2014 World Cup Group Stages Open Thread

2014 WC Venn Diagram of Hope

An actual conversation between myself and RJH this morning:

Scott: Are you optimistic for England?
RJH: Don’t be silly!
And so it begins!



  1. Football. It’s called football!

  2. I gave the opening ceremonies a chance, but gave up within 15 minutes. The audio quality was horrible. (Watching on BBC.)

  3. Ah, there is nothing better than reading the English papers after the inevitable disappointment.

  4. Delete all haters’ comments, Scott.

  5. I don’t think Venn diagrams mean what you think they mean.

  6. I’m not a soccer fan. I am a football fan! It’s football! The clue is in “the FIFA World Cup”.

  7. Scott B. says:

    “I’m not a soccer fan. I am a football fan!”

    You do realize that these are exactly the same game. That wasn’t a question–it was a statement. The question then, is why is this an important thing to pontificate about here?

  8. Wake me up when it’s over.

    Are they going to blow those damned vuvuzelas for a whole month again?

  9. This will be the most unproductive month of my life.
    Love football. Hate FIFA

  10. Scott B. says:

    Beautiful: Roberto Martinez in studio for ESPN.

    Bittersweet: Watching Nikica Jelavic going through warmups for Croatia. I love that guy, and wish he was still at Everton.

  11. Scott B. says:

    Totally, gomez. I honestly have no idea how I will get _anything_ done this month. It’s going to be a total disaster.

  12. Scott B.

    “I’m not a soccer fan. I am a football fan!”

    You do realize that these are exactly the same game. That wasn’t a question–it was a statement. The question then, is why is this an important thing to pontificate about here?”

    Yep, I do realise these are exactly the same game. As a child, I watched England win the World Cup! And it’s important to pontificate about, because it’s been football since the days of “Association Football” in the middle of the 19th Century. To be honest, I prefer to watch the “footy”, but there you go. So, like many, I stick up for football whenever the soccer v. football debate arises.

  13. Well, of all the ways to start the World Cup, that was certainly one of them.

  14. Interesting…

  15. Amazing!

  16. Oops!

  17. Scott B. says:

    Ronan, did you see Jelavic there? Just like his days at Everton–ALMOST had a goal, but someone else got it instead…

  18. He’ll have more near misses before the evening is through.

  19. And order has been restored to the world.

  20. Maybe we should believe the hype

  21. Baptisms shall grind to a halt worldwide as all eyes turn to FIFA. At least that’s what it was like 16 yrs ago in Nottingham for DH.

  22. Brazil scores twice and it is 1-1 seems appropriate. That goal by Neymar as amazing though.

  23. Scott B. says:

    Kristine A,
    I would guess that the relative popularity of soccer in Utah has a lot to do with the fact that so many missionaries are exposed to the intense love of it during their foreign missions.

    (In my case, this certainly is true for ice hockey)

  24. My son wore An Argentinian Mesi shirt thru the streets of London, yesterday. We were grateful he was left alone by the hooligans.

  25. Scott B. says:

    That was a BS penalty. BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

  26. The first injustice of the WC.

  27. Scott B. says:

    The number of decisions that have gone Brazil’s way in this match will soon need to be counted on fingers and toes.

  28. Blatter’s doing for sure.

  29. If you think that fixing was bad, wait till you see Quatar’s opening win in 2022 when their opponent finishes with only 5 elgible men.

  30. FIFA desperately need Brazil to do well. If not, the protests will get louder and people will ask more and more questions about how World Cups are awarded.

  31. Scott B. says:

    Oh crap. Ben P, it had not occurred to me until your comment that Qatar’s 2022 bid means that Qatar actually gets to play in the tournament. As grateful as I am that the USA got an autobid in 1994, and as happy as I was for South Africa in 2010, Qatar taking someone’s spot–and being in a seeded Pot!–just makes me groan.

  32. ITV’s crew showed several cracks in their studio’s glass, which are a result from FIFA protestors throwing rocks at them.

