We're five days into the 2014 World Cup, and to say it has not disappointed would be a vast understatement.
There has been as much unpredictability and as many comeback situations as we saw in the entire 2010 edition, and all 32 of the teams haven't even played yet. With less than a third of the group stage out of the way, the opening few days have only set the stage for a month of enticing football.
Even though we're just barely underway, many of the top teams have taken center stage, and some have looked much more inspiring than others—and that might be putting it lightly.
Let's break down the full group standings after Day 5 and highlight three championship-contending teams that shined bright in their openers.
|2014 World Cup Group Standings|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||0||-1||1||0||0||1|
Squads on the Rise
It's hard to find a talent-rich team that has struggled more as of late across the landscape of international football than France. Group-stage exits at the 2008 Euro and 2010 World Cup have opened a void and created a restless fanbase entering Brazil.
One match doesn't change years of futility, but France opened up their quest in Brazil with one of the most convincing victories thus far of the tournament. They toppled Honduras 3-0 to open up play in Group E.
France controlled throughout the contest with a suffocating 71 percent of possession, aided by playing against a 10-men Honduras squad for all of the second half.
But it wouldn't have mattered much if the Hondurans were at full strength as Karim Benzema was magnificent in his World Cup debut, scoring a brace and impacting the third goal.
Squawka Football summed up his dominating stat line:
It doesn't take a championship-contending side to beat a 10-men Honduran team, but the French were on another level in their opener with Benzema at top form. Playing without Franck Ribery was expected to thwart France's offense, but that's not the case if the Real Madrid striker is on his game.
With upcoming matches against Switzerland and Ecuador in Group E, France are one more resounding victory away from putting a death grip on the group. If they're able to wrap things up early on, expect them to carry that momentum into the knockout stages and emerge as a force to be reckoned with.
Spain descended upon Brazil as the world's team to beat after winning the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euro, but as they say, good things don't last forever.
Maybe that's a little premature considering how early into the group stage it is. But after the Netherlands' 5-1 beating of the Spanish to open up Group B, two messages were sent to the rest of the world: Spain aren't what they used to be, and the Dutch are just as dangerous as they've ever been.
Robin van Persie captured his form of old with a brace, including a clutch header to equalize in the first half. He proved to be unstoppable alongside Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder—two staples of the 2010 team who made the championship match—and they gave fits to Spain, one of the better defenses on the planet.
The Netherlands still aren't getting the credit they've earned after beating Spain, as Odds Shark has them at 25-1 odds to win the whole thing. This comes after they've only shown improvement in their one World Cup match since losing in extra time of the 2010 final to a team they just took to the woodshed.
But if their opening match is any indication, the Dutch should make it to the latter stages of the tournament and possibly compete for the title.
Add Germany to the short, exclusive list of top national teams that took down a fellow top national team to open up play in Brazil.
The Germans were pegged against Portugal to open up Group G—the supposed Group of Death. It didn't much matter, as Germany steamrolled their opponent en route to a 4-0 victory.
The favorites wasted no time jumping out in front in the 12th minute, when Mario Goetze was brought down in the penalty box and Thomas Mueller knocked in the following penalty attempt. Then, the floodgates opened as Mats Hummels scored a header and Pepe was sent off with a red card.
Even with Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal were no match for Germany—10 men or 11. But when the Germans had the man advantage, they further dominated possession and found Mueller for two second-half goals to get his hat trick.
By the time he netted his third goal and put Germany up 4-0, he wasn't even looking to celebrate, as CBS Sports' Jerry Palm noticed:
What little threat that Germany faced of not advancing past the group stage is likely quelled now, with an early three points against the best team in their group. With matches against Ghana and the U.S. upcoming, they could have their tickets punched to the next round soon.
After that, the trophy is the limit for this team. With so much depth in the midfield, enough young firepower in the lineup to contest any other squad and Mueller scoring goals at will, they could continue steamrolling their way to the final.
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