World Cup round-up - Dutch delight, Pain for Spain and refereeing gaffes

Robin van Persie soars through the air to score the Dutch equalizer - Jeff Gross

The World Cup has kicked off in style with the referees and the Netherlands dominating the headlines...

The World Cup is underway and there's been shocks, refereeing controversies and plenty of goals. Let's hope it continues this way.

 

Double dutch brilliance from van Persie and Robben

Many people, including myself, had written off the Netherlands' chances of success at the World Cup but with veteran attackers like Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben they could yet be a match for anyone. Van Persie looks sharp and clinical again upfront and Robben's pace against Spain was nothing short of astonishing. The way he accelerated clear of Sergio Ramos for the 5th goal was phenomenal. I picked out Daley Blind as a rising star in my preview of Group B and he didn't disappoint as his passes for the first two goals were perfect and his last gasp block on Torres in injury time showed his will to win.

I still remain to be convinced that the Dutch can win the tournament but they've almost certainly booked a place in the next round with their amazing 5-1 victory over Spain. And how great for the soccer purists to see their starting lineup wearing numbers 1-11.

 

Pain for Spain in the second half rain

If you only watched the first 40 minutes of the Spain vs Netherlands match, you could be forgiven for thinking that Spain would cruise to a comfortable possession based victory like they have for the last 6 years. But then the heavens opened and Spain fell apart. The Dutch were highly impressive in the second period but Spain looked all over the place in defence, unsure how to play with a central striker and their veteran goalkeeper had a shocker. The Spanish keeper, Iker Casillas has more caps than anyone else in this World Cup but surely its time for him to lose his place for Spain like he has for Real Madrid. He did make a couple of good saves at the end but his mistakes for the 3rd and 4th goals were terrible. Pepe Reina has waited patiently for his turn in goal and David de Gea could be the Spain keeper for the next decade. It wouldn't be surprising to see Del Bosque take Casillas out of the spotlight.

Casillas is not the only Spanish player under threat. Del Bosque could revert to Cesc Fabregas as a false nine instead of Diego Costa, Pedro could earn a place and the defensive pairing of Pique and Ramos needs some shoring up.

 

Refereeing chaos

There's only been 4 games so far and yet every game has seen some poor decisions from the match officials. All the talk beforehand was about goal-line technology and vanishing spray but its been human error by the referees that that has dominated.

Croatia were robbed by an awful penalty decision to gift Brazil their opening win and this was followed up by Giovani dos Santos been denied two perfectly legitimate goals for Mexico. Luckily for Mexico, they still had enough to beat Cameroon, who looked very poor. Even in the two Group B games, there was controversy as Diego Costa's headbutt went unpunished and van Persie hit the bar when clearly in an offside position.

While the focus has shifted away from refereeing thanks to the Dutch performance, let's hope the weekend will not see repeats of the controversies so we can focus on the football.

 

Today its the turn of Italy, England and Uruguay amongst others to enter the fray. It will be well worth watching especially to see whether England can break down Italy's stubborn defense in Group D.

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