No Se Mancha’s football guru Fulvio Bortolini considers Latin American teams’ performances in the group stage of the World Cup
The group stage of the World Cup came to an end yesterday afternoon, leaving some unforeseen outcomes.
Many had been expecting positive performances by Latin American teams, but few were predicting such a clear dominance. Only Honduras and Ecuador were eliminated. Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil won their groups, while Uruguay, Chile and Mexico snatched the pass to the next round as second bests.
Costa Rica was obviously the greatest surprise. There cause had been considered hopeless before kick-off, but the Ticos emerged victorious from Group D, the group of death. A practical paying style enabled Costa Rica’s comeback win against Uruguay (3-1), the motivated success against a disappointing Italian side (1-0) and a final draw against England to maintain the first place in the group (0-0). With a reasonable match-up against Greece in the next round, the quarterfinals do not seem unreachable at this point.
Colombia is Latin America’s other team to have exceeded the most optimistic expectations. Three wins, nine points, nine goals scored and only two conceded: these numbers speak for themselves. Led by coach José Pekerman, the team is one of the fittest in the tournament right now, in spite of the absence of superstar striker Radamel Falcao. The Cafeteros are set to clash against Uruguay in their next game. La Celeste did not impress. After the defeat against Costa Rica (1-3) and the victory over England (2-1), the Uruguayan squad managed to prevail against Italy (1-0) only after Italian midfielder Claudio Marchisio’s red card.
Luis Suarez, Uruguay’s man of destiny and infamous biter, has been sentenced to a 9-match ban and 4 months away from football due to his ill conduct, shifting the balance in favour of Colombia to advance to the quarterfinals.
Chile was able to seize two clear victories against Australia (3-1) and Spain (2-0), exhibiting an enjoyable attack-oriented game. The only defeat came by the hands of Holland (0-2) in the end of the third game, when qualification to the next round was secured but la Roja sought the victory of the group, leaving its defence exposed to the Dutch counterattacks. On the path to the quarterfinals coach Sampaoli’s men will once again encounter dreaded Brazil, who already eliminated the Chileans in South Africa with a sharp 3-0 victory.
Although not entirely convincing at times, and having shown significant shortcomings, Brazil remains one of the prominent candidates for the final victory. Neymar, who has scored four times already, has demonstrated the ability to put the team on his back, especially when opposing defences leave open spaces for his raids. Adding home advantage and warm support of the local crowd, the Seleção is widely seen as favorite to advance to the next stage.
Playing in Group A as well, Mexico was the only team capable of fending off Neymar’s attacks, mainly because of marvellous goalkeeping by Guillermo Ochoa. After a promising start against Cameroon (1-0) and a draw against the Seleção (0-0), el Tri gave its best against Croatia, beating the European side 3-1 and securing a place in the second round. Overcoming an opponent like the Netherlands however seems a rather prohibitive task, given the technical level shown by the Oranje up until now.
Is Argentina too overconfident?
While some teams might be lacking self-esteem, Argentina seems to face the very opposite problem. Unlike all the other Latin American teams, the Albiceleste appeared snooty, and rarely reached its full potential. In an easy group with Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria, players seemed too relaxed and overconfident, yet the Argentines collected three wins, thanks to an immense Lionel Messi, who marked four goals scorer and MVP honors in every game. To extend its winning streak, Argentina will be forced to step up its game starting next week against Switzerland, otherwise it will suffer an abrupt and sour awakening.
You think Latin America is pumped up yet?
See Fulvio’s pre-cup analysis HERE