WORLD CUP DIARY: 17 June

WORLD CUP DIARY: 17 June

We’re rapidly approaching the end of the first week of the first week of the World Cup 2014. And what a week of football we have seen. Incredible goals, the usurping of favourites, dominant displays and the rise of some new World Cup heroes.

Day Five was to be no exception.

More firsts, Africa’s biggest hope, the well-fancied Germans and the current Ballon d’Or holder; Monday was not to be the day when the world’s biggest festival fell slightly flat.

 

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GERMANY 4-0 PORTUGAL, Salvador

Muller gives Germany an early lead with a terrific spot-kick

Muller gives Germany an early lead with a terrific spot-kick

A Thomas Muller hat-trick sealed a convincing victory for Die Mannschaft as the two Group G heavyweights met in the day’s early kick-off.

Barring any further goal-fests tomorrow, Muller will be ahead of the goalscoring charts after the first round of fixtures, as he looks to win the Golden Boot in consecutive tournaments.

There was so much more to this absorbing contest however. Portugal could be the most disappointing side we’ve yet seen, their starting line-up looked quick, inventive and reasonably tight on paper but failed to deliver in any of these departments. Everything went through Ronaldo who had a poor game, spending much of the 90 minutes on the periphery.

His absence however is largely owing to the dismissal of centre-half Pepe, who made a parody of himself by head-butting Muller at 2-0. Germany were already well in the ascendancy.

Hummels made it 2-0 with a powerful header

Hummels made it 2-0 with a powerful header

Their trickery was largely moving through the attacking triumvirate of Muller, Ozil and Gotze; and it was to reap early reward as Gotze was brought down by Joao Pereira inside the box. Muller, 1-0.

Gotze was soon to be involved again, seeing his shot deflected wide. From the resultant corner, Kroos’ whipped delivery was powerfully met by Mats Hummels who seized upon lackadaisical zonal marking and some indecision between Pepe and Bruno Alves.

The Portuguese struggled for any form of rhythm and spurned two opportunities, both at the hands of Luis Nani who shot when he should have passed, and then passed to Cristiano Ronaldo when he should have gone alone.

Paulo Bento’s eleven was soon to become ten, as Pepe had his moment. A host of BBC and ITV pundits have already had their say, some bemoaning Muller’s ‘play-acting’ – he did indeed make the most of what was a flailing arm from the Real Madrid defender – while others, including the excellent Clarence Seedorf quicker to criticise Pepe for potentially ruining his nation’s chances this year.

Ronaldo spent much of this fixture standing and admiring the German's movement

Ronaldo spent much of this fixture standing and admiring the German’s movement

More on pundits on Owls Alive later.

It was to be three before half time in Salvador, as Muller somewhat fortuitously turned home a clearance from Alves, his finish too strong for the hapless Patricio.

The second half saw little in the way of change, as Germany continued to enjoy spells of possession, creating chances with it. Thomas Muller only needed one real chance to complete his hat-trick – turning home substitute Andre Schurrle’s low cross.

4-0. Germany score four in consecutive opening matches, while Portugal concede as many for the first time at World Cup finals. With Ghana and the USA the remaining opposition, Portugal’s chances of progression looked promising prior to yesterday.

They will have to play well against two sides who impressed in the later fixture.

 

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IRAN 0-0 NIGERIA, Curitiba

We can’t really complain. It was a good run. But we were due one.

Last week I sat my Rugby Union mad house-mate down to watch England vs Honduras in a final bid to win him over from the dark side before the World Cup. This was largely reminiscent of that game, a friendly. Nigeria dominated the possession but could never offer enough incision or clinical finishing to secure the points.

Nigerian fans enjoy the atmosphere in Curitiba

Nigerian fans enjoy the atmosphere in Curitiba

Ibrahimovic, Bale, a Serbia XI that includes Ivanovic, Kolarov and Matic – all absent from this year’s finals. Wherever you stand on UEFA’s domination of global football, it cannot be denied that the absence of these players at the world’s premier tournament is unfortunate while some semi-professionals are in attendance.

Carlos Queiroz’s group were certainly well drilled, and played to their strengths. Nigeria looked comfortable enough, allowing only one Iranian effort on goal from Charlton’s Reza Ghoochannejad.

