World Cup 2014: Off The Pitch – Part Two
A lot has happened in the past week of the World Cup. We’ve witnessed an upset, hard-fought wins, and spectacular goals. I’m quite happy with the level of play thus far. There have been a few teams that disappointed me; but all things considered, the matches have been quite entertaining. Today I want to list my top three favorite moments from the World Cup thus far.
3. Costa Rica defeats Uruguay (3-1)
In the first upset of the tournament, underdogs Costa Rica took down former champions Uruguay in spectacular fashion Saturday. Costa Rica proved that with enough heart and persistence, any team can win at the World Cup. Uruguay seemed to have the upper hand after Edinson Cavani converted a 24th-minute penalty to make the score 1-0.
Things changed in the second half, however, when Costa Rica came out of the locker room with a less defensive strategy. The underdogs quickly took the lead after goals from Campbell (54′) and Duarte (57′) and managed to keep the desperate Uruguayan attack at bay until a goal by Ureña in the 84th minute sealed the win for Costa Rica.
2. Netherlands annihilate reigning World Cup champions Spain (5-1)
One of the most anticipated matches of the group stage was won in spectacular fashion by the Dutchmen. After Xabi Alonso’s penalty conversion (27′) put the reigning champs out front, the Netherlands responded with undoubtedly the most stellar goal of the tournament so far. In the 44th minute, forward Robin Van Persie took to the skies after a cross from Arjen Robben and headed the ball into the net, much to the shock of a confused Iker Casillas.
The Oranje continued their assault with two goals from Arjen Robben (53′, 80′), a goal from Stefan de Vrij (65′), and another goal from Van Persie (72′). As a fan of the Netherlands national team, I was so happy to see this team come from behind to completely shutdown the reigning champions–a gripping and satisfying rematch from the 2010 World Cup final.
1. Italy defeats England (2-1)
In one of the most nail-biting matches thus far, Italy defeated England after a hard-fought campaign. The Azzurri struck first with a goal by Marchisio in the 35th minute, but England quickly struck back with a goal by young talent Sturridge in the 37th. The next thirteen minutes of play saw both teams battle for possession of the midfield before a quick break and unsuspecting defense saw Italy nab its winning second goal in the 50th minute from a header by Mario Balotelli.
Italy’s triumph was not easily won, however. After netting their second goal, Italy had a tough time defending their lead. The English fought hard to maintain possession in the late game and won several corner kicks that put the legendary Italian defense to the test. If this game is any indication, both teams will have a good chance of advancing beyond the Round of 16.
Despite my trepidation at the onset of this year’s World Cup, I’ve really enjoyed this past week of matches. There have been fewer missed and/or controversial calls by the officials and more world class performances and fairy tale victories. As a supporter of the Italians, this week was especially exciting for me and really reinvigorated my love of the game. Obviously, my hope is that Italy will once again raise the cup; but if those hopes are dashed, I predict Germany, Netherlands, or Brazil to win it all this year.