  33. I think Shinzo Abe should not be allowed to ref any more WC matches. He was obviously preoccupied with thoughts of running the country when he called the penalty. #doppleganger

  34. Croatian Fan says:

    Bummer that the first match was tarnished by poor officiating. But I’m still excited about tomorrow’s fixtures. Alternatetitle, your comment about the name of the sport was quite obnoxious. The English invented the word “soccer” in the 19th century from the word “association.” And Americans aren’t the only ones who continue to use this name. Several other English-speaking countries do so too. Moreover, many non-English speakers coined their own word for the sport, though most adopted a form of “football.” Everyone in this thread knows what is meant by “soccer” and “football” and probably uses them interchangeably, so please don’t be the thread’s curmudgeon.

    I assume you’re cheering for England again. How do you like their odd against Italy?

  35. liz johnson says:

    VIVA MEXICO!!!!!!!!!!

    I love the World Cup with all of my heart, and will cheer for Mexico even after they lose in the first round. Because loyalty. This kind of irrational love is what makes the World Cup go round.

  36. Been saving up my sick days all year. I think I’ll have enough to make it through to the finals.

  37. reaneypark says:

    I just realized, my daughter, who is serving in Manchester, will have the same joy I did, when I served in London, of knocking doors during a World Cup.

    And England, they’ve become the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox, haven’t they?

  38. Scott B. says:

    It’s nice to see that the officials are in the mood to prevent Mexico from scoring at all costs.

  39. Scott B. says:

    Robert C.,
    I read that article last week or whenever it came out, and there are a couple of things in there that I felt were sort of true, and a bit of a bummer–mostly the part about how fandom is best when it grows organically, and how many American fans seem to have simply adopted or borrowed foreign elements…copy-catting, basically. (A simplistic, but also highly relevant rebuttal to such a problem, of course, is: Yeah? So what?)

    But the part of the article that annoys me most is the criticism of Americans adopting terminology–pitch, match, kit, and so on. Why do we adopt these terms? It’s not because we want to sound cool–crud, saying those things more often than not makes us sound stupid among our non-soccer friends. The reason we adopt that terminology is because that is the terminology we encounter in 90% of the articles, broadcasts, podcasts, and other commentary on the sport, since it is almost all coming from Europe. I call the “field” a “pitch” more often than not, because…I WAS TAUGHT THAT THAT IS WHAT IT’S CALLED! If more of my inputs–articles, podcasts, TV, etc…–used “field” instead, then I might feel differently. But it seems silly to argue that Americans shouldn’t use the widely-adopted and understood terminology that the rest of the world uses. In fact, a refusal to do so would almost certainly cause people down the road to criticize Americans for being backwards and silly, like we are with the metric system.

  40. Yeah, I mostly just liked the suggested diminutives, esp. Demps, Bradders, and Brooksy — and learning about artisan toast (I had to Google this to see if he was serious).

    Are there any good (by which I mean super wacky and wild) conspiracy theories linking FIFA with a benefit if Mexico loses? Those really were atrocious calls….

  41. Scott B. says:

    Robert C.,
    The best conspiracy theory I can think of is that 1) The Brazil match was fixed because FIFA needs Brazil to do well in order to prevent local revolt, and therefore 2) the Mexico match has to be fixed as well (in the sense of horrible officiating) in order to demonstrate widespread consistency–deflecting the accusation that “only Brazil” got benefits.

  42. Scott B. says:

    Robert C.,
    That nickname part is good, but it also betrays his main criticism of not having our own organic fandom.

  43. Nice theory — I like it. (Except a more interesting theory would have a less boring theory for why the ref didn’t go all out and call offsides when the ball bounced off the goalie for Mexico’s goal. I’ll wait to see if Mexico holds on for the win before spinning my own yarns….)

  44. See, Mexico player shanked that easy shot, thus they are clearly on the payroll too, to make sure the game is close so that the officiating was still almost relevant. (But this is just an elaboration of your theory — I can’t do better yet.)

  45. Amazing goal by RVP.

  46. Scott B. says:

    This is stunning. 5-1. Just unbelievable.

  47. Torres sucks so much. What a game!

  48. If I am to keep my temple recommend I will need to do something about my (dis)honest dealings. Darn you, ESPN3, and your lovely little screen playing the matches in the corner of my work monitor.

