Commodore's World Cup Update

We’ve successfully steered though the first round of matches, which is more than I can say for Portugal, Spain and Uruguay. Now is a time for reflection. A second to draw breathe before we delve headlong back into the tournament that has already given us more than the soul-sapping drivel of four years ago. I enjoyed the 2010 World Cup as much as the next fellow, but my word was it boring. Especially when compared to this goal-laden extravaganza currently being beamed to us from across the globe. We’ve already had a hat-trick, numerous own goals, a Pepe meltdown and some wonderfully choreographed Colombian celebrations. 

This is the World Cup at it’s finest. The endless advertising and FIFA scandals have faded into the Amazonian mists and the football has done it’s talking, as it has always done when Brazil are involved.
The Selecao, forever the yardstick of the beautiful game, were lacking for their usual flamboyance on opening night. Were it not for some Japanese referee creating a chapter for his soon-to-be-released autobiography, they may have found themselves drawing the opener, or even worse. Oscar was sublime, but the rest seemed all a bit un-Brazilian for me. Let’s hope they can break the shackles of expectation like they did in 2002 and storm through the rest of the group. I still fancy them for a finals appearance, although I have my doubts about their ability to win the whole damn thing.

Spain were disgraceful, Casillas was treacherous and Costa looks set to become Torres version 2.0, especially with an eye-watering big money move to Chelsea on the way. Netherlands surprised me, especially given their list of lesser-known Dutch exports. Robben was at his deceptive best, almost not going to his left, and then going to his left. It was sheer genius. Unplayable. They’ll face better sides than Spain in this World Cup (yes, better than the World Champions) and they’ll come up short. For now though, let’s all dress in orange and say we always thought they’d go far.

England chose to play like Liverpool and came off second best, like Liverpool. It’s surprising to note that Roy Hodgson couldn’t get Liverpool to play like Liverpool when he was in charge of, you guessed it, Liverpool. Despite this anomaly, I like the look of the English. They have frightening pace that is sure to scare the bejesus out of Daniel Lugano, the carthorse commanding Uruguay’s defence. Italy were sumptuous at times, with Pirlo caressing the ball around the park and tricking Daniel Sturridge with his devilishly good looks and a swivel of the hips for the Italian opener. I had them going out at the expense of England and Uruguay, but the South American’s were so woeful in their opener that not even Luis Suarez can save them now. World Cup justice, dealt by the hand of god.

From one talismanic South American to another. Lionel Messi shook off the demons of World Cup’s past and scored a sumptuous goal to lift a labouring Argentina to victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Bosnians were impressive, and given the diabolical draw between Iran and Nigeria, they must be favoured to progress from this group. Back to the Argentinian’s though, and their inability to get the best out of their attacking talent. It seems a trait inherent in their national teams since the turn of the century. Aguero was anonymous, Di Maria failed to replicate his club form and Messi was good in spurts, but hardly the world-beater we know him as. They should rack up the goals against Iran, and hopefully that will spark them to life in time for the important matches to come.

Finishing on top should allow them to avoid France, who sauntered past Honduras despite have holes kicked out of them. Karim Benzema could’ve had three or even four goals. Given their lack of quality opponents in their group the 9/1 on him to be top goalscorer could be all worth a dabble. Of course the French are always moments away from implosion and are still unlikely to go any further than the quarters this time around. Their likely opponents in the final eight come in the formidable form of Germany. I can’t see them being able to knock over that side.

Ze Germans marched to victory over Portugal. Despite playing for much of the match with a man advantage, the result was never in doubt. Thomas Muller was clinical as ever, grabbing the tournaments first hat-trick and an early lead in the race for the golden boot. Pedestrian at times and lighting quick at others, the Germans transition from defence to attack was seamless. Much of the talk was of a 4-6-0 formation, but when you have players of such technical quality there is no need for a focal point. Spain proved that at Euro 2012, winning the final 4-0 against Italy despite no proven striker. This German side are as talented, but I still don’t think it’ll be enough. They’re perfectly set for another third place finish, of that much I’m certain.

As for Portugal, I enjoyed watching their capitulation in the summer sunshine. Cristiano Ronaldo knows that the country’s hopes depend on him, but that didn’t stop him from acting like a talented but troubled 8-year old in a Sunday league kick-about. He huffed and puffed, clearly annoyed at being forced to play with a bunch of ordinary footballers, and Nani. Portugal will be heading home early, as they did in 2002. Ronaldo looks to be playing with injury, Pepe will miss at least one group match and they have no half-decent striker to speak of. You could almost feel sorry for Ronaldo, but then you realise that he’s a multi-millionaire footballer that earns more in a month than you’ll earn in a lifetime, and it soon passes.

As for those dark horses or shetland ponies that could still make an impact on the tournament, Colombia have brought the most joy, and not solely because they ripped those wretched Greeks to pieces. You have been forewarned though, fun like this is not meant to last. They’ll go deep enough into the tournament to have us fall in love with them, maybe even splash out on a Colombian replica jersey, but they’ll also come to a tragic end. The World Cup is all too often like Game of Thrones, it has no regard for it’s well-liked players. Until then let us enjoy James Rodríguez, Jackson Martínez and the all-out attack of defender Pablo Armero.

Before I leave you, I feel duty-bound to give you a couple bets, for this is a betting column after all. Some rash predictions if you will. Chile to beat Spain at 48/10 and send the world champs home in shame. Goals-galore between Ivory Coast and Colombia, over 3.5 at 24/10. Netherlands to drop in the quarters (11/4), along with France (9/4). And with so many come from behind victories, there’s money to be made in live-betting, as there always is.
That is all for now. Until next time, boa tarde. 

Written by Commodore Vegas
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Commodore’s World Cup Picks
Chile to beat Spain 48/10
Ivory Coast v Colombia Over 3.5 Goals 24/10
Netherlands to reach quarter-finals 11/4
France to reach quarter-finals 9/4