A World Cup of its kind

JOHANNESBURG - The 2014 World Cup currently taking place in Brazil is turning out to have every ingredient of being a historic football fiesta.

Plenty of goals, penalties, red cards and shocking results which clearly defy the pecking order, this should a World Cup of its kind.

No one could imagine that the likes of defending champions Spain, England and Italy will be heading home in the first round. Yet, that is the sad reality.

One thing that is clearly coming to the fore in this global fiesta is that it is turning out to be a tournament for Americans, both within the Concacaf and South America. They have to date managed to have a stranglehold over other teams from outside the Atlantic boundaries.

I have personally been impressed by the likes of Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile and Uruguay in addition to the usual “culprits” Brazil and Argentina.

Only Germany and the Netherlands among the European giants look resilient and if a team outside those from the Americas is to win the coveted title, then Germany and the Dutch are likely to be those sides.

It is also from these main protagonists that the player of the tournament is likely to emerge from. So far there have been plenty of contenders for that title with Argentina’s Lionel Messi leading the pack.

His stunning last-minute goal against Iran was out of this world while his two goals against Nigeria points to a man who has a point to prove.

Former Argentine captain, Diego Maradona, who has been watching all of his country’s games has always insisted that unless Messi wins a World Cup, he would never be mentioned among the best players in the world. And the Little Master seems keen to put the ghost to rest.

Neymar of Brazil is also another talent blossoming before our glaring eyes. His clinical goals against Cameroon are of a player who has accepted the responsibility of carrying the expectations of a nation demanding greater things from the home team.

Save for his biting incident which has been the greatest stain of this World Cup, Luis Suarez would have been another player vying for the player of the tournament title. But that is all now water under the bridge. The temperamental striker has been banned from all football activities for four months, stopped from playing for his country for nine games and has been humiliatingly sent home – the most vicious draconian sentence ever in the history of the game. Sad for such a huge talent!

From Europe’s two, come Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller of Netherlands and Germany respectively.

Robben was a thorn in the flesh when Netherlands massacred Spain 5-1 and was again in the thick of things in the subsequent matches against Australia and Chile. His speed and ball control have been the mainstay of the Dutch’s swift counter-attacks that has dazzled many opponents.

Muller, who was the Golden Boot winner in 2010 where he was also named the Young Player of the tournament, has emerged another potential great player to watch in this tournament. He again scored a spectacular goal in Germany’s narrow 1-0 win over USA on Thursday.

His finishing has been from the top drawer and Germany has relied mainly on his goals to unlock many defences.

If Germany is to win this World Cup, Muller will play a critical role.

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