The first, exciting set of Group games wrapped up yesterday, with already seven comeback victories, and more total goals scored at this point than at any previous World Cup.
A Fred flop helped Brazil overcome their nerves and get past a rightfully indignant Croatia in the tournament’s São Paulo opener, their defender Dejan Lovren commenting that if the poor level of officiating continued ‘let’s just give Brazil the trophy and go home now.” Bad officiating did continue, but managed to be overcome by Mexico in the Natal rain (1-0 over Cameroon), and soon more famously by The Netherlands in their 5-1 comeback triumph over Spain, which spawned the #VanPersing meme in honor of the Dutch striker’s almost impossibly perfect scoring header off Daley Blind’s (pronounced Daily Blend, as in Starbucks) long, crossing pass (some of the best memes can be seen here.)
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The third day was the tournament’s longest, featuring two more comebacks, sub Didier Drogba and Ivory Coast over Japan 2-1, and Costa Rica also riding subs to shock a Suarez-less Uruguay 3-1. Other games were Colombia’s convincing 3-0 win over Greece, and Mario Balotelli leading Italy 2-1 over a wilting England in the Manaus ‘jungle’ game. Too many Liverpool players kicking the ball to each other.
The next day, Lionel Messi finally got a chance to display some of his goal scoring magic as he provided the ultimately-winning second tally against determined debutants Bosnia-Hercegovina, while Ecuador channeled their Enner Valencia to take an early lead against Switzerland. However, the Swiss rode their expat Bosno-Kosovan contingent to claw back an injury time 2-1 win on a Haris Seferovic goal. Goal line tech worked for first time in the France romp over Honduras that was otherwise only distinguishable by a Karim Benzema hat trick for Les Bleus.
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Yesterday was of course the big day for the US team, and the American Outlaws’ long wait was rewarded with a hard-fought victory over Ghana that vindicated most of coach Jürgen Kilinsmann’s moves, if pleasantly contradicting his pre-match statements. Twitter exploded as unfancied defensive sub John Brooks (who has maps of illinois and Berlin tattoed around his elbows) headed the 86th minute winner, as can be seen in this vine. Iran-Nigeria was the only scoreless clunker of the round.
Finally, today Belgium’s talent matured as they came from behind late against Algeria through an incredible Afro-header from Marouane Fellaini and a cannon shot from spark plug Dries Mertens, while the Fabio Cappello-led Russian bears were awoken by a goalkeeping howler by their Igor Akinfeev, managing a draw with South Korea via goal-mouth meleé.
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Brazil has already kicked off the second round, as fading dye-jobs of Neymar, Jr. and Dani Alves (who looks like he dipped his head in volcanic ash) failed to find the net against Mexico in about as entertaining a scoreless draw as you can manage, but hopefully not a sign as to the southward direction of goal-scoring in the tournament. Much more hopefully to follow…
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