Saturday, June 14, 2014

World Cup Group A Update

In Group A, each of Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, and Cameroon has played just one game, with Brazil beating Croatia 3-1 and Mexico beating Cameroon 1-0. It may only be a small sample size but these two games have told us a lot about each of the teams:
What We Noticed With Brazil - Brazil looked lethargic and not nearly creative enough in their first game against Croatia. With the exception of Oscar, nobody, not even Neymar, seemed at the races. Sure, Neymar scored two goals, but one was a scuffed effort that the keeper should have saved and the other was on a penalty that was awarded after an egregious dive by Fred. This sort of play should be enough to get Brazil to get through the group stages but it may not be enough in the next round against stiffer competition.
Brazil's Best Player - Oscar, Attacking Midfielder - Was energetic and creative throughout the game. Ended the game with an assist and a beautiful toe-poke goal.
Brazil's Worst Player - Dani Alves, Right Back - Pushed way too far up the right side leaving tons of space for Croatia to explore. Was responsible for the space on Croatia's first goal as well as numerous other chances for Croatia.

What We Noticed With Croatia - Honestly, I was a bit underwhelmed by Croatia in their game against Brazil. The reality is, they probably deserved at least a tie if not for the abysmal refereeing, but that was not because they played so well but because Brazil played so bad. Modric and Rakticic played decently in the midfield, but I expected a bit more, and Olic was fantastic in the space behind Dani Alves, but it was clear that they were missing Mario Mandzukic up front. They will look for a much better result when Mandzukic returns against Cameroon.
Croatia's Best Player - Ivica Olic, Striker - Sent in the ball that ended in an own goal and generally enjoyed himself down the left flank.
Croatia's Worst Player - Stipe Pletikosa, Goalkeeper - Had a horrible afternoon that he will want to forget. Should have probably saved each of the three goals, even the penalty, which he got both hands on before pushing it into his own net.

What We Noticed With Mexico - Mexico were the most impressive team in group A through the first set of games. Though they aren't nearly physical enough, they have more than enough creativity to make up for that lack of physicality, and their creativity was on display against Cameroon. The scoreline should have read more than 1-0, as two Giovani Dos Santos goals were wrongly called offsides and Mexico hardly ever found themselves defending. Their entire team looked very strong and they could definitely challenge Croatia for that second advancing spot in Group A.
Mexico's Best Player - Giovani Dos Santos, Winger - Should have had two goals, both of which were wrongly called back for offsides. Also had the original shot which Oribe Peralta cleaned up.
Mexico's Worst Player - Andres Guardado, Outside Midfielder - One of the few Mexican players with European experience but was fairly unimpressive today, giving the ball away several times in the midfield.

What We Noticed With Cameroon - I was very disappointed with Cameroon's performance versus Mexico. Cameroon arguably have more talented players than Mexico, who have very few players that play in Europe, while Cameroon have more than a few, including Stephan M'Bia, Alex Song, and Samuel Eto'o. However, they failed to have hardly any possession in the final third and their defense didn't impress either. In the f
inal ten or twenty minutes the game opened up a bit and Cameroon finally started to make a few chances, but it was far too little far too late.
Cameroon's Best Player - Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Left Back - Was the best performer of the Cameroon back line and also pushed forward well, which nobody else on Cameroon seemed to do.
Cameroon's Worst Player - Enoh, Central Midfielder - One of Cameroon's several European players, but looked pretty invisible against Mexico except when conceding fouls, which he did a lot.

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