rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Sports » One of the most open World Cups in recent memory

One of the most open World Cups in recent memory

Last updated on: July 04, 2014 18:54 IST

One of the most open World Cups in recent memory

     Next

Next

As much as I would love to witness a Brazil-Argentina final at the Copacabana beach, Colombia, Germany, the Netherlands and Argentina look like the semi-finalists. And if Argentina peaks at the right time, Germany vs Argentina could be the title match, says Mauktik Kulkarni.

As a capital of the fifth largest country of the world, Brasilia is a strange city. Like Washington DC in the US, this city was planned and built to be the administrative capital of the country. Because of the world leader status of the US, DC has become a tourist attraction, but nothing of that sort has happened to Brasilia.

The architect Oscar Neimeyer chose a location in the middle of the jungle to build the capital in the shape of an airplane. He thought that it would look great from the sky when people are flying in. What he probably didn’t consider was how big a traffic nightmare it would be. If that were not enough, now the city has a new white elephant named Estadio Nacional bang in the middle of the city.

Brasilia runs on politics and only politics. The most common sight in the city is a diplomat or a politician wining and dining in one of the expensive restaurants. The best football team of Brasilia plays in the 3rd or 4th Brazilian division. Therefore, when FIFA and the Brazilian government decided to pump in 1.7 Billion Brazilian Reis ($750 Million) to build a brand new stadium in this city, everyone was shocked. The expletive-laden descriptions of FIFA dotting the city are remnants of the large scale protests against the decision.

Like Manaus, Curitiba and Fortaleza, Brasilia was chosen as one of the host cities to promote it as a tourist destination. None of the locals are expecting a few World Cup matches to put Brasilia on the tourist map. And nobody is expecting the new stadium to attract top football talent to Brasilia and move the local team to the 1st division.

Complete coverage of the football World Cup

- Please click NEXT for more...

 


Image: A general view of the Estadio Nacional stadium in Brasilia
Photographs: Christopher Lee/Getty Images

     Next

Colombia will start as favorites against Brazil

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

But, by hook or crook, Brazil has performed well enough to ensure its non-elimination. Other than the drawn match against Mexico, the Brazilians were not tested in the group stage.

Against Chile, another lackluster performance by the midfield pushed them to the brink of elimination. On the other hand, riding on the exploits of James Rodriguez, Colombia put in another strong performance against Uruguay -- who were lacking the Suarez 'bite' – and will start as favorites against Brazil.

The survival of Brazil, though, has given the locals something to cheer about.

Complete coverage of the football World Cup

- Please click NEXT for more...


Image: Colombia's players celebrate after James Rodriguez scored the second goal against Uruguay
Photographs: Fabrizio Bensch - Pool/Getty Images

Prev     Next

It was hard not to feel sad about the elimination of Mexico

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Watching the Mexico-Netherlands match, it was hard not to feel sad about the elimination of Mexico. While the Dutch started as the favorites, Mexico were less than ten minutes away from pulling off a major upset. But as we have seen all too often, the last ten minutes of the match were practically played in the Mexican half. Arjen Robben might have been guilty of diving to win a penalty kick in injury time, but had the Mexicans controlled possession better in those minutes, they might have seen themselves in the last eight.

Costa Rica vs Greece was a real toss-up. Greece has been around as a defensive power house, but Georgios Samaras had an ordinary day. Sokratis Papastathopoulos gave them a 90th minute equalizer, but the Costa Ricans held their nerve in the penalty shoot-out to enter the quarter finals for the first time in their history. 

Complete coverage of the football World Cup

- Please click NEXT for more...


Image: Arjen Robben of the Netherlands tries to get the ball past Mexico's Rafael Marquez
Photographs: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Prev     Next

The France-Nigeria match in Brasilia was an amazing experience

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

With that backdrop, attending the France-Nigeria match in Brasilia was an amazing experience. From the moment we landed in Brasilia, French contingents were walking around in their national colors, waving their huge flags. The occasional solo fan was joining the nearest contingent. Nigerian fans were few and far between. But those who were there were pinning their hopes on some Musa magic. And then, there was an assortment of Brazilian, Argentinean, German and Colombian fans. France was the overwhelming favorite, but the crowd was decidedly rooting for the underdogs.

