Monday, June 16, 2014

World Cup Round 1

Well - most of the first round is done - it's been a lively one! Especially compared to the last outing - 6 draws, no comebacks (to win), 4 teams scoring more than once - etc. This time? 14 of 16 games - we've had one draw; 5 comebacks to win, including a winner in extra time; 12 of 14 teams have scored 2 or more; 6 have scored 3. There have been 6 shutouts - vs. 13 last time. It's all good - it makes for entertaining soccer. Things got more open in 2010 in the later games - if that happens here, we could see some wild ones.

I wonder what is causing it? I suspect a couple factors: Spain and Germany - whose influence brought in possession and strong attacking/counterattacking football - lots of teams seem to be set up around one of those plans... Though I suspect another part of it is that a lot of teams seem to be going younger - look at England, France, Italy, the USA - all of them playing younger players, faster, more offensive minded, less experience. Which is the other side - all those young teams are playing young defenders, with all the problems that can arise from that... Could be.

In any case - it's been interesting. A couple shockers - Uruguay's loss is a shock; Spain's loss is less shocking (Holland is very good), but the scoreline is shocking. So was Portugal's loss, in a way. Though they are liable to give up when things are against them. Uruguay looks to be in real trouble - England and Italy both looked good, Costa Rica is no pushover - unless Uruguay beats England, they are done. Spain and Portugal, the other prominent losers, are in better shape - they both would have come in expecting the hardest time in that first game, and thinking they can win out. Portugal has troubles, with injuries and Pepe suspended, and both the US and Ghana looking pretty capable - but the US has injures too. We'll see.

At the top end - Holland and Germany did their thing - I picked against Holland, almost arbitrarily at the beginning - I have no problem being wrong about that. If they show up, they are a very good team, and I guess they showed up. Germany just did what Germany does. The other favorites, Brazil and Argentina, say, were less convincing. Brazil won on an awful penalty call, a PK off the goalie's hands, and two dribblers; they looked very vulnerable - if Mandzukic had played, they might have given up another goal or two. Argentina? won easily enough, but the first goal was blind luck, they weren't exactly untouchable on defense - and though Messi scored a beautiful goal, most of the game, their offense looked quite solvable. Everything went right up the middle through Messi - they only got one goal out of it, and how well is that going to work in the second round, when they start to see better defensive teams? For all that - both teams look quite strong, and likely to grow into the tournament - but they are not as convincing as Holland the Germany were.

And outside the favorites - Columbia looks very strong; Mexico should have won 3-0 - they look capable of doing things; so did Croatia, though they need better keeping. Italy looked very strong - England let then run rampant down the right, but looked very dangerous on attack. France played a good game; US and Ghana played solid games - it's been an interesting cup. Looking forward to the next round.

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