Brian Bowler is back with Part 2 of the Pundit Arena review of each team’s World Cup. Grading each team’s World Cup Performance is a unique insight to the key points of teams in this year’s tournament.
The team everyone loves to hate, Greece somehow managed to get out of their group after being totally outclassed at the expense of the Ivory Coast. However, they never really performed and were easily outclassed against Colombia before eventually falling to the surprise package of Costa Rica in the last 16.
High Point: Georgios Samaras late penalty against the Ivory Coast which booked Greece’s place in the last 16 place.
Low Point: Failure to beat a 10-man Costa Rica side was a disappointing end to their tournament.
While not a lot was expected of this Holland side, Louis Van Gaal’s tactical nous, combined with Arjen Robben’s scintillating displays, saw the Oranje progress further than most anticipated. An over-reliance on Robben eventually proved their undoing, but their performances against Spain and Chile were very impressive.
High Point: The 5-1 demolition of Spain got the tournament off to a flying start. Krul’s much discussed penalty heroics also deserves a mention.
Low Point: Without the services of Krul, a second successive penalty shootout proved too much for the Dutch.
Not a lot to remember for the Central American side who lost all three games conceding 8 goals in the progress while only scoring 1. Perhaps their only notable contribution was their attempts to kick lumps out of their opponents. A disappointing tournament.
High Point: Taking the lead against Ecuador.
Low Point: Ultimately surrendering that lead en route to a 2-1 defeat.
Iran obviously prepared well for this tournament and perhaps offered more than most expected. A drab stalemate against Nigeria was followed by a heroic and quite exciting performance against eventual runners-up Argentina. However, Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed their departure by beating the Middle East side 3-1.
High Point: Their brave, and at times quite daring, display against Argentina won the Iranians a lot of fans.
Low Point: Messi’s last minute winner in the same game denied them a historic point.
Traditional slow starters Italy flipped the script in this tournament by winning their first game, in the jungle against England, before seeing their performance peter out in losses to Costa Rica and Uruguay. Marchisio’s sending off against Uruguay, as well as a distinct lack of fire power, ultimately proved costly.
High Point: Another majestic performance from Pirlo in their narrow defeat of England.
Low Point: While the late concession against Uruguay was the knockout blow, the performance against Costa Rica will have been most disappointing for the Azzurri.
A very manageable group, along with the colossal performances of Yaya Toure, meant that expectations were high for the Elephants in the World Cup. An opening win against Japan seemed to suggest that knockout football may be attainable for the first time, but a loss to Colombia was followed by a cruel defeat to Greece who progressed in their place.
High Point: A two-minute, two-goal salvo ensured an opening game victory against the Japanese.
Low Point: Samaras’ heartbreaking penalty denied the Ivorian’s of a first ever last 16 berth.
After a positive Confederations Cup performance in 2013, a talented Japanese side were expected to offer a lot more than they ultimately did in Brazil 12 months later. With just a solitary point to show from their 3 games, they will undoubtedly be massively disappointed with their efforts.
High Point: Honda’s early goal in the group opener raised their hopes of knockout football.
Low Point: A dull scoreless draw against Greece was one of the worst games of the entire tournament.
After needing a playoff to qualify for the tournament, it was difficult to gauge Mexico’s expectation levels coming into the tournament. Positive performances in the group stage saw them qualify for the knockout rounds for a 6th straight time. Unfortunately, despite the assured performances of Rafael Marquez, the Mexican’s were unable to break their last 16 hoodoo.
High Point: A hard earned draw against Brazil showed the Mexicans would not be pushovers for the tournaments bigger sides.
Low Point: Leading with two minutes of normal time remaining, to ultimately lose in the last 16 against the Dutch was massively disappointing.
A hugely disappointing opening draw against Iran was not quite the start that the Super Eagles had in mind. Things improved with a hard fought victory against Bosnia and Herzegovina while things improved further with their spirited performances in the narrow defeats against France and Argentina. All in all it proved to be a relatively good showing from the African Champions.
High Point: Ahmed Musa’s stunning strike against Argentina is one that the CSKA Moscow youngster will be proud of for years to come.
Low Point: That dour draw against Iran is best forgotten.
After the inspirational efforts of Ronaldo in the playoff victory against Sweden, the Portuguese may well have been thinking bigger things could be in store in Brazil. A 4-0 drubbing in their opener against Germany set the tone for the tournament and a last minute equaliser against the USA proved inconsequential as Portugal crashed out at the group stage for the first time in 12 years.
High Point: Varela’s 95th minute equaliser may not have mattered in the long run but Ronaldo’s cross in the lead up was sensational.
Low Point: Pepe’s stupidity will never cease to amaze football fans around the World and his red card cost his country dear.
The 2018 hosts would have been hoping for a positive display in Brazil, considering their impressive performance in qualification. However for the second tournament in succession a Capello side has disappointed with draws against Algeria and South Korea, and defeat to Belgium seeing their participation end at the first hurdle.
High Point: Not a whole lot…at least they won’t have to qualify for the next one!
Low Point: The performance of goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was a particular disappointment.
This is the South Korean’s 9th consecutive appearance at the World Cup Finals and ultimately it was perhaps one of their worst performances. A single point from three games sums it up for a team who have some talented players and should perhaps have done better.
High Point: Taking the lead in their opening group game was as good as things got.
Low Point: A humbling defeat to Algeria highlighted how poor the South Koreans were.
It seems that this great Spain team may finally have come to the end of its historic run. A humiliating defeat at the hands of the Dutch was compounded by a comprehensive defeat against Chile. Defensive frailties and a lack of a genuine striker were perhaps the primary deficiencies which led to their collapse.
High Point: World Cup legend David Villa scoring in his final ever game in a Spanish jersey was a fitting send off for one of the greats.
Low Point: The 5-1 mauling against Holland highlighted just how far this once great team had fallen.
With Ottmar Hitzfeld at the helm and some very gifted players in their ranks, this Swiss team could be their best in generations. A late winner against Ecuador in their opener proved to be the key result in their passage through to the knockout stages. They eventually bowed out against Argentina but, barring their calamitous performance against France, it was a World Cup to be proud of for the Swiss.
High Point: Shaqiri’s hat-trick performance against Honduras highlighted the young attacker’s remarkable potential.
Low Point: A 5-2 drubbing against their French neighbours was not their best day at the office.
It was a strange tournament for the semi-finalists of four years ago, and one which will inevitably be remembered for the antics of one player in particular. A shocking opening game defeat against Costa Rica was negated by wins against England and Italy before James Rodrigues’ left peg dumped the Uruguayan’s out at the last 16 stage.
High Point: The stunning performance of Luis Suarez against England was truly memorable.
Low Point: Suarez doing his best Hannibal Lecter impression and ultimately costing his team their best player’s services for the remainder of the tournament.
Jurgen Klinsmann ruffled some feathers by leaving America’s golden boy, Landon Donovan, at home for their trip to Brazil. However all was forgiven after some wonderfully courageous and energetic performances ensured the USA were one of the feel good stories of the tournament. Belgium eventually halted their progress at the last 16 stage but it was ultimately a hugely successful showing by them.
High Point: The look of sheer, unbridled joy on the face of young John Brooks following his late winner against Ghana is what the World Cup is all about.
Low Point: Varela’s late equaliser for Portugal was gut-wrenching, though it fortunately did not prove to be decisive.
Brian Bowler, Pundit Arena