International World Cup

Messi Shines As Spain Implodes

Messi strikes to put Argentina in the driving seat (Image from AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)It was always going to be an explosive start but no one could have predicted this. In the opening 11 matches, we have seen 37 goals, 2 red cards, one use of the goal line technology and several uses of the new disappearing foam at free kicks. Added into this, the world’s best players have shown up with Neymar, Alexis Sanchez, Arjen Robben, Mario Balotelli and Karim Benzema all getting on the score sheets in spectacular fashion. At present Brazil, Holland, France and Colombia all look like potential candidates for eventual winner but following yesterdays games they have a new threat to be worried about.

Balotelli breaks English Hearts  (Image from pa)
Balotelli breaks English Hearts
(Image from pa)

Argentina made their case for being considered as serious contenders with a 2-1 win over world cup newbie’s Bosnia. With the weight of an entire nation resting on the shoulders of Barcelona star Lionel Messi, the diminutive forward finally started to live up to expectations by scoring a quite stunning solo effort. Picking the ball up at the half way line, Messi drove forward with pace before playing a slick one two with Gonzalo Higuain. After retrieving the ball, Messi stepped up a gear leaving his shadow of the day Muhamed Besic and defender Ermin Bicakcic in his wake before cooling curling the ball past Amir Begovic in goal and in to the net off of the post. Although Argentina did concede a late goal, they never looked like letting Bosnia back into the match. Messi looks ready to finally show the world that he is the greatest player to have ever played the game by doing the one thing that has escaped him to date- lifting the World Cup. This is probably Messi’s best chance of winning it given the team he is playing in and the way they played against Bosnia. On the wing, Angel Di Maria looked unmarkable whilst upfront Sergio Aguero and Gonazlo Higuain were unlucky not to end up on the score sheet. Even at the back, an area identified as a potential problem by many, Argentina looked strong with Sergio Romero impressing despite limited playing time this season for Monaco. Argentina could go all the way and finally give Messi that last trophy that he has been craving.

Safe Hands - Romero  (Image from AFP)
Safe Hands – Romero
(Image from AFP)

Spain on the other hand looked less like champions and more like early exiters after a humiliating 5-1 thrashing by Holland in their opening game. In the repeat of the 2010 World Cup final game, Spain started strongly earning a penalty that was converted by Xavi Alonso with ease. But after Robin Van Persie scored a quite spectacular diving header equalizer and Arjen Robben scored with a cool finish to put Holland into the lead, Spain’s confidence disappeared. Their lack of confidence stemmed from the ineffectual performance of Iker Casillas in goal. Once the rock in which the Spanish side was built on, Casillas lack of game time this season for Real Madrid started to show as he helplessly flapped at crosses and punched rather than grabbed shots. His performance was so bad that head coach Del Bosque was considering dropping him for their next game against Chile until replacement David De Gea pulled out with a leg injury. He could still be dropped with third choice Pepe Reina an option. Either way Casillas will know that he needs to improve and will not be able to live on past glories any longer. Spain now faces a rampant Chile side who many are calling the underdogs of this tournament. Defeat would spell an early exit for Spain and surely end the international career of Casillas.

Casillas concedes his performance was unacceptable  (Image from Getty)
Casillas concedes his performance was unacceptable
(Image from Getty)

Another team fearful of an early exit is England who suffered a 2-1 defeat on Saturday at the hands of Italy. The Andrea Pirlo inspired Italian side took the lead through a wonderful 25 yard strike by Claudio Marchisio before Raheem Sterling and Wayne Rooney combined to set up Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge for a well executed equalizer. England erupted in celebration with the bench jumping from its seats to join in only for head physio Gary Lewen to comically slip on a water bottle and dislocate his right ankle and is now been forced out of the World Cup. But five minutes after the restart, Antonio Candreva doubled back on a run against Leighton Baines to deliver a perfect cross for Mario Balotelli to head Italy back into the lead. England looked shell-shocked and despite throwing on several creative players like Jack Wilshire, Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana, they were unable to get back into the game and now face Uruguay in a must win game. There were several positives from England’s performance such as Raheem Sterling but once again Wayne Rooney looked out of sorts, something that manager Roy Hodgson needs to correct if they are to stay in the competition. If he can’t then England’s World Cup campaign will go the same way as Lewen’s – over before it began.

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