I remember predicting Germany and Portugal would end in a 1-1 draw. Obviously, I was way off the mark. Just like the Holland-Spain result, it goes to show how unpredictable this sport can be. But while it might have been the perfect start for Germany, it failed to live up to its tag as one of the most anticipated matches of the group stage thanks largely to a disappointing Portugal side.
Paulo Bento's tactics were what he expected them to be. Spearheaded by the speed and power of captain Cristiano Ronaldo, the team were set up to launch quick counter attacks. Speculation over Germany's formation mainly centred on the position of their own skipper Philipp Lahm. As expected, Joachim Loew opted to field Lahm in the defensive midfield role he had gotten used to over this past season under his manager at Bayern Munich, Pep Guardiola. There was no direct classic centre forward with Thomas Muller designated with the 'false nine' role. What a game he would turn out to have!
If Muller's hat-trick made him the hero for Germany, Pepe proved to be the villain for Portugal leaving his side reduced to 10 men in the 37th minute for a needless altercation with Muller. In numerical inferiority amid soaring temperatures, it was always going to be an impossible task, even for the talismanic Ronaldo.
Ronaldo's Spanish teammates at Real Madrid are in a delicate position themselves as they look to get their World Cup defence back on track against Chile later this evening. It will be an absorbing battle at the Maracana with Spain in greater need of the three points.
I'm expecting to see a few new faces in the line-up compared to the eleven who faced Holland. It wouldn't surprise me if Del Bosque fields Atletico Madrid's Koke and Bayern Munich defender Javi Martinez from the outset. Chile were not convincing against Australia although Alexis Sanchez delivered a good performance.
There's understandably been a lot of criticism aimed at Spain but I think it's premature to be writing them off. They are an experienced side with a successful coach who will know how to turn things around. Also, world and European champions like Sergio Ramos, Xavi and Andres Iniesta don't forget how to play football after one bad match. These are players who are accustomed to dealing with pressure on a daily basis at their high profile clubs. I'm expecting a strong response.
The writer captained Germany to victory in the 1990 World Cup