With half of their starting line-up resting, France can be excused for playing out a goalless draw in their last group stage match. However, Nigerian strategy of keeping Benzema away from the ball worked wonders for them until the French finally got lucky with a corner. The second French goal and the Nigerian goal led to a flurry of activity toward the end, but the outcome was expected. The French managed to advance, but not without giving their quarter-final opponents enough ideas to tackle them.

Complete coverage of the football World Cup

- Please click NEXT for more...


Image: Paul Pogba scores the first goal for France against Nigeria
Photographs: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Prev     Next

Argentina yet to peak in the World Cup

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Once the match was over, it did not take too long for the crowd to forget what match they had come to watch. The inebriated Brazilian and Argentinean fans indulged in singing their theme songs, chants of 'Ole, Ole, Ole,' and some old-fashioned name-calling just outside the stadium. It only stopped when Germany started warming up for their Algeria match.

Unfortunately, Estadio Nacional did not set up big screens for the fans. But in Brazil for the World Cup, you are never too far away from one. A mall across the street became the venue for the Germany vs Algeria party. And it felt like Germany was playing one-up-manship with France in lack of offensive imagination. After emerging on top from the Group of Death, they made heavy weather of the Algerians. It has set up a tantalizing France-Germany quarter final.

Would one of the teams have a bad day to hand over the game to their traditional rival on a platter?  Or would it be a heart-stopping goal fest?

During the group stages, Lionel Messi had mentioned that Argentina would peak at the right time. The match against Switzerland did not seem to be that time. With Sergio Aguero out of the World Cup, Ezequiel Lavezzi was expected to claim his spot in the starting line-up. However, Lavezzi from the left and Angel di Maria from the right seemed to squander a lot of great opportunities. Di Maria finally made amends and ended his goalless World Cup, but it felt more like a relief from the misery of penalty kicks than a convincing win. 

Complete coverage of the football World Cup

Please click NEXT for more...


Image: Angel di Maria of Argentina (left) celebrates with Lionel Messi after scoring the winner in extra time against Switzerland
Photographs: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Prev     Next

The best match of the round of 16 was the last match: Belgium vs USA

Prev     More
Prev

More

Perhaps the best match of the round of 16 was the last match: Belgium vs USA. The performance of the Belgian side in the group stage had belied its status as the dark horse. On the other hand, USA had done surprisingly well to qualify from a tough group. Belgium came out attacking and it was the heroic efforts of the US goalkeeper Tim Howard that kept the score line to 0-0 by the end of regulation time.

The US missed its best opportunity with just a couple of minutes to go and it was brilliantly captured by Jurgen Klinsmann’s expression of disbelief. However, once extra time kicked off, the US started showing some cracks on offense as well as defense. Two quick goals by the Belgians were demoralizing. However, the US team pulled one back to end their campaign on a positive note. With Jozy Altidore in the offensive mix, perhaps they could have gone deeper in the tournament. What started as an experiment in 1994 to host the World Cup and raise a generation of football lovers is paying off. We can only hope that India hosting the Under-17 World Cup will be the beginning of something similar.

The quarter-final line ups reinforce the feeling that this is one of the most open World Cups in recent memory. As much as I would love to witness a Brazil-Argentina final at the Copacabana beach, Colombia, Germany, Netherlands and Argentina look like the semi-finalists and, if Argentina peaks at the right time, Germany vs Argentina could be the title match.

Mauktik Kulkarni is an author, movie-maker, travel buff and sports enthusiast. He is in Brazil for the World Cup reporting for Rediff.com during the knock-out stages.

Complete coverage of the football World Cup


Image: US goalkeeper Tim Howard makes a fingertip save against Belgium
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Tags:

Prev     More