By Carl Jaison:
A week of intriguing football has passed by and the pundits have already started drawing their swords in a bid to speculate the possible fixtures going into the next round. An action-packed beginning to the 2014 FIFA WC has seen its share of spectacular goals, brilliant saves, and not to forget some memorable upsets. With ‘Shaheen the Camel’ playing the soothsayer this time around, fans are keenly observing how the remaining group games play out. Some of the title-contenders have lived up to their billing while few others have faltered in their opening matches. Here is an analysis of the teams that look poised to progress considering some advantages they possess:
A dominating performance, studded with a Neymar-special, was just what protest-torn Brazil needed for their equally die-hard fans. The team showed the world why they are clear favorites to win the Cup through some fine display of Brazilian passing and the ‘home factor’ puts them in good stead to go all out against their opponents. Croatia was humbled though they put up a spirited show, while Mexico managed to salvage a draw against the South American giant. With a solid defense line-up comprising the likes of Paulinho, David Luiz, Marcelo and Gustavo, Brazil have the right men guarding their post. Neymar looks in ominous touch and the youngster will look to add to his goal tally. The stand-out player however has been Oscar who with his breathtaking speed and precise passes has carved out a name for himself and his partnership with Neymar so far has been a treat to watch.
They pulled off the first major upset in this edition of the WC when they mauled Spain 5-1 in a re-match of the WC Finals, four years back. ‘Persieing’ took the stuffing out of a lackluster Spanish outfit who couldn’t find a way through the Dutch wall. An impressive attack, boasting of some of the best strikers in the world, Netherlands relies heavily on their stalwarts Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie to make an impact. Having the services of playmakers Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt provides the Dutch team with the perfect platform to stake their claim as serious contenders. Perhaps the most confident team till now, Netherlands will look to ward off threats from other group opponents Chile and Australia and giving themselves a first-place finish for an easier match-up in the next phase. Nigel De Jong has been crucial in their scheme of things and the mid-fielder will look to supply balls to their ever-hungry forwards.
A phenomenal opening match against Portugal confirmed German supremacy, atleast for the next few weeks. Riding high on a Thomas Mueller-hattrick, Germany has steadily emerged as the team to beat after their clinical display of counter-attacking football. Playing much of their game without their usual stars Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose, Germany engineered a terrific way to score against the run of play thanks to their talented mid-field manned by captain Philip Lahm alongwith Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Andre Schurrle etc. By far the best team on an overall basis, the Germans believe that they can storm into the final stages provided they put up a consistent performance against tougher opponents. Their passing accuracy and ball possession have won them matches in the past but Germany will look to thrive on set piece advantage as clearly being the ‘tallest’ team competing in the World Cup. Promising youngster Julian Draxler might be of great assistance to Mueller, who will look to continue his goal-scoring form.