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Chris graduated from Georgia State University in 2009 with degrees in Journalism and Creative Writing. He has spent a lot of time working with the media. From engineering radio broadcast for most of Atlanta’s major sports teams to shooting high school football games behind a camera, Chris has a lot of media experience. Besides that, he loves soccer, detective shows, and a buffet list of 'nerdy' things that would embarrass his wife.

Beautifully Unpredictable: Reviewing the 2014 World Cup Group Stage

Wow! What a start for the World Cup.

This has probably been the most exciting tournament in recent memory, as goals, offense and drama have laid siege to Brazil throughout the Group Stage. We’ve seen last-gasp game winners and equalizers, underdogs usurping champions and plenty (plenty) of highlights to keep fans and neutrals alike, glued to their seats.

Of course, let’s not forget that we have also seen a bit of history as well, as the first usage of goal-line technology was used during France’s opening match with Honduras. While the initial idea had been disputed before the tournament began, it’s integration (along with the foam spray used for free kicks) hasn’t distracted from the beautiful game at all. However, while all of the excitement on the field has shown the world the beautiful side of the game, there have also been more than a few instances that have also displayed the ugly side.

But each side has definitely contributed to the World Cup fever that has taken over our summer.

Group A (Brazil and Mexico Advance)

The biggest surprise coming out of this group wasn’t having Brazil and Mexico emerging from it, instead it was just how much better El Tri looked compared to the host nation. In their first two games, Brazil seemed lethargic and often one-dimensional. Their keeper and defense looked shaky, characterized perfectly by Marcelo’s own goal against Croatia to open the tournament scoring.

Miguel-Herrera-Mexico-Brazil

Coach Miguel Herrera of Mexico (Image Credit: Petr David Josek/AP)

Meanwhile, Mexico exhibited a speed, quickness and passion on the field that could only be outshone by the emotions of their coach on the sideline. Having 2 goals wrongly disallowed in their first match, they pressed on and produced some of the best attacking displays of the tournament up to this point.

Best Game: Brazil vs. Mexico; it had the most excitement out of all the matches in this group, despite finishing 0-0 (thanks in part to the current front-runner for the Golden Glove – Guillermo Ochoa).

Group B (Netherlands and Chile Advance)

I hope you didn’t have money on Spain winning it all. The defending champions seemed to be missing the swagger that carried them for almost a decade. They were ripped open by the Dutch in a 5-1 rout, and then ran into the ground by a very good Chilean side, all without much of a whimper. Speaking of which, Chile has to be the surprise of this group. Even though I knew they had the speed to counter-attack the “big boys” of the group, I never could have imagined just how good they are at pressing in attack. Though their game against the Dutch exposed their defensive frailties, they will most likely give Brazil a real handful next round.

The Dutch, who I actually had picked to win the 2010 World Cup, have put to bed many of the doubts their fans may have had about them after their opening thrashing of Spain. Van Persie and Arjen Robben are giving teams nightmares, while Depay and Daley Blind are outshining the likes of Wesley Sneijder. Their game against Mexico is a must watch.

Best Game: Australia vs. Netherlands; which featured a ridiculous goal from Aussie legend Tim Cahill. Sad to see the Socceroos lose 2-3.

Group C (Colombia and Greece Advance)

Colombia came to play, and are one of the real dark horses of this tournament now. James Rodriguez is putting in consistent Man of the Match-calibre performances, and the team is really playing well in the absence of Falcao.

James-Rodriguez-Shines-2014-World-Cup

James Rodriguez Shines (Image Credit: Reuters)

It was also great to have this group come down to the final match day, as it produced one of the most controversial moments of the tournament thus far. Greece won a penalty in the final moments of stoppage time to sink the hopes of the Ivory Coast and advance out of the Group Stage for the first time in their nation’s history. But check the replays, it didn’t look like a foul to me.

In truth, the Greeks had a fairly consistent defense, and their opening match drubbing at the hands of Colombia may have had more to do with a potent opponent than anything else. The Ivorians, however, conceded too many sloppy goals (like the one against Japan) to really say they deserved a better fate.

Best Game: Greece vs. Ivory Coast; as this one had the most drama attached to it. History was made, and hearts were broken – that’s what this World Cup has been about.

Group D (Costa Rica and Uruguay Advance)

Having 3 former World Champions in their group didn’t stop Costa Rica from going undefeated. They just had too much pace for their opponents, and played really strong as a unit. You could see this difference between them and the others in each game. They will face a stiff Greek defense in the next round, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they make it to the Quarter Finals.

Meanwhile, Italy and England failed to make any sort of impression at this World Cup, and it’s a shame for their fans. England was constantly outplayed and out smarted defensively, while Italy’s persistence in isolating Mario Balotelli in attack did little else but frustrate the striker.

However, the hot topic for this group, unfortunately, has more to do with controversy than the game. For those who had to suffer through the Italy vs. Uruguay game, you undoubtedly saw the Luis Suarez bite of the Italian defender. What’s worse is, they’re defending him. After playing a game that was marred by deliberate fouls, time-wasting, diving and stoppages, it’ll be hard for Uruguay to garner any fan support outside of their own country.

Best Game: Costa Rica vs. Uruguay; this match turned the group on its head as the Costa Ricans shocked the South Americans 3-1.

