Goalmouth Scramble 2014

Analysis and comment on the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Goalmouth Scramble: What we learned from week one

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Italy's Andrea Pirlo listens to a question during a press conference at the Casa Azzurri in Mangaratiba, Brazil. Photo / AP
Italy's Andrea Pirlo listens to a question during a press conference at the Casa Azzurri in Mangaratiba, Brazil. Photo / AP

Steven Holloway looks at what we have learned after week one of the tournament.

Brazil's striker shortage could be very costly
When Brazil won the World Cup in 1970 Pele led their line. In 2002 it was Ronaldo. This year however, they are reliant on Fred, a 30-year old Fluminese journeyman, or if he's not firing, Jo, a Manchester City and Everton reject. The lack of a genuine goal-scoring striker could prove Brazil's undoing. Fred is not a goal threat, looks sluggish and is largely anonymous. He also struggles to link up with Neymar, who ends up trying to do too much on his own. It's strange to say this about Brazil, but they lack ideas in the top third and Neymar apart, simply don't have any of the individual magic of 02.

All good things must come to an end
France won the World Cup in 1998, then failed to score a goal in 2002. Italy won in 2006 then went winless in 2010. And now 2010 winners Spain have offered the worst defence of a World Cup title in history, eliminated after their second game.

After winning three major trophies in a row Spain got complacent. The game evolved but they didn't. They lost their tempo, stopped relentlessly pressing opposition out of possession and had no attacking threat in behind. It was one step too far for Spain's golden generation of ageing players like Xavi, Andrea Iniesta and Iker Casillas, who are living in a nightmare right now, but will long be remembered as legends of the game.

Pirlo is the best player to watch.
An ageing 35-year old Italian midfielder is the best player to watch at this World Cup. Playmaker Andrea Pirlo is surrounded by younger, fitter, athletically superior footballers but uses a mixture of technique, vision and guile to take the kids back to school. He's a player who fundamentally stays in one place on the field, and shifts the ball about relying not on pace or physical strength, but on spatial awareness and control.
In Italy's first round win against England he completed 103 of his 108 passes, controlled the tempo and flow of the game and essentially was the difference. He's also has the best set piece delivery in the game. Don't miss watching him put on another clinic against Costa Rica tomorrow.


Germany are the best.
Germany look the most complete team after the first round. They are doing everything that Spain used to do, minus the excessive tika-taka. Comfortable in possession and dangerous on the break, they possess electric pace in attack through Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil and are defensively as sound as any. The Germans remain the consummate tournament team, winning their seventh consecutive opening World Cup match, and may well prove the hardest to beat.

A group of talented individuals does not make a great team
Belgium as a team are less than the sum of their parts. There is no denying that they have some fabulously talented individual players who have done exceptionally well with their club sides but there is a surprising lack of quality under the Belgium umbrella, especially when playing teams that press them and close down space to their forward players. Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Moussa Dembele all failed to fire against an average Algeria side, and they will need to find better cohesion if they are to live up to their 'dark horse' billing.

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