–By THE AFRICA BAZAAR Staff Writer
And then there were 16. The group stage for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil has ended not without its surprises. Only five of the 48 group games ended in goalless draws.
The defending 2010 World Cup champs, Spain, will not be defending its title after a disastrous group campaign, losing to the Netherlands 5-1 and then to Chile 2-0. This will be the last time that we will see many of the stars on the Spanish team that dominated on the world and continental stages over the last six years. David Villa, Spain’s all-time leading scorer with 59 goals in 97 international appearances, retired from international competition after Spain’s final group match versus Australia.
Along with Spain, the star-studded European rosters of England, Italy and Portugal will not be advancing into the next round.
The reigning World Footballer of the year, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, scored only one goal in the entire group stages in comparison to his rival, Lionel Messi of Argentina, who has scored four goals in three games, leading a largely disappointing Argentina to the next round. However, the French and Dutch dominated their groups, getting three wins from three games. Belgium, Greece, and Switzerland round out the remaining European teams.
From the continent that held the last World Cup, Africa, Yaya Toure of the Ivory Coast and Asomoah Gyan of Ghana will also not be progressing. But the Nigerian Super Eagles will be progressing after a draw, win and a spirited loss to Argentina. Algeria is the only other African team left in the tournament.
To the Americas, only one of the four teams from North America and Central America will not advance: Honduras. The U.S. survived the “group of death,” defeating Ghana, tying with Portugal and losing to Germany.
The American rival to the south, Mexico advanced in their group. But the most surprising has to be Costa Rica, who were drawn with Italy, England and Uruguay and went undefeated in to win their group.
The host nation and the favorites to win the World Cup, Brazil, advanced despite some shaky performances due to the heroics of Neymar. Columbia, despite missing their star man, Falcao, has largely met and even exceeded expectations so far due to a dynamic attack led by James Rodriguez. Chile and Uruguay join Brazil, Columbia and Argentina in the knockout round.
Now the tournament is very simple: Goal differential is no longer relevant. There are no more ties. You either win or go home.
Copyright© 2014 ImeK Media, LLC. All rights reserved.