The greatest show on earth has reached the last 16 phase and it has been a roller coaster ride for many a team so far. Spain, Italy and England have already packed their bags and left Brazil. For some this has been a surprise, for others the writing had all been on the wall.
Italian football has long been in decline, it was there for all to see with the quality of the Serie A as well as the difficulty faced by the Italians in their friendly just before the World Cup against Luxembourg. Spain’s demise as former World Champions was also stunning though they never recovered from their shocking footballing lesson they received against a strong Netherlands. As for England, while they have what is probably the best domestic league, the quality of the players is still weak for international competitions.
In the above video you will see all the goals scored in the first phase of this World Cup in Brazil. We have had a great start to the competition with some great games and exceptional goals.
The question on any pundits minds is who will emerge as winner now. Eternal South American favourites Brazil and Argentina took off to a somewhat weak start but they have in the meantime recovered. While not being impressive (take Brazil against Croatia for example and Argentina against Iran), they have not disappointed.
Germany are as solid as ever though they were somewhat lucky to take a point in their match against Ghana. The most impressive team to date is probably Colombia.
The odds for World Cup victory are in favour of a South American team. History shows that whenever a world cup is played in America, whether North or South, it is won by a South American team. For sure, the South American continent is guaranteed a semi-finalist given that the winners of Brazil v. Chile and Colombia v Uruguay will face each other in the quarter-final.
The major surprises of the competition such as Costa Rica, Algeria and Greece have shown that modern football is changing. With good organisation, speed and teamwork you can fight for excellent results. Costa Rica or Greece will make it to the quarter-finals and this will be an exceptional result of them. I don’t fancy Algeria’s chances against Germany though they have probably been the greatest surprise of the competition. Their strong performance (albeit they have themselves to blame for the defeat against Belgium) was a prelude to a splendid victory against South Korea and eventually drew against their more quoted opponents Russia.
Belgium, my home for the past eight years, had a start to the competition which has been far from exceptional. However, they have taken home three wins and a result which has so far been unsurpassed in their history, i.e. finishing first in their group. Their road from here is tricky and they will need to up their game if they hope to advance in the competition. They have shown they have the players and the solidity to cause surprises. Considered by many as dark horses together with Colombia so far their game has not been impressive. Yet, in football victory when not playing well is considered the hallmark of great teams. if they up their game, and they have the players to do so, then they could still cause a surprise or two.
At this stage of the competition, experience and the will to win enters into play. Luck also plays a part. But as they say from now onwards there are no easy games and to end up as World Cup champions you have to win all the remaining matches.
Given the surprises in the first phase of the competition the question we should be asking is whether we will see a new team lift the cup. In this case it is likely to be Colombia, the Netherlands or who knows Belgium. However, Germany, Argentina and Brazil are all looking solid bets.