  49. I wonder if we’ll look back at the Silva miss just before RVP equalised as the end of an era. Too early to tell. But I do think Casillas should be dropped. He hasn’t been first choice at Madrid for a couple of seasons now and it’s starting to show. Dropped an absolute clanger in the Champions’ League final as well.

  50. Chile – Oz is shaping up to be a pretty good game as well. Only 2 days in and this is already arguably better than the 2010 WC

  51. Scott B. says:


  52. Scott B. says:

    Well crap. That last-minute goal wasn’t *quite* what I had in mind. Alas.

    “Only 2 days in and this is already arguably better than the 2010 WC”

    Totally. 11 goals scored in 3 matches today–can’t remember that many being scored in twice the matches in 2010.

  53. I though we´d lose 2-1 from Spain. What a night, a very short one at that. But oh so worth it.
    Oranje, wat kan je?!
    (Orange, what are you capable of?!)

  54. Scott B. says:

    Come on Ticos!

    Come on England!

  55. As it stands this is a great result for England. Absolutely loving the WC. Still hating FIFA

  56. Cross it, trap it, shoot. It’s really that simple. And beautiful. (Also, run behind the last defender on free kicks, without being afraid to put a head on it….)

  57. Scott B. says:

    Loving this match. Would only be better if Snaggletooth was playing. Sad that Oviedo (Baby!) couldn’t make it back for this…

  58. Scott B. says:

    Alright, England. The group is yours for the taking now, if you want it!

  59. Strangely, I feel more positive about England after that loss than I have done in probably 10 years because at least they were watchable and occasionally exciting. And if we had to lose to anyone, Mario, I’m glad it was you.

  60. Same. We’re going home though.

  61. 3-0! Vive la France

  62. The red card was for the head butt after the hand foul, right? The Univision half-time report only showed the hand foul, not the head butt, so I’m a bit confused (and I’m watching Univision, but I can’t understand the Spanish commentary…). Also, I’m guessing the consensus opinion is that the penalty kick was a bad call, looked like a dive to me. Sad to see that being rewarded, though I don’t envy the referrees. Plus, it doesn’t look like the game will hinge on that call, by any stretch of the imagination. Germany looks tough and, as usual, extremely coordinated and disciplined. I wouldn’t bet against them winning it all, even if Brazil is playing at home.

  63. Scott B. says:

    COME ON USA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  64. Watching at work online. Germany/Portugal was crazy. Loving the early goal for USA!!!

  65. Robert, I’m watching Univision too, but my impression was that there would have been no red card without the head butt. That was poor judgment. Muller was clearly engaged in a very intense over-acting job, but walking up and bonking his head was just stupid.

  66. Problem of evil: racist, cheating footballer who bites other players also happens to be the best striker in the world. Why God?

  67. I think Dosteovsky delved into soccer theodicy in the early drafts of The Brother’s Karamazov but his editor made him cut it, leaving us with the inferior product we have now. Sorry.

  68. At least Rooney got that monkey off his back.

  69. I am still sad this morning.

  70. A few reflections after the first week:
    – So far this has been an excellent World Cup football-wise. Most games have seen goals and attacking football in contrast to the cautious approach that has characterised the last few major tournaments. I’m not sure why this is the case but Fifa must be mighty relieved as the football has distracted us from their corruption and incompetence. Of course, all that could change in an instant if Brazil make an early exit.
    – On that subject, Brazil have failed to impress so far. They were poor against Mexico and lucky that the referee was so ‘generous’ against Croatia. Neymar and Oscar have shown flashes of brilliance, but them aside this is a pretty workmanlike team. To be honest, in my lifetime I’m not sure I’ve ever really seen the famed Brazilian joga bonito. Brilliant players, sure; but not really a team ethos for samba football since 1982.
    – The collapse of Spain has been the biggest surprise. Barcelona and Spain revolutionised football in the 21st century by playing highly technical possession-based football. But football evolves and Barcelona/Spain have struggled against teams that press high and break quickly (e.g. Bayern Munich in 2013 and Netherlands and Chile now). It’s not been everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve loved watching Barca/Spain these last few years. But I also love the evolving nature of the game. The Netherlands and Chile have been a joy to watch.
    – For the most part, the big names have shone: Neymar, Messi (at least for a few crucial moments), Suarez (boo, hiss). This will sound harsh, but I think the obvious exception is Ronaldo. Granted, Portugal are bang average, but so were Argentina in 1986; Maradona was the difference. Ronaldo is desperate for the world to look at him – witness his ridiculous celebration after he scored (only a penalty) in the Champions’ League final when the game was already done and dusted. But for me, on the biggest stages he has never really imposed himself in the way the likes of Maradona, Zidane or the real Ronaldo did. He is undoubtedly supremely talented, and in many ways appears to have been designed as the perfect footballer; but to be remembered in the same breath as the aforementioned he has a couple of games to lift his team or face being left behind by Germany and the US.
    A few other random high/low lights:
    – Honduras – awful, truly awful
    – Tim Cahill – What. A. Goal
    – Iran-Nigeria – 2 hours I’ll never get back
    – The sheer joy on John Brooks’ face
    – Columbia, Bosnia, Mexico, France – all have surprised me in good ways
    – Before a ball was kicked I predicted a Germany-Argentina final. Nothing yet to change my mind
    – England – when will I ever learn. They find new ways to torment

