World Cup Group Stage About Progressing, Not Glory
One of the difficult things surrounding the opening matches of the 2014 World Cup is for teams not to get too excited about any particular match in the group stage. While the Netherlands’ 5-1 victory over Spain was enchanting and while Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa’s performance against Brazil was admiral, one must remember that these games will not live long in the World Cup memory. The simple reason for that is because we are just at the beginning of the tournament, and there is still a long way to go.
This will be of special importance to the American national team, coming off of their tremendous win over Ghana and avenging the miseries of the past 2 World Cups. While John Brooks’ late goal sent the nation into a pandemonium of enjoyment, there is still a lot of work to be done just in order for the team to qualify for the knockout rounds, where the real fun begins.
Up next for the USA is Portugal, a team battered by the ruthless Germany team. While Portugal looked woeful and disorganized, and with several key defenders set to miss the match due to suspension and injury, the American chances look bright. However, we must remember that this team houses Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the world’s greatest soccer players, and that Germany is a team that can make even the best of nations look bad.
And so while we look back fondly on America’s opening victory, we must remember to look ahead at the major task at hand. Should the team get a result, perhaps then celebrations can be had, but right now the USA team needs to regroup and re-focus for the two games ahead, with Germany looming large as the final group stage game.
And this showcases a larger truth within the World Cup experience. These opening round games are for the lesser teams of the world to showcase their players and embrace the experience. For the genuine contenders actually capable of lifting the trophy, the group stage is about one thing: advancing to the knockout rounds.
World Cups are won in the finals, when two teams that have battled all the odds and defeated the other major nations meet to determine who truly is the world’s best. Scoring a ton of goals against a weaker team or getting revenge on a previous World Cup defeat really means nothing on the grand scheme of things, especially this early. All that matters is getting the necessary points in order to progress through to the next round. From then on, all that matters is beating your next opponent, nothing else. But in the group stage things always get hairy. A mistaken upset or a couple draws can completely throw a group’s fortunes up into the air. By the time the third match arrives all sorts of tiebreakers and different results needed make qualification a major task. This is where we will see the full merit of the American team and all the others looking to make a run to the knockout rounds.
And so while we can still look back and enjoy a particular opening victory for all the happy winners, let us remember that for every team there is still a lot of work to be done in order to get through to the knockout rounds and potentially make a deep run at the 2014 World Cup!