Monday,23 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)
Monday,23 July, 2018
Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Sentiment of see-saw

The first two weeks of the World Cup were full of joy and tears. Al-Ahram Weekly reviews the ups and downs of the first round

Al-Ahram Weekly

The 20th edition of the World Cup in Brazil has indisputably witnessed the most outlandish surprises and disappointments ever in the history of the competition. By the time the Weekly had gone to press, four teams had confirmed their qualification to Round 16; the hosts Brazil and Mexico from Group A and the Netherlands and Chile from Group B.

Defending champions Spain were the major letdown in Brazil. Despite being top favourites as the reigning world champions, it was clear from the beginning that they would be bidding an early goodbye to the most prestigious sports event in the world. The Spaniards’ early exit from the World Cup was beyond anyone’s imagination, since they have dominated European football, making history since 2008 by winning the Euro Cup and torturing their opponents. Winning the 2010 World Cup in South Africa confirmed their unsurpassed skills.

Ostensibly in football as in life, teams at the top do not stay there forever, even though in Spain’s case only a few would have predicted a close end to an outstanding era.

Their 5-1 heavy defeat to the Netherlands in their opening match and their sudden 2-0 defeat to Chile declared the beginning of their downfall. The players were out of shape and focus and seemed lost in front of the Dutch and helpless against the Chileans.

However, the Spaniards came back from being two matches behind to beat Australia 3-0 in their last group match to save face before packing to return home, leaving the Netherlands and Chile to join the round of 16 together with Brazil and Mexico in Group A.

The Brazilians have played all three games into their campaign, coming across as a fearsome force moving forward. They eked out a win against the Croatians and then failed to capitalise on it against Mexico, before going on to brilliantly beat Cameroon 4-1.

Even though they topped Group A, their performances did not reflect the real Brazil and many questioned whether they deserved to win either of their first two games, against Croatia first and then drawing with Mexico before beating Cameroon. For some, the host nation won because of the modest performances of their opponents. But the second stage is a knock-out and they need to be up to their nation’s expectation Argentina won its opener against Bosnia and Herzegovina, but those expecting a show from Argentina were left disappointed. The team started with a weird 5-3-2 formation that essentially announced the lack of faith in the backline and isolated star Lionel Messi. For 45 minutes, the Barcelona superstar was surrounded by Bosnian players, doing little when he got the ball. He eventually scored his goal to win the game, but the team never managed to truly find its rhythm. Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain were not particularly effective and neither was Angel Di Maria.

The world’s best footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, has so far failed to impress. In his team’s opener against Germany, he was almost invisible as he saw his team being defeated 0-4 by the Germans. Rumours have it that he is still suffering from his injury.

On the other hand, while the World Cup saw some upsets and disappointments, there have been some stunning underdogs who emerged bravely to steal the show from the giants. Algeria’s impressive 4-2 win over South Korea has been one of the biggest surprises of the World Cup, making huge and impressive headlines in international media. The remarkable performances of the desert warriors have led the Koreans to say they felt they were taking on the Barcelona team. The Algerians have made the entire Middle East and North Africa region proud, especially with a chance now to reach the round of 16 for the first time in their World Cup history.

Costa Rica’s win over Uruguay was another game to mention as a hit. Everybody is singing praises about this team and wondering who the man behind their impressive success is. Surprisingly, this man is no other than Jorge Pinto Afanador.

Shockingly, the 61-year old never played football at a professional level and is leading the national team of Costa Rica in the World Cup. Under his leadership, the Costa Rica team dominated a Uruguay side that some thought was a favourite to win, winning by a healthy margin. The team won 3-1, but the lone goal conceded was off a penalty. This team could still have a lot to say as the tournament develops.

It has been obvious to all that the Netherlands is packed with superstars, such as Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie. Despite the team looking fresh and energetic, they were still deemed by some as not possessing enough experience for the World Cup.

Apparently, they were up to it as they finished on top of the group after winning all their three matches against the champions Spain 5-1, Australia 3-2 and then Chile 2-0. This team could make a deep run as the competition progresses.

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