Group E (France and Switzerland)

If the 2010 World Cup was a disaster for the French, the 2014 World Cup has been a complete dream for Les Bleus. They were absolutely devastating in their games against Honduras and Switzerland,  showing the perfect combination of power, speed and finishing. They weren’t able to score against Ecuador, but that was only a formality. Nigeria need to be wary of the threat of Benzema, Giroud, Valbuena and Co. in the next round.

Xherdan-Shaqiri-Swiss-Honduras

Shaqiri celebrating his hat trick (Image Credit: Reuters)

Switzerland, on the other hand, took a while to show their true potential. They scored late on in their games against Ecuador and France and Xherdan Shaqiri in particular was almost invisible until the final group game. I think if the Swiss can ride that momentum into their game against Argentina in the Round of 16, it’ll be a real classic. That is a big “if” though.

Best Game: France vs. Switzerland; at 5-2 it was hardly a classic. However, the overall play of the French was awe inspiring, plus all of the goals are fun to rewatch. If you get a chance to catch any highlights from the group stage, be sure to find your way to this game.

Group F (Argentina and Nigeria Advance)

While the whole Argentinian team will play in the next round, it was only Lionel Messi who showed up during these group games. His goals have been great to watch, but you do get the feeling that the rest of the team is complacent with him on the field. They are lucky to not have drawn France in the next round.

Nigeria played really well, and had it not been for the Iranian defense in the first game, they may have kept pushing for a win against Argentina to win the group. Their defense needs to be more consistent. The goal Bosnia scored (and had wrongly pulled back for offside) showed that they can have crucial mental lapses.

Best Game: Nigeria vs. Argentina; this 2-3 game showcased end-to-end attacking along with 2 sensational goals from Ahmed Musa and, as well as  Lionel Messi.

Group G (Germany and USA Advance)

The group widely seen as “The Group of Death” definitely lived up to its billing – but any group with Germany was going to be tough. The Germans all but eliminated Portugal in the 4-0 annihilation in their opening match. Though their subsequent draw against Ghana and 1-0 win against America showed that they might not have the legs to make it all the way (maybe).

USMNT-John-Brooks-USA-Ghana

The USMNT is bringing belief Stateside (Image Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/USATS)

But we all expected Germany to progress, however, what a showing from the USA! Many people had the team finishing below the others, but Jurgen Klinsmann had an outstanding game plan. Had it not been for slack marking in the 94th minute against Portugal, America would have been the first team to qualify from the group.

One thing that also can’t be overlooked is just how mediocre Portugal are without a 100% Cristiano Ronaldo.

Best Game: USA vs. Portugal; maybe it’s my personal bias, but this game had everyone Stateside believing.

Group H (Belgium and Algeria)

While they may not have been as entirely convincing as many of us (including myself) predicted,  Belgium wore their opponents down and came up with some crucial goals in the 2nd half of all of their matches. Substitute Divock Origi was impressive in his cameo appearances, and may have fought his way into the starting line-up against the USA. The depth of Belgium is really impressive, but it remains to be seen whether they can play for a whole 90 minute match.

Algeria probably deserved their spot in the next round. They definitely showed more heart and creativity than Russia, and thoroughly outplayed South Korea. I prefer this incarnation to the one that showed up at the last World Cup. Being the only other African nation (along with Nigeria) to progress, they may have the whole of Africa rooting for them during their game against the Germans.

Best Game: Algeria vs. South Korea; this was easily the most entertaining game, even though it looked to be over at half-time. The Algerians ended up winning in the end, 4-2.

Their really hasn’t been a dull moment so far for the tournament, and everyone will be hoping that the knockout stages will “one-up” what we’ve already seen. So far, there have been a record number of goals (136) and a ton of big names are vying for the Golden Boot (Messi, Muller, Neymar). While plenty of teams have stood out for their performances, the Round of 16 will be a real showing of nerves and tactics. It’d take a brave soul to choose a winner from the pack, as the World Cup has just delivered one of the most unpredictable starts of the tournament’s history.

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7 Comments on “Beautifully Unpredictable: Reviewing the 2014 World Cup Group Stage”

  1. DrFrood June 27, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    I’ve always had a soft spot for ‘Team USA’, ever since their 1-1 game against Italy in 2006 when 3 men were sent off, including De Rossi for an elbow to the face.

    They’re looking good this year – that Portugal game was ridiculous…

    • Christopher Hill June 27, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

      I’m really hoping that we can make it to the Quarter-Finals. The team has talent and now have a coach to bring it all together in Klinsmann. I was really disappointed after the 2006 World Cup. Wanted France to beat the Italians too…

  2. KerryWood June 27, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    Chris, I am really enjoying reading your world cup articles. I watch most of the games and its interesting to hear an educated opinion. I also hated that penalty kick for Greece against the Ivory Coast. I was so disappointed that such a bad call led to them being eliminated.

    • Christopher Hill June 27, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

      Kerry! Great to hear from you. Have you been able to watch any of the French games? Le bleus air très bien, non?

  3. KerryWood June 28, 2014 at 7:47 am #

    Ich wohne jetzt in Deutschland! So I have been cheering for Germany and USA. But the French are really doing well, I watched a few of their games.

    • Christopher Hill June 28, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

      Germany were my pick to go all the way before the cup started.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Counting Down to the Final of the 2014 World Cup | The Hudsucker - July 10, 2014

    […] it was difficult to predict the results of the Group Stages, the Round of 16 results were a little more straightforward. The winners of each group were able to […]

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