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FIFA World Cup 2014: Rise of the underdogs, and their goalkeepers

Thursday, 3 July 2014 - 8:09pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA Webdesk

What a topsy turvy World Cup this is turning out to be! With the smaller teams stepping up to make their presence felt, the established order of world football seems to have been turned upside down. The group stages have provided shocks aplenty with three former winners, defending champions Spain, Italy and England, all crashing out in the group stages. Much fancied teams like Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia, Ghana, Iran, Mexico, Australia and Belgium have taken the World Cup by storm, while the big guns are struggling to find their form. As the Giants fall, from their ashes these warriors have risen.

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By far the most prominent rise of the tournament has been the rise of the South and Central American nations. Hosts Brazil were given a run for their money by Mexico as they drew 0-0 in their Group A encounter. Mexico were a much better unit than the hosts on the day. El Tri bowed out of the tournament in their round of 16 game against the Netherlands, thanks to two very late strikes by Welsey Sneijder and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Chile's group included the 2010 World Cup finalists, Netherlands and Spain. To everyone's shock, La Roja beat the champions 2-0 to confirm their spot in the next round. Chile eventually lost out to hosts Brazil in the round of 16 stage. It ended 1-1 after 90 minutes and then headed to extra-time where Chile almost scored when Mauricio Pinilla his the crossbar in the final minute. Chile eventually lost out 3-2 in the penalty shootout. Chile definitely won a lot of hearts with their wonderful performance.

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Colombia have been the treat of the World Cup so far, winning all 3 of their group stage matches scoring 9 goals and conceding 2. James Rodriguez, the 22-year old attacking midfielder almost single-handedly took the Colombians through to the next stage scoring 5 goals so far, one of them being the goal of the tournament so far. 

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The biggest surprise of the tournament was Costa Rica making it to the quarter finals of the Wolrd Cup for the very first time. When the tournament began they were drawn into the proverbial group of death with England, Uruguay and Italy. No one would have given them a chance to even qualify from the group but such is the beauty of football that after the second game, Costa Rica were sitting pretty on the top as group leaders. They made it into the round of 16 stages having beaten Uruguay 3-1 and Italy 1-0 which in the process has knocked out a much fancied English side.

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Argentina were one of the favourites going into this tournament, but nobody told that to the Iranians and Nigerians. For large swathes of their match, the team from the Middle East stretched the Albiceleste defence with their pace and lobbed passes over opposition defenders. These weren’t aimless crosses that were hoofed forward but calculated passes that almost always reached their opponents. Had it not been for some inspired keeping by Sergio Romero, Reza Ghoochannejhad and Ashkan Dejagah might have achieved what many would’ve thought unthinkable.

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Fortunately for the Argentines, they had Lionel Messi to bail them out of a very uncomfortable situation. Algeria also showed that they were undaunted by the three-time World Cup winners. Qualifying for the knockout stages for the first time at a World Cup, they held mighty Germany to a goalless draw and forced them to play extra time. Previously, teams that weren’t normally expected to win games would set themselves up to defend, allowing their more hallowed opponents more time on the ball and therefore plenty of time to dictate play. 

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The unpredictability of results shows the extent to which football has developed in lesser-known countries, and teams can now build on this in future tournaments, thereby reflecting a more level playing field which in the past has been skewed towards European teams because of the quality they possess. Brazil 2014 has brought as much despair to those who’ve been on the receiving end of upsets as it has brought entertainment to football fans throughout the world. The match-ups among the teams that are in the knockout stages of this competition contain in them the promise of many more upsets.And with it, the guarantee of plenty of entertainment.




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