The world’s elite have all risen to the occasion and are making the 2014 World Cup in Brazil a tournament to remember.
Lionel Messi, Robin Van Persie, Neymar and Arjen Robben have all already opened their accounts for the tournament in the first game, in performances that have reeked of the sublime and hinted at even more to come.
Despite toiling in defeats against Germany and Italy, the world still harbours hope that Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and England’s Wayne Rooney can light up the grandest stage of them all as the tournament progresses.
In South Africa four years ago, the form of the world’s greatest was too often erratic and inconsistent. Ronaldo, Rooney and Messi all mustered just a solitary goal between them, the former finding the net against tournament minnows North Korea in a 7-0 thumping in Cape Town.
Yet from the start, this tournament has been different. Despite his second being a fortunate penalty, Brazilian talisman Neymar scored twice in the opening game against Croatia to lay down a gauntlet right from the off.
Van Persie and Robben were both instrumental as Louis Van Gaal’s adventurous Netherlands side thumped current holders Spain 5-1 in Salvador, having initially fallen behind through a Xabi Alonso penalty. Both netted braces to get the runners-up of four years ago off to a victorious and emphatic start.
Messi’s performance was the least sparkling of the lot, but his marvellous winner in Argentina’s 2-1 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina was proof that the magic still remains for the Barcelona ace after an injury-hit season last campaign.
Ronaldo was unfortunate as Pepe’s red card in Monday’s 4-0 drubbing by Germany robbed him of any chance to make a serious impression at the first time of asking. Barring a late free-kick he was easily nullified by a physical German defence, and will hope to make more of an impact in the groups latter games against the USA and Ghana.
The enigma surrounding Rooney is one that manager Roy Hodgson will have to resolve quickly. His best chances of eradicating his demons of past tournaments in 2006 and 2010 may have to come from the substitutes bench as Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain increase the pressure on the England coach to drop the Manchester United forward.
This summer showpiece in Brazil is already an enthralling summer blockbuster. Only time will tell who will be the champion of champions come the end of the tournament at the Maracana on July 13.
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