Lessons Learned from the Group Stages of the World Cup
As we all know, the Round of 16 begins today as nations would fight each other to go all the way in the competition. With 48 games already played and 136 goals scored already, the World Cup has been an entertaining spectacle with the excitement levels reaching an all-time high.
Why don’t we reflect on some of the lessons that have been learned from the first phase of the competition Gooner Daily style!
The Officiating has been Shaky
I must confess, it has been a welcome change seeing referees spray that vanishing whitish fluid on the pitch when coordinating the defensive wall for dead balls but there have been games when I’ve been bewildered by some of the decisions made by the officials in this tourney.
Right from the very first game in the tournament, the peripheral Fred fell a sack of potatoes after a mysterious challenge from Southampton’s Dejan Lovren and the Japanese ref awarded a penalty and ran into the box to brandish a yellow card to prove how convinced he was.
Then there was the case of the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard, Diego Costa, that conned the ref into giving a penalty in Holland’s routing of Spain. The most painful penalty decision of all would be Giorgios Samaras’ penalty against Ivory Coast that came right at the death to break Ivorian hearts.
It hasn’t just been about the penalties though. There have also been the wrong offside decisions as well as the disallowed goals – think Edin Dzeko against my native Nigeria.
We have reached the business end of the competition and I can only hope that the officiating improves.
Some Big Stars have Turned Up… While Others Flopped
There were some players that were tipped to deliver in the tournament and boy, have they lived up to expectations. Despite his tumultuous time at FC Barcelona, Neymar Jnr. is at home and with the iconic No. 10 at his back, he has been a light in shining armor for the Selecao. Lionel Messi is another player with a vendetta as he seeks to win the only major trophy that has eluded him – the trophy Pele continues to spite him with. Another South American hitting top gear has been Colombia’s James Rodriguez, and despite his tender age he has been a class act for his nation in the absence of the influential Radamel Falcao.
Some European juggernauts have also turned up to the party and one can look no further than Holland’s Gotham representatives, Bat van Persie and Robben. Then there’s also Germany’s Young Mueller baby and France’s own Beamer, Benzema and Bentley.
On the other side of the pendulum, there have been some major flops and this would be a World Cup the defending champions will want to forget with Iker Casillas in particular. His shambolic club form crept into his national performances and seeing him struggle against Holland and Chile was a painful sight.
Roy Hodgson and his average overhyped England squad were rooted to the bottom of their group and its back to the drawing board for the English gaffer, that’s if he retains his job. It was also a disappointing campaign for the current World Footballer of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, which could affect him retaining his crown this year.
As Expected, there were Surprise Eliminations
Like previous World Cups, there were a lot of jaws dropped as some highly respected nations booked their flights out of Brazil following their below par performances in the tournament. Shockingly, Spain was the first nation to get eliminated from the World Cup, even before a Cameroon that was marred with internal strife.
In a group that seemed reasonably easy on paper, Ivory Coast crashed out of the tournament, albeit acrimonious circumstances but they were the plotters of their own downfall, like the goal they conceded against Colombia. I never expected England to qualify from Group D but seeing Italy go down with them was certainly a surprise. Cesare Prandelli tendered his resignation afterwards.
The same can be said about the Portuguese national team that has a relatively average squad with the exception of its captain, CR7. However, I still felt that they would qualify with Germany.
The Goal Line Technology Simulation Finally Worked its Magic
Despite the fact that I’m not a fan of Sepp Blatter and his corrupt practices, I feel that the goal line technology simulation was a step in the right direction. At first, it was becoming a nuisance as the simulation was even shown when the ball had crossed the line to hit the net and I felt that they folks that made the software were just showing off.
Then it came to good use – its intended use in the game between France and Honduras. Yohan Cabaye threaded an inch-perfect ball to Karim Benzema and the Real Madrid forward side-footed the ball beyond the Honduran goalie but it hit his far post. The ball came back into play and crept beyond the line before the keeper smothered the ball.
The referee had initially trusted his instincts and awarded the goal but on watching the goal line technology simulation, it showed that his instincts were spot on.
Moving forward, I believe that the simulation would aid teams to avoid decisions that can change the outcomes of games.
Giorgio Chiellini has a Tasty Shoulder, or Luis Suarez has a Biting Disorder
Every World Cup is expected to have its fair share of controversy but one must wonder if Luis Suarez is being tormented by some strange powers in the dark side of the Moon. With Costa Rica getting a shock win over Italy, their qualification was ensured so the Italy vs. Uruguay match promised to be a mouthwatering prospect.
The game itself was a reasonably dull affair that was settled with a good header from Diego Godin but the game will be forever remembered for Suarez doing what he does best – trying to render a piece of meat off an opponent’s flesh and it was appalling seeing him fake an injury afterwards.
FIFA has done the right thing to punish him but one wonders if just four months out of the beautiful game would be enough for the Uruguayan biter to learn his lessons. Suarez is meant to be an asset on the pitch but his shenanigans off it makes him a liability.
Let’s hope for some great football in the Round of 16.
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