So, the stage is all set for the round of 16 and its all down to who’s got the x-factor. But the first round of games – the group stage, that is – have not been without some real good talking points. This in historic terms, and I stand to be corrected, has been the best FIFA World Cup™ so far seen. The tournament has simply been amazing, fun-tastic, exhilarating, and hilarious for most of the global audience, if not all watching.
A major feature that has characterized the event has been the performance of what we’ve come to appreciate as the underdogs. It’s been remarkable what we’ve been treated to from these high-flying performers who have sizzled us with football of unpredictability. With lots of odds placed on the so-called favourites, the tide surely has taken a turn for the best. Having witnessed the unpredictable nature of the results in the group stage, betting against the underdogs might seem counterproductive.
Let’s start this way. Who would have thought that the all-conquering La Roja of Spain would crumble at the feet of the Chileans like a 5-year old who just lost a savoury multi-coloured candy floss from a slip? Many didn’t; but yours truly did! However, it just would not make for logic and careful observation (if you’re a viewer of the award-winning CSI series), to bet against the reigning world champions. Err..do they still hold that title since they were spanked out of the tournament?!
How about Los Ticos of Costa Rica? Yeah, what about them?! Do we recall how nervy many of us were and had certainly, or almost certainly, placed victory freely at the doorstep of the Uruguayans? Despite the absence of the prolific and enigmatic talisman, Luis Suarez, for the Uruguayans in the first game, yet with the turn-up of Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan, the Costa Ricans would not settle for a ‘we are merely visitors’ outlook but proved that they can match as equals among the football gods in Brazil.
Then, there was almost an upset. And yes, it was almost but for a moment of lapse in concentration and perhaps, a seeming petrification from the Iranians (one in particular) to attack the ball, closing in on the world’s greatest player – yada, yada, yada – from cutting in to his left and let fly a looping curler from his left foot to find the back of the net, but for that silly moment, the tale of the greatest performance though defensive, would have been how great Team Meli of Iran was against Argentina.
So, after all said and done, do we still need some pointers to the effect of more dramatic disappointments in the knockout stage? Surely, your permutations must defy logic and observation (remember!!), to go against the change in tide that raises the possibility, and not just the probability, of major upsets going the way of the ‘favourites’. I wouldn’t envy any in this position, but what’s mine in this, except to recline and watch!
By Telema Davies