1st Round Matches at Brazil 2014.
Friday, 13th June
Group Match - The Pain in Spain
Spain vs Netherlands in Salvador.
With seven European teams set to play in Salvador de Bahia, none can equal the scale of this game; a replay of the gritty, South Africa 2010 World Cup Final.
Prior to that, Spain and Netherlands had never met at a World Cup or European Championship Finals; although they did play a couple of European qualifiers (1984) and a number of international friendlies in both countries.
This was billed as the tie of the First Round and a chance for the Dutch to make amends for 2010.
Wesley Sneijder had a chance to give Holland an early lead, but a penalty for Spain, coolly taken by Xabi Alonso, put the World Cup holders in the driving seat with less than half an hour played. This was the second soft penalty awarded in the 2014 World Cup Finals as Diego Costa cunningly put out a trailing leg far too conveniently for Stefan de Vrij to clip.
Robin van Persie's dipping header just before half-time will have to be a contender for goal of the tournament, even though it was only scored in a group game.
After almost sprinting through the heavy-footed Spanish defence, van Persie kept his eye on the flight of the ball and timed everthing pefectly to launch himself into the air and nod the ball up and over; leaving Casillas rooted to the turf and looking around (with his hands down by his hips) in disbelief.
But worse was yet to come.
Half-time: Spain 1 - Holland 1
Arjen Robben made up for his 62nd minute miss in Johannesburg, by turning Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique in the middle of the Spanish penalty area before putting a second goal past Casillas.
Wesley Sneijder's free kick was flapped at by the normally reliable Iker Casillas, onto the head of Stefan de Vrij coming in at the back post. Casillas was subsequently booked for protesting that he was impeded.
Robin van Persie then tied Neymar as leading goalscorer after jumping on to an unbelievable lack of concentration by Casillas; robbing the Spanish goalkeeper of the ball and calmly slotting Holland into a comfortable lead.
We're not smoking what some people are in Amsterdam but Holland really did destroy the World Champions with attacking flair, four years after disappointing the world with a display of Holland van Thuggery. Arjen Robben waited and waited, then gave Casillas his fifth ball to pick out of the net.
Casillas may have been having a nightmare, but a double save prevented the scoreline degrading into farce.
If it's any relief for the pain in Spain, it may be worth remembering that they lost their opening game against Switzerland in South Africa; but nowhere as bad as this.
Final Score: Spain 1 - Holland 5
1:0 - Xabi Alonso (27 mins, penalty)
1:1 - Robin van Persie (44 mins)
1:2 - Arjen Robben (53 mins)
1:3 - Stefan de Vrij (64 mins)
1:4 - Robin van Persie (71 mins)
1:5 - Arjen Robben (80 mins)
1-Iker Casillas; 22-Cesar Azpilicueta, 15-Sergio Ramos, 3-Gerard Pique, 18-Jordi Alba; 14-Xabi Alonso, 8-Xavi, 16-Sergio Busquets, 21-David Silva; 19-Diego Costa, 6-Andres Iniesta.
1-Jasper Cillessen; 7-Daryl Janmaat, 2-Ron Vlaar, 3-Stefan de Vrij, 4-Bruno Martins Indi, 5-Daley Blind; 8-Jonathan de Guzman, 10-Wesley Sneijder, 6-Nigel de Jong; 9-Robin van Persie, 11-Arjen Robben.
4 yellow cards:
25 mins - Jonathan de Guzman (Netherlands)
41 mins - Stefan de Vrij (Netherlands)
64 mins - Iker Casillas (Spain)
66 mins - Robin van Persie (Netherlands)
The Road to Rio
Thursday, 12th June
Brazil vs Croatia
World Cup Finals
Uruguay trailed Argentina at half-time (1:2) but replied with three goals in the second half; to win the first ever World Cup Final (4-2) on July 30th, 1930.
Italy were one of the countries who missed out on the vote to host the first World Cup but managed to win the prestigious golden trophy for the home fans.
The third World Cup was held in Europe for a second time, although Germany had annexed Austria, and Spain was in civil turmoil.
Although no cup-final as such, Uruguay and Brazil went into their final game with the winner guaranteed to be champions; a draw would be enough for Brazil.
The fifth World Cup tournament produced a record number of goals, including a 7:5 encounter between Austria and Switzerland in Lausanne.
Brazil presented a 17 year-old Pele to the world; who went on to claim a hat-trick in Brazil's 5:2 semi-final win over France and bag another two in the final.
Czechoslovakia overcame Hungary in the quarter-finals and Yugoslavia in the semis, while Brazil took care of England and the host nation, Chile.
Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick, in the final against West Germany, as England triumphed in a thrilling game watched by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
1970 belonged to Pelé, who earned his third World Cup winners' medal when Brazil got their hands on the Jules Rimet Cup.... for keeps.
W. Germany 1974:
Johan Cruyff was the player of the tournament as total football became the buzzword of the day, even though Holland lost to West Germany in the 1974 final.
Holland contested the 1978 World Cup Final, in Argentina, for the second time in a row. As in West Germany, they again finished runners-up; to the hosts.
The Spain 82 World Cup finals increased to 24 teams and the format was changed to have two group stages, with four second-round groups of three.
In 1986, Mexico became the first nation to stage the World Cup Finals for a second time; having only staged the competition sixteen years previously.
In 1990, Italy became the World Cup of stalemates. Both semi-finals were drawn out through penalty kicks. In the final itself, the only goal came from the spot.
Once Team US had played a few games most of the nation began to understand they were hosting the greatest show on earth and how the game was played.
France became the sixth nation to win the World Cup on home soil. Thirty-two teams competed in the 16th World Cup; better known as France 98.
The 17th World Cup, held in Korea and Japan, was the first World Cup finals to be shared by two hosts and the first to be held in Asia.
The 2006 World Cup Finals ran from 9th June to 9th July; the opening match in Munich and the final in Berlin. Munich and Dortmund hosted the semi-finals.
South Africa 2010:
Eighty years after the First World Cup Finals in Uruguay, the world's most prestigious football competition was finally hosted on the African continent.
Five times World Cup Champions, Brazil, get a second chance to hold the prestigious World Cup Finals; 64 years after they last hosted the tournament.
VAR made its World Cup debut and set out to change the course of a game with some crucial rule infringement watching and vital on the spot decisions.
When FIFA executives met in Zurich to decide on who would host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals, Qatar was probably the biggest surprise to many.
The 2026 FIFA World Cup Finals will be jointly hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States. The United Bid won the hosting rights ahead of Morocco.
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