Nigeria are now winless in nine World Cup games, the longest such streak and will look to end that against Bosnia and Herzegovina in their next game. Messi, Di Maria and Aguero await for Iran in what will surely be a case of ‘how many’.

 

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GHANA 1-2 UNITED STATES, Estadio das Dunas

Dempsey celebrates putting the USA ahead

Dempsey celebrates putting the USA ahead

After the dire affair at Curitiba, Ghana and the United States served up a late-night treat to get this World Cup firmly back on course.

Indeed the response was immediate, as former Fulham midfielder Clint Dempsey slotted home the fifth-fastest World Cup goal, inside of thirty seconds to put the Americans ahead.

This was the worst possible start for Ghana, who were looking for a strong tournament to consign their haunting 2010 quarter final defeat by Uruguay to memory. Dempsey collected the ball from Jermaine Jones, an impressive cog in the American machine, seized upon some poor defending by Boye and slotted home.

The USA were very impressive and started the game at a terrific pace; their passing and movement was too much for the Africans to contain. Their back-line was resilient too, Stoke defender Geoff Cameron was well in control of the floated crosses from the Ghanaian right.

America should have gone two-up, but Jozy Altidore’s control let him down at the key moment and his shot was blocked by Boye.

It was to get worse for the Sunderland forward as he was stretchered off shortly after, it could be tournament over for the New Jerseyan whose hamstring looked to be the problem.

The Black Stars began to feel their way back into the game, with chances falling to the lively Christian Atsu and Asamoah Gyan, both who fired over from 10 yards.

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The American XI celebrate Brooks’ late winner

Gyan was to be involved in Ghana’s eventual equaliser however, who conjured up a delightful move involving four players before Gyan’s backheel and Andre Ayew’s tidy finish brought them back on terms.

The game was now only going one way, so it was some shock when big American defender John Brooks headed America back into the lead. The 21-year-old who plays his football for perennial German under-achievers Hertha Berlin, rose highest to meet Graham Zusi’s corner and send the sizeable American contingent home happy.

It was the Ghanaians who stole our hearts in 2010 with the anguished exit in South Africa. Unfortunately for them, with Germany and Portugal still to play, this will probably spell an end to their hopes of qualification.

For the Americans, however, any result against Portugal on Sunday will put them in a fantastic position to qualify.

 

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VERDICT

Another sensational day of World Cup football; a contender marks their territory, a thrilling late night contest between two very watchable sides and some terrific goals to boot.

Six sides of very different quality and approaches.

Perhaps the seeds of a huge story, the United States maybe upsetting Portugal and sending the Ballon d’Or winner home early. Tomorrow we go full circle; hosts Brazil are in action again as the second round of fixtures gets underway.

 

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Muller's hat-trick ensured a comfortable victory for the Germans

Muller’s hat-trick ensured a comfortable victory for the Germans

Player of the Day: THOMAS MULLER – Three poachers goals, but the Bayern Munich forward offered so much more as part of the humming Ozil-Muller-Gotze axis. His antics aside, if they were indeed ‘antics’ at all, this was a performance to enjoy. Simply one of Europe’s greatest forward players at his best.

Player for Gray: JOHN BROOKS – Born and raised in Berlin, Brooks has now had two seasons of first team action at Hertha Berlin in the German 2nd and 1st Divisions. A commanding centre half, Brooks gave an impressive performance after coming on as a substitute, capping his performance with the winning goal. Could he be one cog in an American centre half pairing for Stuart Gray?

TODAY’S FIXTURES

GROUP H – Belgium vs Algeria (5pm, ITV); Russia vs South Korea (11pm, BBC 1)

GROUP A – Brazil vs Mexico (8pm, BBC 1)

 

TODAY’S TIPS

Belgium are one of the dark horses in this year’s finals (despite this tag seemingly applying to every team in Brazil) and are widely available at 4/9, with Betway offering 9/20.

Brazil weren’t the most convincing against Croatia and will probably make hard work of Mexico too – they should come through that however. BetVictor offer a score-cast of Neymar/2-0 at 22/1, with 2-1 at 28s.

My chosen accumulator spans today and Wednesday: £1 returns £253 with Coral.

Brazil, Russia and Spain (vs Chile) to win and both teams to score; with Belgium and the Netherlands (vs Australia) handicapped -1 and -2 respectively.

 

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Hugh
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: admin@owlsalive.com
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @hugh_wragg


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