By Bryan Zarpentine @BZarp on June 17, 2014
The 2014 World Cup is in full swing, as every team has played their first match. Thus far, there have been quite a few surprises, with some teams playing far better than most had anticipated, while others have been disappointing. Obviously there’s plenty of time for things to change between now and the end of the Group Stage, but after every team’s first match, here are the 10 teams that have impressed the most.
England didn't win the opening match and defensively leave a lot to be desired, but they played much better than most expected and looked quite dangerous offensively. If it weren't for Italy putting 11 players behind the ball or the weather in Manaus wearing them down, England likely would have scored more than one goal and avoided a loss in their opening match.
They didn't win and they didn't even score their only goal, but Croatia gave a strong performance in the World Cup opener and deserved a share of the points against Brazil. That surely would have happened if not for one or two controversial decisions by the match official. They may sit at the bottom of their group, but Croatia offered a lot of promise in the opening match.
The Elephants didn't exactly put together a good effort for 90 minutes, but when they got going they put a lot of pressure on Japan and managed to put a couple of goals in the back of the net. Things really started to turn when Didier Drogba came onto the field, and with the aging striker still able to make a difference, this could finally be the tournament when Ivory Coast make some noise.
You can call it a fluke or a one-time thing, but there's no denying that the Ticos' win over Uruguay was an impressive feat. Costa Rica played like they belonged on the same field as the South American power, and at the end there was no doubt that the Ticos deserved three points in the most shocking upset of the tournament thus far.
El Tri only beat Cameroon 1-0, but it could have and should have been a lot worse if not for more controversy from the officials. Mexico gave the appearance of a team that has put the qualifying struggles behind them, looking confident and quite dangerous in the attacking third. Whether they have enough to advance remains to be seen, but Mexico had one of the better opening matches of any team in the tournament.
Colombia are considered a dark horse in the tournament, and they sure looked like it in their opening match, scoring three goals against Greece, a team known for playing stingy defense. There are plenty of quality players on the field for Colombia, and they had a great home-field advantage in their opening match. Early on in the tournament they look like they'll be a tough team to beat.
It was only Honduras, but France took care of business and then some with a dominating effort against a weaker side. Even without Franck Ribery, the French had no trouble finding the back of the net, getting two goals from Karim Benzema, which is a great sign for them moving forward.
It wasn't pretty or flashy, but it was classic Italy, putting 11 players behind the ball and playing suffocating defense to close out a win. It's not an exciting tactic, but it can take them a long way in the World Cup. They also got a key goal from Mario Balotelli, and if the Italians can get goals from him, they'll be in great shape moving forward after a strong opening match.
In a matchup of European heavyweights, Germany looked like a champion in the opening match, simply dominating Portugal. Some say this is the best German team ever assembled, and that certainly looked like a distinct possibility against Portugal, as one game in Germany look like one of the tournament's best teams.
It doesn't get any more impressive than a 5-1 trouncing of the defending world champions. Netherlands had plenty of skeptics heading into the tournament, but after a complete dismantling of Spain, they look like front-runners. There should be no debate that Holland are the most impressive team in the World Cup following every team's opening match.
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