An emphasis on attacking, and sweltering conditions have made for an intriguing and goal-laden start to the 2014 World Cup. Germany, France and Holland have set the tournament alight so far, whilst Spain, Argentina and England have toiled. But which players have impressed after the first round of matches?
Neymar sprinkled his magic on a nervy Brazilian performance, with his double sealing victory over Croatia. He was aided by Oscar, who looks to have put a trying season with Chelsea behind him. His drive and creativity, combined with Neymar's all-round attacking ability will be key to the hosts progression. The other game in Group A saw Giovanni Dos Santos denied a fantastic start to the tournament, with the linesman twice ruling against legitimate goals for offside. Miguel Layun also had an impressive start to the tournament, providing an attacking outlet on the left for Mexico whilst remaining defensively solid.
Group B saw a remarkable game between Holland and Spain, with Arjen Robben tormenting a tired looking Spanish defence. Robin van Persie rightly took the plaudits for the best goal of the tournament to date, but the work of Nigel de Jong in the midfield was unseen, with the AC Milan destroyer adding craft to his aggressive style. Chile looked like they were going to over-run Australia after scoring an early double, but in truth it was Tim Cahill and Matthew Leckie who impressed. Cahill was a constant threat throughout the game with his aerial ability, and will look to isolate a vulnerable Sergio Ramos when Australia meet Spain. Leckie's searing pace and direct dribbling troubled Chile's notoriously weak defence, although any potentially interested clubs will have noted he has already agreed a move to Ingolstadt 04, in the second division of German football.
James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado lived up to their billing as Columbia's main threat in Group C. Everything went through Rodriguez, with "the new kid" comfortable in possession and displaying maturity beyond his years. If Rodriguez was a subtle influence throughout, Cuadrado was far more obvious, and although he is raw, potential suitors will have been impressed by his electric performance. In a tightly contested group, every game will be closely run, as the Ivory Coast versus Japan game highlighted. Didier Drogba's arrival undoubtedly lifted the spirits of the Ivorian's, but in terms of match winning ability, Serge Aurier showed why he is so highly rated with two pinpoint crosses that Wilfried Bony and Gervinho were able to convert.
Costa Rica's performance was arguably the biggest shock of the round so far, although Dutch fans might have something to say about that! Joel Campbell further enhanced his reputation as a potential star, and although Arsene Wenger will have to teach Campbell to play with his head up, he put in a stunning performance to beat Uruguay. As well as taking his goal with vigour and verve, he had the Uruguayan goalkeeper scrambling on several occasions, demonstrating his prowess from long range. England will be heartened by the performance of Raheem Sterling in the loss to Italy, but ultimately they were overpowered in Manaus, with Antonio Candreva and Matteo Darmian taking advantage of the obsession with Italy's central midfield, and both were constant threats on Italy's right hand side.
France put an impressive performance in against a rugged Honduras outfit, with Mathieu Valbuena buzzing around the pitch to great effect. As the elderly statesmen in a young French outfit, Valbuena was central to France's attacking effort, and showed why he has been chosen ahead of Samir Nasri as France's creator in chief. Switzerland's narrow victory over Ecuador was a damp squib, although Jefferson Montero caught the eye and looks like he could cause Mathieu Debuchy some serious grief. He has pace, trickery and the ability to go both ways, and his substitution against Switzerland was a strange choice by manager Reinaldo Rueda. Whilst right-back Stephan Lichsteiner struggled against Montero, on the opposite flank Ricardo Rodriguez thrived, assisting Switzerland's late winner.
Argentina have been heavily tipped as potential winners of the World Cup, but they struggled with a new formation against Bosnia, and needed a well-taken Lionel Messi goal to get them out of trouble. Bosnia's midfield pairing of Miralem Pjanic and Muhamed Besic did a great job of not only nulifying Argentina, but creating opportunities for Bosnia. Pjanic was fantastic last season for Roma, and his poise and creativity in midfield enabled Bosnia to settle into the game faster than Argentina. Besic allowed Pjanic to construct Bosnia's attacks, snapping into tackles and nullifying the threat of Argentina's midfield. The other match-up in Group F was devoid of any stand-out performances, although Nigeria keeper Victor Enyeama had to be sharp to avoid embarrassment for a laboured Nigerian side.
Germany obliterated Portugal in a searing hot Salvador, taking advantage of Pepe's shocking lack of discipline. Thomas Muller was Portugal's protagonist in more ways than one, but his hat-trick set the sides apart. Often overlooked because of his lack of flair, Muller is a master of the unseen arts in football, peeling off into pockets of space and dominating the penalty-box. United State's will fancy their chances against Portugal, after a later John Brooks header gave them three points against Ghana. Kyle Beckerman was tipped by BBC pundit Thierry Henry as the player to watch, and his combative play in the midfield stifled any attempt's by Ghana to dictate play.
The final round of matches saw Belgium stutter onto the world-stage. A dogged Algerian side made life difficult, leading for three-quarters of the game, and it was only with the arrival of the pacy Divock Origi that Belgium were able to stretch the game. In truth, no one stood out on either side, and Belgium will have to improve quickly if they wan't to progress further in the group. The final tie of the round, between Russia and South Korea took a while to take off, but Igor Akinfeev's calamitous goalkeeping allowed South Korea to take the lead, before Alexander Kerzhakov levelled late-on, becoming Russia's joint top scorer in the process. South Korea looked the better side, with Swansea midfielder Ki Seung-Yeung dictating play throughout the game, and displaying some smart touches under pressure. He will be central to South Korea's hopes of progressing out of the group.
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