We’re halfway through the group stage of the World Cup, and nearing the midway point of the tournament. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly from the first week in Brazil.
One of the most classically disrespected regions in world soccer has had a terrific tournament thus far, establishing itself as the third best region behind superpowers UEFA and CONMEBOL. In fact, CONCACAF teams have taken 67% of possible points in the tournament so far, leading every other confederation.
The United States beat Ghana and are in a terrific position to advance from the group of death, while rival Mexico has had a reawakening under Miguel Herrera. El Tri’s opening win over Cameroon was well deserved, but Mexico really announced their arrival at the tournament by going toe-to-toe with host Brazil in a pulsating 0-0 draw.
Costa Rica’s shock 3-1 win over two-time champion Uruguay was the most unexpected major achievement, and it made Honduras’ dire 3-0 loss to France much less noticeable. This could be CONCACAF’s coming out party.
2. The Refereeing
That’s right. After a very rough start, the refereeing has been fantastic. What, you haven’t noticed? That’s the point. There’s been next to no controversy since the second game of the competition.
3. The Stars
After greatly disappointing in South Africa four years ago, the game’s biggest players have come good in Brazil. The likes of Messi, Van Persie, Rooney, Robben, Muller, Benzema, and Neymar have all been on the score-sheet, and Spain’s sorry bunch and one Cristiano Ronaldo are the only members of the list of dramatic underperformers.
4. South America
One of the underrated storylines going into the tournament worldwide was the overwhelming support that all the South American countries have received. Both Colombia and Chile especially have looked like World Cup hosts every time they’ve stepped onto the field, with as many as 60,000 supporters in respective venues.
Brazil’s support has obviously been fantastic, and Uruguay and Ecuador have also played de facto home games. All South American teams have played incredibly entertaining games, and Colombia and Chile both look like outside bets to win the whole thing.
5. Mark Geiger
You know we’re having a good World Cup when even our referee is doing fantastically well.
6. Tim Cahill
That guy is phenomenal. His incredible fire and athleticism provided one of the great moments of the tournament, and made Australia games worth watching just to see what could Cahill do. He didn’t disappoint.
7. The Passion
From fans, and also from teams: You just don’t see managers or benches or entire teams celebrate each and every goal like they do at the World Cup finals.
The coverage has been tremendous. While some would like to see more from the studio crew, no one is complaining about the embarrassment of game-calling riches at the network’s disposal. Jon Champion has stood out as particularly sensational, but even the oft-maligned pairing of Fernando Palomo and Alejandro Moreno have been at the top of their game.