The 2014 World Cup is supposed to be Brazil’s chance to make up for their disappointing loss to Uruguay in the 1950 final, the last time they hosted the tournament. Winning the 2014 World Cup is a national obsession. Despite being unbeaten in their first three games, Brazil do not have the aura of future champions about them. They will need to improve dramatically to emerge victorious on July 13.
Holland and Chile have been two of the most impressive teams in the first phase of the tournament with Argentina, Germany, France and the surprising Costa Rica, also capturing the imagination of the neutral fan. Five South American teams are on course to advance to the knockout stage and it will take an immense effort from a European team to beat them and win the World Cup.
An African team was expected to win a World Cup by the year 2000. However, only three teams from the continent – Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) have qualified for the quarter-final stage. None of the continent’s five representatives in Brazil – Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast or Algeria - look like improving on that depressing statistic.
There has been no stand out player yet in the tournament. Arjen Robben has been impressive for Holland in their three wins while Lionel Messi has scored in Argentina’s three group games. However, there have been no performances yet to match those of Paolo Rossi for Italy in 1982, Diego Maradona for Argentina in 1986, or Ronaldo for Brazil in 2002.
Tim Howard has been the most important player for the USA in their first two group games and will continue to be against Germany and in the round of 16 should his team advance. The US cannot avoid defeat without Howard playing a major role.
Jurgen Klinsmann received a lot of criticism for omitting US legend, Landon Donovan from the World Cup roster. Klinsmann’s critics were quieted by the unexpected win over Ghana and the impressive performance in the draw with Portugal. Expect them to be silenced with a positive result against Germany.