Winners and losers of the World Cup – Week One

Despite more goals and excitement than anyone would have dared to imagine, the 2014 World Cup is only seven days old. We look back on the winners and loser from the first week of action.

Winners

Germany

Drawn in a group with Portugal, Ghana and the United States of America – the so-called “Group of Death” as all four teams are ranked comfortably in the top 40 of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings – and with just one, middle-aged striker in their squad, Germany were supposed to struggle. It was supposed to be a tournament too far for Joachim Löw and his ever evolving Germany team. Löw, to his immense credit, has never allowed himself to be lulled into the huge international management pitfall of sticking with players that he knows, and it is continuing to pay off.

They got some help during the opening game but had real chances to score plenty more than the four that they ended up with. Just as we are about to suggest it’d be Portugal and one other advancing from the group, Germany turned in such an impressive showing that they can probably extend their hotel booking until the quarter-finals at the very least.

Netherlands

Much like the Germans, the Netherlands were a so-called “smart pick” in the weeks before the tournament kicked off if you were looking for a surprise elimination during the Group Stages. With the defending Champions and the constantly impressive Chileans in their group, Louis van Gaal and his men were due a struggle.

It hasn’t been plain sailing so far but it’s been incredibly entertaining. And the Dutch are definitely going to be advancing from their group after wins over Spain and Australia. They have conceded goals – something they were always expected to do – but Louis van Gaal has ensured that both Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben look in sparkling form. Both men have scored three times in the opening two matches and could get a few more before the tournament is over.

Manchester United fans

Special mention for the Manchester United fans that returned to the internet in the 45th minute of the Netherlands’ 5-1 domination of Spain. Robin van Persie produced a moment of immense quality to lob Iker Casillas with a delightful header and then raced to celebrate with the new Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal. After a tough year under David Moyes, United fans appear to be getting their confidence back.

Australia

Despite being eliminated from the tournament within the first week, Australia have produced two fine performances that will have their fans very excited ahead of the 2015 Asian Cup. The tournament will be head in Australia for the first time and after opting to favour youth in his squad selection, Ange Postecoglou has a busy few months ahead as he moulds the time ever-so-slightly to prepare for that.

They pushed both Chile and the Netherlands in their two games, saw Tim Cahill score one of the great World Cup goals and brought smiles to the faces of many watching neutrals. A decent week’s work by all accounts.

Losers

Spain

The reigning World Champions found themselves up against two teams that had worked out how to get the better of them, and they had no Plan B. Spain were never going to keep winning international tournaments forever but after winning three in a row, only the bravest of men would have predicted them to be dumped out within seven days of the opening ceremony. They haven’t adopted or evolved their playing style since 2008 and refused to listen anyone that dared to suggest a winning formula needed small changes.

Vicente Del Bosque has to shoulder blame for opting to choose Iker Casillas and Diego Costa in his starting line-ups. Casillas has rarely played for Real Madrid this season and Costa is, as has been shown, not fit. Problems all round for the Spanish unfortunately.

Portugal

A 0-4 defeat to Germany can happen to any team. Thankfully, it can easily be forgotten in the Group Stages, especially with games against Ghana and the USA to come. Goal difference probably shouldn’t be a factor in a situation with those two teams and a full-strength Portuguese line-up. However, when you add a Pepe red card and an injury to Cristiano Ronaldo that doesn’t appear to be getting any better; it’s been a torrid week in the Portugal camp.

Given their tactics in the opening game involved always looking for and passing the ball to Ronaldo, it’s fair to say that their chances are hanging by a thread right now. Not at all what we expected for the world’s best player and his band of merry men.

Cameroon

Matching a run by El Salvador from 1982 is not a strong way to spend the first week of a World Cup. Cameroon have been utterly dreadful in their two games so far in the 2014 World Cup. There have been bright bursts when they have threatened to score goals; but after Croatia scored their second they simply gave up.

The third and fourth were purely academical and will only cause to aid Croatia should goal difference be required to settle Group A. Of course, that can only happen if Cameroon can beat Brazil. They won’t.

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