Friday, 13 June 2014

Match Day 1 - Review

The World Cup finally got under way on Thursday after a seemingly never ending wait. We were greeted on ITV by a gurning Adrian Chiles, who just gets worse and worse the more I see him. To think that we have to spend the next month in his company puts somewhat of a dampener on proceedings, I just hope he doesn't spoil it completely for us.
In the studio we were treated to a surprise in the form of World Cup legend Fabio Cannavaro, one of the best defenders to have ever played the game. He spoke well, and gave us interesting anecdotes on his triumph in '06, but his knowledge of the England side was lacking somewhat (understandably) when he appeared not to even have heard of Sterling or Welbeck. Hopefully his contemporaries will be equally clueless come Saturday night.

The opening ceremony proved to be a damp squib of the likes we've not seen before, summed up by the frankly pathetic official song, which was mimed badly by J-Lo and Pitbull, a man who's success relative to his talent is surely the biggest mystery in musical history? Thankfully the quality of the sound was so bad that no one could actually hear what was going on.

Anyway, on to matters on the field. Each day I will be summarising the previous days events, taking a lighthearted look at the best and worst things and people.

Match of the Day: Brazil v Croatia

Unsurprisingly I've selected this match as my match of the day. A lot was expected of the home nation in the opening match, a match which has seen many upsets down the years, from Cameroon physically dominating Argentina at Italia '90 to Senegal edging past France in 2002.
In the end it proved a comfortable win for the hosts, but in truth it was anything but. Croatia came roaring out the blocks and could have gone ahead if the impressive veteran Ivica Olic had hit the target as he should with a header.
Moments later they did deservedly take the lead through an unlikely source. Olic was freed down the left by Rakitic, playing in a deeper role than we are accustomed to seeing him, and as he put a great ball into the 'corridor of uncertainty' poor defending by David Luiz allowed his man to get across him, and the ball was unwittingly diverted into his own net by Marcelo.
This seemed to spur the Brazilians into life, and a great ball across the box by Oscar evaded Fred by inches, and then the same man tested Pletikosa with a lovely bending effort.
When the equalising goal did arrive, it was from the boot of pin up boy Neymar, a scuffed shot from distance that bobbled in off the post. Not for the first time, the goalkeeper should have done much better.
The roof nearly came off the stadium, and the relief was clear for all to see.
The second half saw Brazil take the upper hand, with Modric and Rakitic in the centre not having nearly as much influence. The superb Luiz Gustavo, with his wonderful moustache, looking like an Indian restaurant waiter, began dictating the play.

Lamb madras and pilau rice please.
With 20 minutes to play came the pivotal moment of the match, Fred going down in the box under pressure from Lovren. The Japanese ref, out of his depth all night, had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, to the consternation of the Croatians. It really was a dreadful decision and ultimately spoiled the contest. Neymar stepped up and just about got it past the keeper, who once again should have saved it, scoring his second of the night and quite remarkably his 33rd goal in 49 games for Selecao.
Croatia knew it was not to be there night when the ref then disallowed a goal, incorrectly, for a perfectly legitimate challenge by Olic on the shaky Julio Cesar. What can you do when the referee is so clearly biased towards the home side?
Oscar completed the scoring with minutes to go, picking up the ball and driving unchallenged at the Croatian defence before toe poking his shot from fully 25 yards into the corner of the goal, with Pletisoka saving his worst mistake of the night until last.

Hero of the day: Neymar - it couldn't really have been anyone else after the boy wonder lit up the first night with two goals. He'll score better goals in his career, but with the huge pressure weighing on his young shoulders, he certainly answered his critics. Those who followed my tip of him to be the tournament top scorer will be quietly confident with matches against Cameroon and Mexico to follow.
It's worth pointing out that Neymar is contantly dropping deep to pick the ball up, something which we criticise Wayne Rooney for doing, but the difference between them is stark. Neymar's speed and ability to beat a man make him him extremely difficult to stop when he's heading towards goal, and he also doesn't give the ball away cheaply in midfield like Rooney.
His histrionics don't appeal to me. It seems like he's broken his leg every time he goes down, but then he probably only weighs about 9 stone wet though.

The real deal!
Disappointment of the day: Hulk - does anyone actually rate this man? I've not been impressed with him in any of the many matches I've seen him. In his defence, perhaps he'd be better through the middle rather than stuck on the left wing?
I'd argue that he isn't even that big, certainly not enough to warrant his nickname, with Fred noticeably much bigger. And he's also far from scary, I wouldn't be worried if I met him when he's angry.

A better footballer than his Brazilian namesake
Villain of the day: Yuichi Nishimura. he should be stripped from taking charge of another match in this competition after a hapless display that cost Croatia a point.

Wanker of the day: Has to go to Pitbull after fighting off strong competition from Adrian Chiles. How this man sells millions of records worldwide beggars belief.

This man is a global star. We need to take a look at ourselves.
Moment of the day: Definitely my highlight was when we were treated to the Goal Line Technology confirming that the ball for the first goal did cross the line. Thanks for that.

Tonight throws up 3 matches, with Spain v Holland the highlight. I hope that tomorrow I can report on numerous goals and sendings off. And look out for Chile when they get under way, my dark horses.

Did you enjoy the opening match? Did it live up to the hype? Do you own a Pitbull record? Would you dive into Fabio Cannavaro's eyes if you could?

Leave your comments below and please follow me on Twitter: @russellheaps

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