MÉRIDA, YUCATÁN – So, the world cup has started. In case you missed it, the opening ceremony was last Thursday, featuring dancing trees, and the official World Cup song “We Are One” performed by Pitbull, Claudia Leitte and a will she / won’t she (she did…) appearance by Jennifer Lopez. There’s a short video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v63UEhNJic. The pitch was then cleared in short order for the opening match of the competition; hosts Brazil against Croatia. The result was a fairly predictable win for Brazil, 3-1, with the only Croatian goal being an ‘own goal’ by Marcelo from the Brazilian team, and coming as it did, only 11 minutes into the game, it was not an auspicious beginning for the home team. They recovered, and the spectators were happy with the result; somehow the team did not look as convincing as one would have expected though, and, maybe, some surprises are on the way.
Friday was the first big day of competition, and with it, Mexico’s debut game against Cameroon. Although their opponents were not the toughest, the Mexican team was up against awful weather (constant heavy rain) and a referee who was clearly on the side of Cameroon. Despite this, and despite having two goals disallowed early in the game, Mexico’s star player Oribe Peralta scored the only valid goal of the match, which ended in a win, 1-0 for Mexico. Giovanni dos Santos put in a good performance and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa saved an excellent shot by Cameroon, which would have tied the game if it had got through. Unfortunately the Mexican team have the habit of slowing down once they have a lead, however slim, and this behavior exhibited itself again yesterday; once they had the 1-0 lead, they as good as gave up trying to score any more; a dangerous tactic, since a 1-0 lead can quickly vanish. However a win is a win, and we hope that for their next game against Brazil (sure to be a much tougher opponent) on Tuesday, the Mexican team will return refreshed and ready to fight.
Mexico forward Oribe Peralta celebrates scoring the game-winning goal for El Tri in the 61st minute (Credit FIFA)
The big news on Friday was the stunning defeat of Spain by Netherlands. In a repeat of the 2010 world cup final (won of course by Spain) the two European rivals faced each other in their opening game of the 2014 tournament, and while both teams are strong, Spain was easily the favorite to win. From the start however, Spain seemed to be playing a different game; and their goalkeeper was definitely having a bad day. The end result of 5-1 to Netherlands was by far the biggest story of the tournament so far, and has been called a massacre by newspapers in Spain today. The last time Spain conceded at least 5 goals was in 1963, when they were defeated in Madrid 6-2 by Scotland!
De Vrij's headed goal gave the Dutch a 3-1 lead in the 65th minute (Credit Fifa)
The day ended with a 3-1 win by Chile over Australia; since Australia is better known for cricket, rugby, and beer, not exactly a surprise.
Saturday sees games between Colombia and Greece (3-0 to Colombia at press time); Uruguay and Costa Rica; what is likely to be an exciting game between England and Italy; and Cote d’Ivoire and Japan, while Sunday will see the first appearances by top teams France and Argentina. Germany, Portugal, and the USA all make their debuts on Monday.
Here in Mexico, we will be looking forward to Tuesday’s game against Brazil, which will be at 2pm Mexican time in the northern Brazilian city of Fortaleza. If you’re not planning to watch the game, it will be an excellent opportunity to go to the bank, pay your electricity bill, or other such tasks, since no one else will be there! If you are planning to watch, we’ll be waiting to hear you join the screams of VIVA MEXICO and GOOOOOOOOOLLLLLL!!! Here’s some music to get you in the mood: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Laoge-FsbLA
For the schedules, groups, and matches in the upcoming World Cup, see here: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/index.html