Money, money, money
With Russia exiting the tournament at the first round stage, that means the three highest paid managers at the World Cup fell at the first hurdle. Fabio Capello, who earns a reported £6.7 million-a-year, follows Roy Hodgson (£3.5 million) and Cesare Prandelli (£2.575 million) in falling early, perhaps providing pause for thought to those who believe that throwing money at a problem is the best way to solve it. The boss with the most meagre wage is still going strong, and if Mexico progress beyond the second round, Miguel Herrera might have a good case if he asks for a raise on the £125,000 he currently earns.
— Natter Football (@NATTERFOOTBALL) June 26, 2014
Ghana fail to earn their money too
It sounds like it's been an eventful time in the Ghana camp, with demands that their bonuses be paid in cash (“We'll keep it in our bags,” said Christian Atsu), then Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari were sent home for allegedly getting involved in separate bouts of fisticuffs in the team hotel. After all that, their limp exit from the World Cup almost feels like a footnote, but it should not be ignored that this is a hugely talented group of players that have underperformed in Brazil. Of course, it was a tough group, but for a team with that amount of talent to only muster a single point is unacceptable, and indicates that, if such an indication was needed, it's probably not the best idea to have intra-squad scraps at a major tournament. In the end, Ghana got what they deserved.
Space investigator set for greatness
In Germany, Mueller is known as the Raumdeute, which roughly translates as the 'space investigator'. It's a slightly mysterious nickname for a player whose qualities are, themselves, slightly mysterious. He isn't particularly quick, he isn't especially skilful, he isn't that good in the air – indeed, he doesn't appear to really have any standout qualities to his game, making it a little difficult to really warm to him. But despite all of this, after his winner against the USA, he now has nine World Cup goals, putting him level with Eusebio, Vava and Paolo Rossi, among others. Mueller probably has two World Cups left in him, plus a good portion of this one, meaning he already has team-mate Miroslav Klose's scoring record in his sights. So who needs people to warm to you, eh?
Germany can go far in this tournament
Germany are through, with two wins and a thrilling draw under their belt from a very tough group, but aside from the first win over Portugal, they haven't been especially convincing. So how far will they progress in the tournament? The good news for Jogi Loew is that form in the group phases isn't always an indicator of whether a team can win the World Cup. Spain lost to Switzerland in 2010, Italy were quietly efficient in 2006, etc and so on and so forth – the first round is simply about surviving, about getting through, and Germany have done that with relatively little alarm. With a couple of very live contenders already out, Loew's men have as much chance as any of the big teams.
Ronaldo's hopes of starring on the biggest stage are over
Finally! All of the talk around Leo Messi has been about how he won't be able to take his place among the very elite unless he at least stars at a World Cup, ideally wins it and if possible wins it on his own. There is less of such talk around Cristiano Ronaldo, perhaps because most recognise that Argentina had a much greater chance of winning the whole thing than Portugal, but nevertheless, despite getting his country to Brazil with one of the most extraordinary solo performances in international history in their play-off against Sweden, he has been below par in this World Cup. How much of that is down to injury? We might never know, because Ronaldo himself has insisted he is at full fitness, but that is patently not the case. His relatively muted celebrations for both the equaliser he brilliantly set up against the USA and the winner he scored against Ghana have been put down in some rather unkind quarters to a lack of interest, but it's probably more motivated by frustration that he cannot perform to his abilities. Ronaldo will be 33 by the next World Cup, and one doubts he will be able to perform at his exhilarating best for another four years.
Blundering Akinfeev does it again
Not too long ago, Igor Akinfeev was touted as one of the best young goalkeepers in Europe, reported to be a target of the biggest and richest clubs on the continent. Those big claims looked a long time ago in this World Cup, because if one was to point a harsh, scapegoating finger of blame at one particular player in the Russian side, it would be Akinfeev. His calamitous error against South Korea potentially cost them a win in their opening game, while his comical flap against Algeria allowed the African side to equalise and progress into the knockout phase at Russia's expense. There was some suggestion that a laser pointed from the crowd might have put Akinfeev off, but in truth that would be an excuse.
Algeria become the first feel-good success story of the tournament
And so, for the first time in their history, Algeria are through to the knockout phase of the World Cup. It was the best result for the neutrals that they succeeded, with neither Russia nor South Korea providing a huge amount to get excited about, but the raw passion from both Algeria's players and fans, plus their young, exciting side will make their clash with Germany one of the best in the second round. It represents quite a turnaround as well, after they lost their opening game to Belgium, something that caused many to criticise manager Vahid Halilhodzic. "You journalists have always criticised me, but the Algerian fans have always been behind us,” he said after they thrashed South Korea in their second game. That they have, and if they continue to play like this, the support won't be going anywhere in a hurry.
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