  71. Well done, Costa Rica. You’ve been outstanding

  72. I’ve been thinking about something all day. As an Evertonian, every week I see Leighton Baines steaming down the left wing whipping great balls into the box. He’s a world class full back. He really is. And yet so timid for England.

    My conclusions:

    1. We have good players (certainly no worse than Costa Rica’s).
    2. It’s not the fault of the EPL. Suarez plays in the EPL.
    3. Therefore there must simply be some sickness at the heart of the national team.

    Question: what is it?

    Hint: they will play well against Costa Rica because they have nothing to lose.

  73. Bryan S. says:

    Allez les bleus!

  74. allez, allez, allez!

  75. A sickness at the heart of the English team? Well, it’s not John Terry any more. It might be Rooney. Or it might be that the colonies have finally overcome their once-mighty ruler.

  76. Wow, Argentina’s holding on by it’s fingernails not to lose to Iran. I noticed that only South Korea and Iran were given longer odds of advancing than Costa Rica (Cost Rica!!):


  77. (I am still in deep mourning for England — personally, yes, but esp. for my mates across the pond — but it can’t be denied that this is a real Cinderalla story for Cost Rica….)

  78. It’s been a great WC but I think Germany-Ghana has been the game of the tournament so far. A brilliant second half. Sadly, I don’t think Ghana will make it out of the group which is a shame as they have been great to watch.

  79. Not being a soccer person usually, what’s next for USA? Are we done, or is there still a glimmer somewhere?

  80. TL;DR version: US is #2 in Group G and advances to play against Belgium in the Round of 16. Think Sweet 16 in basketball terms. From this point forward, you win to advance and only one game is played in each round.


    Longer version:
    Frank, the US moves into the round of 16 due to the not too complicated math of how decisions are made. They beat Ghana, tied Portugal and lost to Germany. This earns them 4 points total in match play. Portugal beat Ghana, tied the US and lost to Germany. They also have 4 points total. But because Germany beat Portugal 4-1 and the US only lost to Germany 1-0 it comes down to point differential. That is, how many total Goals Scored For (GF) and total Goals Scored Against (GA). The US scored 4 goals in their 3 games = +4 and had 4 goals scored against them = -4. So they total out at a goal differential of 0. Portugal was wiped out by Germany 4-1 and this in part led to GF = +4 and GA = -7 which leads to a goal differential of -3. Hence the US advances as #2 out of their Group G and will play the formidable Belgian team on Tuesday.

