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June 28, 2014 / ultrafox1963

Golden prize still up for grabs

Destiny of the trophy remains a mystery

Destiny of the trophy remains a mystery

Fans hoping for a festival of football at this summer’s World Cup will have been thrilled with what they have seen so far.

Many of the world’s top players have flourished in the tournament to date. The Brazilian public, despite discontent about the cost of the event, have backed it in impressive numbers. And underdogs such as Costa Rica, Algeria and the USA have sprung a few upsets.

Seven of the eight top seeds have made it to the knockout stages, with only defending champions Spain missing out. Selection blunders by coach Vicente Del Bosque – most notably the inclusion of clearly-unfit striker Diego Costa – were duly punished by group opponents Chile and the Netherlands.

Sadly for England, its role in the extravaganza was brief and far from memorable. A record of one point from three games was the worst record of any European nation at the tournament.

Although Roy Hodgson may have satisfied his FA bosses with his claims to be “building for the future” many fans are far from convinced that progress can or will be made during his stewardship. Only the lack of a credible English alternative for his position has enabled Hodgson to escape the scrutiny and criticism an under-performing manager on a £3.5m annual salary should anticipate.

However plenty of Premier League players – including Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez – still remain in the World Cup. While many – Vincent Kompany and Robin van Persie being notable examples – have displayed the quality that many would have expected of them, others have performed at a level well beyond that witnessed on a weekly basis by long-suffering followers of their clubs.

At this stage, choosing a likely winner of this World Cup is far from easy. While all of the main contenders have impressed in front of goal, they have also displayed defensive weaknesses which can be exploited on any given day. As a consequence, more shock results are likely to occur, especially as certain teams – particularly Brazil and Argentina – have struggled to cope with the burden of expectations their fans have placed upon them.

Although talismen such as Neymar and Lionel Messi have risen to the challenges placed before them so far, with four goals apiece, it remains to be seen whether either or both can maintain such a standard of form during the next two weeks. Of the two, the more experienced Messi, playing in his third World Cup and with more talented strikers alongside him, appears better suited to lasting the pace.

Meanwhile Germany have been their usual formidable selves and should feature in the closing stages, while Colombia, despite the absence of prolific striker Radamel Falcao, have caught the eye and look the most likely of the tournament’s dark horses.

The standard of refereeing at the tournament has not always been the best, with many off-the-ball incidents being missed and some very questionable penalty decisions being made. Fortunately, though, this has yet to affect the overall quality of the World Cup, and many fans will hope it stays that way.

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