Day 2 of the 2014 World Cup surely put the "soccer is boring" banality to rest. Brave, attacking soccer was on display in each of the day's three contests, and the slate of matches included a surprising scoreline no sane soccer observer could have predicted.
The Netherlands shocked the world by beating Spain 5-1 with a brilliant display of counterattacking soccer.
Coach Louis van Gaal utilized a 3-5-2 formation to pack the midfield against Spain and disrupt their timing. The formation depends on the successful deployment of the full-backs to contain the edges and contribute to both attack and defense. Daley Blind, patrolling the wing on the left side, made his boss look like a genius with two superb passes leading to the Netherlands' first two goals of the match.
Mexico defeated Cameroon 1-0 thanks to a quick strike from Oribe Peralta in the 61st minute of play.
El Tri look dangerous after their display against Cameroon, and the game wasn't nearly as close as the scoreline suggests.
Giovani dos Santos had to be quickly erased from the scoresheet twice as the referees disallowed two of his would-be goals. In both instances, he was ruled offside, drawing a chorus of complaints from the Mexican squad.
In the final match on Day 2, Chile beat a game Australia 3-1 on goals from Alexis Sanchez, Jorge Valdivia and Jean Beausejour. Australia performed admirably, but the loss to Chile spells doom as they will be heavy underdogs against Spain and the Netherlands.
Here are the updated group standings after the first two days of the World Cup:
|2014 World Cup Group Standings|
|Bosnia and Herzgovina||0||0||0||0||0|
With the results in mind, let's take a look at the odds for all 32 nations vying for the World Cup crown:
|2014 World Cup Odds|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||200-1|
(Note: Odds courtesy of Odds Shark.)
Impact Players from Day 2 Matches
Giovanni dos Santos, Mexico
Dos Santos was all over the pitch against Cameroon. His movement and pace consistently confounded the likes of Nicolas N'koulou and Benoit Assou-Ekotto at the back.
Dos Santos had two goals snatched away by the referees for questionable offside calls that various match replays proved to be incorrect. ESPNFC's Twitter has the video for the second disallowed goal:
To his credit, Dos Santos remained undeterred and his shot in the 61st minute caromed off Cameroonian goalkeeper Charles Itandje and into the path of the surging Peralta, whose rebound strike provided the difference in Mexico's opening victory.
Dos Santos' movement and energy will be key to Mexico continuing their upbeat performances. Coach Miguel Herrera relegated Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez to substitute status before the match, and both Dos Santos and Peralta repaid his faith in full. The dynamic duo's performance against Cameroon should only cement their places in the starting lineup.
Arjen Robben, Netherlands
The solo stylings of Arjen Robben were a constant source of torment for Spain.
Really, just about any player involved in the Netherlands' attack could be singled out for their performance on Day 2. Blind's two seeing-eye assists were brilliant, while striker Robin van Persie notched two goals of his own in the match.
However, it was Robben's indefatigable spirit that keyed Netherlands' offense. Take a look at Robben's first goal from the highlight reel, courtesy of ESPNFC's Twitter account:
That goal had everything: excellent movement, a feathery touch to bring in the ball and Robben's trademark cut onto his left foot.
He utilized a looping version of his signature move for his second goal as well. New York Times editor Andrew Das couldn't believe the Spanish defenders allowed Robben to pull off his signature move:
Robben is eminently predictable at times, but in 14 years in professional soccer, no one has found a good way to stop him.
If the Oranje—wearing midnight-blue jerseys against Spain—can continue their punishing attack during the group stages, Van Persie and Robben will be going back and forth in pursuit of the Golden Boot in Brazil.
Tim Cahill, Australia
Chile scored twice in the span of two minutes to take an early 2-0 lead over the Socceroos. Australia's youth contingent appeared to be unprepared for the pressure of the World Cup; it looked like they were in store for a very long night.
In the spirit of a true team leader, 34-year-old Tim Cahill wasn't willing to let his team settle for mediocrity and quickly brought Australia back within a goal via one of his patented headers in the 35th minute.
His goal prompted good-natured ribbing from ESPN's Taylor Twellman:
Cahill never stopped trying to score and nearly brought Australia level with a thumping header in the 62nd minute that just edged over the crossbar.
He was instrumental in Australia's buildup play throughout the entire duration of the match, linking up with midfielders Tommy Oar and Mark Milligan. One could also find Cahill roaring into the box to get on the end of any decent-looking cross throughout the match.
His exhortations did eventually earn him a yellow card, but Australia would have been completely lost without his energy and passion.
BBC Sports' Phil McNulty gave his thoughts on the vintage Cahill performance.
Considering Brazil's pedigree and the inspired play of Mexico and Croatia, Australia aren't likely to make much noise in the ultra-tough Group A. Still, there is something to be said about the fearless display from the Socceroos, and Cahill is the constant competitor who will keep Australia entertaining for the duration of their stay in Brazil.