  81. A few random thoughts at the end of the group stage:
    – Neymar and Messi seem to be handling the pressure pretty well
    – Miguel Herrera is brilliant
    – I can’t believe Klose is tied for the WC goal-scoring record
    – Colombia have been great to watch and James Rodriguez has been a revelation
    – I’m pretty sure nobody was predicting a Costa Rica-Greece knockout game
    – Ronaldo continues to disappoint (relatively speaking) at international level
    – Karma, Luis, it’s called karma
    – Watching Russia was like watching England in 2010. Mr Capello, how much are you being paid?
    – I’m still predicting an Argentina-Germany final

    In answer to Ronan’s earlier query about England’s failure, I think we struggle due to two factors. Firstly, as you hint, they play under incredible pressure that the likes of Colombia, Costa Rica, USA, etc. don’t. However, I don’t think the pressure is any worse than what other previous winners play under, e.g. Italy, Germany, Argentina. And I think it is probably considerably less than the pressure that Brazil always has to play under. What sets England apart from these countries is that England’s players are not technically good enough. For a variety of reasons, e.g. there is so much money in the Premier League that you have 18 year old English players on multi-million pound annual contracts who will never move. That stunts their growth. Jack Wilshere is no better than he was 3 years ago. Wayne Rooney, who should be at his peak, is arguably no better than he was 10 years ago. Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling – I predict little improvement because they’ll be paid a fortune and the Premier League is all they will ever know. I know that’s an oversimplification, but in short, England perform badly because we play with pressure, but unlike other ‘pressurised’ countries, our players aren’t technically good enough to handle it.

  82. Do young players in other leagues get paid less? What is their incentive to improve? Are you saying that the EPL is technically poor and so more young English players should move abroad?

  83. I don’t have any real evidence so I’m just talking out the top of my head – but we can do that as it’s only football, right?
    I’m pretty sure that the Premier League is by far the biggest revenue earner in world football and has the highest average player wages. And in the Premier League, English players seem to command higher transfer fees and wages than their talents warrants (e.g. Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson, Luke Shaw, possibly Adam Lallana). Therefore, yes, I think young English players are paid more than their foreign counterparts.
    I don’t think the Premier League is technically poor, though I do think it is less suited to typical tournament conditions where possession football is typically an advantage in order to conserve energy. But I do think English players get too comfortable too quickly. They usually have one (if any) big money move to another club within England where they quickly establish themselves as top dog and beyond reproach. I do think English players would benefit from playing abroad. But very few continental clubs (at the moment, probably only Madrid, Barca and Munich) can match Premier League wages. And you have to be exceptional to get a move to one of those clubs.
    This might be rubbish, but that’s how I see it.

  84. Another way to look at it is this: all the English players play in England and they get a pretty easy ride from the media while they play for their clubs as opposed to Johnny Foreigner who constantly has to prove himself because the journos at the Mail and the Sun know he’s keeping the next Gazza out of the side. So foreigners playing in England are used to playing all season under pressure in a way the English players aren’t (and I think this helps Johnny Foreigner improve his game). The only time English players experience pressure is at a major tournament and so they don’t really know how to handle it. Now you might say what about Spanish players playing for Madrid/Barca or German players playing for Munich or Italian players at Juventus/Milan? But because those teams are dominated by Spanish, German and Italian players, respectively, there is still a pressure on those players to prove themselves all the time as their nationality confers little advantage. Plus Madrid/Barca/Munich are uniquely pressurised environments that aren’t matched in England. A bit long-winded, but in short, continental players are used to playing under pressure all season long, which pressure leads to improvement and an ability to handle the pressure of international tournaments; English players play under less pressure during the regular season, which limits growth and makes international tournaments such an unusually pressurised experience.

  85. andypickett says:

    Something interesting going on with the semis. For the first time I can recall, the team that is raising questioning eyebrows and causing disapproving head shakes for diving is not a Latin one, but a northern European one. Ten years ago (heck two years ago!) if you said “Netherlands and Argentina are playing in the semifinals, the ref really needs to watch out for the diving”, how many would have thought it referred to the NL?

  86. @andypickett, I think the Italians earned a reputation for this in the previous World Cup — at least this commercial (uploaded in July 2006, I’m not sure if that’s actually when it was made) suggests the British had this opinion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4nfuvyBToQ

  87. Germany will beat Brazil. Argentina will beat the Netherlands and Argentina will be crowned World Champions.

  88. I don’t mean to show off (actually, I do) but as this thread shows, I’ve been saying Germany – Argentina for a while.

    Granted, not that impressive given they were 2 of the 4 clear favourites coming in to the tournament.

    With Demichelis, Zabaleta and Aguero all likely starters on Sunday, MCFC have a real chance of winning the World Cup. C’mon City!!

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