Topsy-turvy start for top teams
Bangladeshis celebrated Eid with the World Cup adding a kind of spice they did not quite expect.
Over the course of the four-day Eid vacation, the four giants of world football that have the largest fan following in our part of the globe ended up in a topsy-turvy situation. And fans here tackled their own frustration by texting Eid greetings or tweaking statuses on social media with curt remarks for rivals.
On Sunday night, Brazil joined a host of big guns -- Germany, Spain and Argentina -- who failed to fire and win their opening matches in the World Cup. Although it is very early into the tournament, and good teams always get fired up to hit the right groove after an initial setback, a few favourites also fail to recover and bow out.
The five-time champions started off in trademark Brazilian style, with the players tuning themselves up to the Samba rhythm before breaking the spell of hypnosis with bursts of offensives. Tite's men took a deserved lead midway through the first half in a Group E game when Philippe Coutinho cannoned in a curling long-distance surprise off the far post. But lax defending and vulnerability to Switzerland's pull-and-push tactic in the second half saw them squander the lead.
To some extent, Brazil were victims of poor refereeing and inept VAR (video assistant referee) intervention. But Tite's boys, who looked so impressive in the build-up to the tournament, were nowhere near their billing. Brazil superstar Neymar's radiant spaghetti haircut certainly caught the imagination, but he looked a pale shadow of his famous self, for which Paris Saint-Germain had shelled out a world record 222 million euros.
Like Brazil, Argentina could also not get the best service from their superstar Lionel Messi, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner. The two-time world champions were well on course to stroll away with a win after Sergio Aguero had put them into the lead 19 minutes after the start. But Jorge Sampaoli's side have a fragile midfield and fissures in defence that led to an equaliser after only four minutes against a team coached by a dentist and playing for the first time in a World Cup.
A defensive master-class from Iceland successfully upset the rhythm of Argentina as well as that of Messi. Still, Messi was able to penetrate the opponent's defence and take 10 shots at the post. A spot-kick in the second half made it 11 and it all went in vain. It was certainly not Messi's day.
Together, defending champions Germany and Mexico produced the most exciting match so far. It was a clash of tactics from two different schools of football, but played out with the same speed, skill and aggression. But Latin beauty prevailed 1-0 over the German machine.
The defeat must send chills down the spine of 'Coach Cool' Joachim Loew as Germany cannot really afford another slip-up against either South Korea or Sweden in Group F. We are likely to see Loew poking fingers into his nostrils more than ever when the next match gets underway. I believe no one wants to bid farewell to Germany so early in the tournament.
In Group B, Portugal produced a classic against the tournament's most balanced side, Spain. It was a 3-3 draw, but to be fair, the score-line should have read Spain 3-3 Ronaldo. Unlike Messi and Neymar, Ronaldo got off on the right foot and sent out warnings to the title contenders. After that solo classic against a team like Spain, Portugal should go a long way, if not all the way, in the tournament. Good luck, Portugal!
The writer is former Sports Editor of The Daily Star