Player of the Round:
Who else could anyone pick really? Sure, Arjen Robben had a stormer against reigning champions Spain, Andrea Pirlo masterminded another victory against England, while Neymar inspired the hosts to an expected yet controversial opening victory. Thomas Müller though, did one better over all three with a trio of his own, and the World Cup’s first hat-trick. The 2010 Golden Boot winner is showing that his showing four years ago wasn’t a flash in the pan, and he is well on his way to becoming the top marksman. Müller outshone fellow Golden Boot contender and current Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, even if the Müller’s German team-mates were superior in all departments to their Portuguese counterparts. The lanky, awkward German’s poaching ability has allayed some fears that Joachim Löew brought too few specialist strikers to the tournament.
Shock of the Round:
Netherlands’ thrashing of world champions Spain should have many jumping on the Dutch bandwagon, such was the unexpectedness of the result, but this honour should still go to Costa Rica’s win over Uruguay. The 3-1 scoreline made the manner of victory seem easy, but it should be noted that Costa Rica did fall behind to an Edison Cavani penalty. It should have been plain-sailing for the Uruguayans – sans Luis Suarez – but yet a four minute salvo in the early stages of the second half saw the game turn on its head. Arsenal youngster Joel Campbell got the equaliser, further upping his stock, after his goal for Olympiakos against Manchester United in the last 16 of the Champions League last season.
Goal of the Round:
Lionel Messi’s trademark mazy run and placed shot figures highly on this list, while Keisuke Honda’s one touch and rifled shot into the roof of the net is a worthy contender as well, but in the heat of Manaus, this honour should definitely go to Claudio Marchisio’s goal that opened the scoring in Italy’s 2-1 victory over England. Again, Pirlo’s mastery figures, even though he didn’t even touch the ball. The Italians played a short corner, before another slide pass to Pirlo – who was expected to go for a shot – allowed the ball to go through his legs to his Juventus club-mate, unmarked on the edge of the box. Pirlo’s intelligent dummy created so much space for Marchisio such that the latter could take a touch, look up, and find his target – low to Joe Hart’s right. His drilled shot found its way through a sea of bodies and found the corner with sublime accuracy.
Effect of the Round:
Iberian neighbours Spain and Portugal will look to bounce back from their respective humiliating defeats to fellow European powerhouses, and they will look to do so quickly with qualification at stake. The Spanish will not have it any easier in the form of Chile, and they need a convincing win for any confidence to return. Portugal have the United States next, and while it should be three points for Ronaldo and co., they cannot take anything for granted – as Ghana found out. You can also add England to this picture, so these three European football powers need to find it in themselves to react or face early elimination.