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.
Brazil – Getting the job done. Spain, not so much.
After a rocky start, Brazil did what they had to do, gaining 3 points and +2 in goal differential. With Croatia dispatched and Cameroon apparently mailing it in (Samuel Eto’o appeared to be playing with ten guys he met in the parking lot) Brazil should be able to see their way through the group stage, even if Mexico forces a draw.
Spain, on the other hand, might be in deep trouble. They lost their first match in 2010 as well, but this team appears a bit more weary, a bit less hungry. In this magical run that has seen them win two Euro Cups with a world title sandwiched in between, they have been able to impose their will on other teams. It never appeared to be that way yesterday, not even when they were up 1-0.
And I tip my hat to the Netherlands. If anything, I expected them to look tired at the end of the game. Sneijder and Robben have logged a large number of kilometers on those legs, but they both were both energetic throughout the second half, Robben dangerously so. As much as this game bodes poorly for Spain, it has to be a giant boost for the Netherlands.
I try not to read too much into first games. Sometimes what appears to be a bad loss just turns out to be a blip or perhaps the case of an up and coming underrated team against an overrated team, on the downturn but still dangerous. Spain’s next match, against Chile, could be more telling than this one. There is a very good chance they will make it through the group stage, but now it would almost certainly be in second position, making the likelihood that they will face Brazil in the round of sixteen a distinct possibility.
Today I look forward to Italia vs. the Three Lions and whatever other surprises the next four matches bring us.