World Cup 2014 – Days 6-10

The tournament begins to take shape. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Portugal is hanging by a thread. Spain and England have already bowed out. Costa Rica and Chile have secured their advance into the round of sixteen. And the U.S. has a fighting chance to win the Group of Death.

If these are not the winds of change, then they are, at the least, the dusty breeze that precedes such a storm.

We might well end up with two European powerhouses vs. two South American behemoths in the semis. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise at all. But every slot taken by an Ecuador or Nigeria is one less place for a Russia or Italy to land. Surely, there will be more upsets to come and more giants will fall. Even the Netherlands and Germany appeared nearly ordinary in their second matches.

Scoring has dropped off dramatically since the flurry of goals in the opening days of the tournament. And the third set of matches will only become tighter, as each squad learns exactly how many points they need to secure to advance into the knockout stages.

Tomorrow will be a defining moment for both the U.S. and Portugal. Is that a breeze I feel coming from Manaus?

Of note: Iran came within two minutes of securing a second point without scoring a goal in the tournament. Australia has scored three goals but has zero points to show for it. Which team has the best goal differential so far? Germany? The Netherlands? Actually, it’s France, with a +6 margin.

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World Cup 2014 – Days 3-4

The Elephants find their Talisman.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For much of Didier Drogba’s Chelsea career, he was referred to as their talisman. After his dramatic injection into the Ivory Coast’s World Cup opener against Japan, he surely holds that moniker in regard to his national squad as well.

When the pony-tailed striker ran onto the pitch in Brazil yesterday, his Elephants were trailing 1-0 to Japan. A mere 100 seconds later, the guys in orange were up 2-1 and in complete control of the game. Although Drogba did not score either goal, the emotional lift from his entrance was palpable, and his passing skills helped set up the first score.

Drogba signed with Italian giant Juventus this spring, but at 36, his best playing days are likely behind him. Then again, if yesterday was any indication, just his presence on the pitch might be enough to inspire the Elephants through a magical run. It will be one of many stories to follow in Brazil during the 2014 World Cup finals.

Of note: As mentioned above, Japan scored the first goal of the match, but eventually suffered defeat. Four other teams (Ecuador, Croatia, Uruguay and Spain) have already experienced the same fate in the first four days of the tournament.

There have been no draws so far in the tournament.