World Cup: What we’ve learned so far

NeymarThe World Cup has come to Brazil and with most of the first round of group play in the books, let us take a look at what we have learned so far.

Although it may not be as popular in the United States, futbol, or soccer as it is called in America, is the biggest sport there is in competitive athletics. It is known as the world’s game. The world has certainly been paying attention for the last few days.

Neymar thrives

Brazil has produced a 22-year-old striker who has the potential to do big things. With his country set as the host nation to one of the biggest events in the world, the São Paulo product has all the pressure in the world to deliver his country their sixth world cup title.

That is a lot to handle for a 22-year-old and many crumble when the heat is on.

Not Neymar.

The Brazilian striker was amazing in his first cap at the World Cup, scoring two goals in the opening game. Although the squad looked flawed at times against the Croatian side, Neymar was the lone standout who could not be ignored. Instead of looking at the thousands of supporters in the stands as a distraction, Neymar just fed off their energy and brought them onto their feet.

Neymar showed that pressure could not faze him in this match as his two goals proved. His first goal showed that he wanted the lime-light as he dribbled through Croatian defenders and refused to make the pass to the open man. Instead he created an opportunity for himself, set up outside the box and let the ball fly past the keeper.

On his second goal, he once again showed he would not falter. After a penalty shot was awarded to the Brazilians, it was Neymar who came up to take the shot in order to get the lead. His multiple flashy stutter steps show his immaturity, but never the less he got the job done getting the ball just past the keeper for a second time.

With two more games and potentially more still left on slate, it will be exciting to see what else Neymar can do.

Suarez is not ready

Many dub the United States group G as the group of death, but it is partially because we are biased in this country. The real group of death is group D featuring soccer’s biggest stars representing the countries of Costa Rica, England, Italy, and Uruguay

On Saturday we saw what could happen to a team who went into battle without their superstar seeing a minute on the pitch. One of the biggest upsets in the tournament thus far has been Costa Rica easily handling the Uruguayan national team.

Uruguay’s plan was to sit out Luis Suarez against the Costa Ricans, a team they felt they could compete without their superstar striker. To the surprise of many, the ticos came out firing in the second half and many believed La Celeste coach Oscar Tabarez would plug Suarez in. Instead he used his three substitutions on other players, leaving many wondering if Suarez will even be ready for England.

One thing is for certain is Uruguay wants a chance of advancing into the knockout stage they will need the villain from four years ago to be ready to play at a moment’s notice.

Win, not tie to Advance

Thus far we have seen 14 matches and only one has resulted in a draw. In previous years a draw brought in a ray of hope, but with most teams having a three point lead, it seems like winning games is necessary to have a fighting chance at playing in the knockout round.

Some of the early teams that have dug themselves a hole are Uruguay, England, and Spain. It is not impossible to say that a tie could be a deciding factor, but with a lot of the teams firing on all cinders, teams will want to make sure they win their group so you can play a lesser opponent.

Here in the United States many are hoping that two ties and a possible win can help them advance. If the American Outlaws want to continue cheering on the Yanks, they better hope for two wins and one draw.

Four years makes a world of difference

Four years ago, the World Cup was full international stars in their prime. Spain was a dominant powerhouse to be reckoned with, Diego Forlan was the leading scorer in the tournament and Landon Donovan was Captain America pulling out the US out of obscurity.

Fast forward to present day and all are just a distant memory.

In what was the biggest surprise in the tournament, the Netherlands and Spain played in a World Cup Final rematch of four years ago. The result was completely different. In 2010 it was a game with little offense and dominant goal tending by Iker Casillas. This time around Casillas looked like an MLS goalkeeper and the Netherlands were the powerhouse. If the Netherlands continue to play complete futbol like they did against Spain, they will be marching straight to the final.

 (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

(AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

The former Golden Ball award recipient Forlan was nowhere to been seen in their first game. Uruguay’s 35-year-old striker struggled to create offense against Costa Rica and he was eventually pulled in the second half. As a matter of fact, Forlan was not supposed to be in the starting lineup, but the late scratch of Suarez plugged him in to the starting eleven.

From one falling superstar to one that was not even included in the final 23-man roster, Donovan, the hero from four years ago is now providing analysts for ESPN and insight for the US national team. When news came out the LA Galaxy star was left off of Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster, there was an uproar from the fans and media. Now with the injury of US striker Jozy Altidore, the critics will be louder.

Although leaving Donovan off the roster is looking like bad move for Klinsmann right now, I do not think it was the wrong move to try and build for the future and develop young players.