About Chile - Chile started off their game against Australia at a blistering pace, but they slowed down quickly and really allowed Australia to creep back into the game. Early goals by Sanchez and Valdivia seemed effortless for Chile, and it seemed as if the onslaught was on. However, Chile's midfield backed off a bit, which made for a stressful ending before Beausejour's game-sealing goal. Overall, we saw how easily Chile's attacking trio of Sanchez, Vargas, and Valdivia can open up a defense when on form, but they will need a much more complete effort to beat Spain and the Netherlands.
Chile's Best Player - Alexis Sanchez, Winger - Has been on great form for Barcelona which seemingly continued for Chile. Easily the best player on the pitchh
Chile's Worst Player - Arturo Vidal, Central Midfielder - Didn't have a horrible game but we must expect more from a guy considered to be one of the best central mids in the world. Looked lively early but as the game went on it became clear that his fitness is still not quite where it needs to be.

What We Learned About Australia - Australia were the lowest rated team entering the world cup, but they certainly didn't look it against Chile. After going two goals down, they were resilient and managed to get one back through a Tim Cahill header. The final scoreline was 3-1 but that doesn't truly reflect the performance Australia put on. The reality is, Chile should have had no trouble closing them out, but Australia created a very nervy ending for Alexis Sanchez and company. They may not win against Spain or the Netherlands, but don't expect them to be blown out of the water any time soon.
Australia's Best Player - Tim Cahill, Striker - Was an animal up top. None of the Chilean defenders could deal with him in the air and he got his reward with a headed goal in the 35th minute.
Australia's Worst Player - Tommy Oar, Central Midfielder - Got the ball in good positions several times but failed to make anything out of it. Also took several ill-advised long shots.

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