World Cup: Recaps

Keeping up with the Cup: Day 1

PSP hadn’t planned on pulling out the ol’ Geiger Counter until the man himself took center stage for the Colombia-Greece matchup on Saturday. But, alas, Yuichi Nishimura gives us little choice.

The buildup to the 2014 World Cup has been fraught with controversy. From Sepp Blatter’s absurd claims of racism, to Sepp Blatter’s absurd claims of non-corruption, to Brazil’s absurd claim that it was anything close to ready to host the Cup, there were many corrupt-leaning people hoping that once the soccer actually began, the controversies would die down.

Nope. This time they were just on the field.

Brazil 3-1 Croatia

Hometown treatment

Brazil, the odds-on favorites to win it all, did not look good early. Croatia quickly shaped up into a 4-4-2 defensively but broke out with speed and purpose. As Luis Gustavo, a sleep Thiago Silva, and David Luiz knocked the ball lazily around the back, the Croatians tightly followed Oscar and Neymar, asking Brazil to force balls into a crowded midfield. They did, and it cost them.

Croatia found space up the left behind the increasingly useless Dani Alves, and Ivica Olic’s 11th minute low cross touched Nikica Jelavic and bounded into the path of a retreating Marcelo, who couldn’t help but knock it into his own net.

But this is Brazil’s tournament, and a series of fortunate events turned the tide in the host’s favor. First, Oscar benefitted from a pair of fortunate bounces to come out on the other side of two Croatian tackles in midfield. The Chelsea man dinked a short pass to Neymar, who turned upfield and drove the defense back. With his newfound space, the man with the weight of a nation on his shoulders mishit a left-footed shot that skimmed across goal, hit the far post, and snuck in. It was a shot only worthy of a highlight reel because it’s his first of the Cup.

No more Nishimura

Speaking of highlight reels, referee Nishimura will have a very short one from this World Cup. Referees that make mistakes don’t usually get a second assignment, and Nishimura made a couple biggies. In the 70th minute, an otherwise-absent Fred went wildly to ground in the box as he attempted to turn his defender. There was no contact; it was not a penalty. Yet, the Japanese referee pointed to the spot and Neymar finished the spot kick through the outstretched arms of an unlucky Stipe Pletikosa.

Moments later, Nishimura called Croatia for interfering with Julio Cesar on an aerial ball, negating the tying goal. While not as cut-and-dry horrible as the penalty, it was a very questionable whistle.

Croatian keeper Pletikosa hardly covered himself in glory. After failing to get across on Neymar’s first, and letting the penalty squeak through his hands, he was beaten by a 20-yard Oscar toepoke in the 90th minute, giving his team a -2 goal differential going into their second match.


Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric are outstanding all-around players. Modric’s deeper role at Madrid this year has helped him learn how to read play defensively, and Croatia were always ready to spring an attack when the Brazilians got too cute in midfield. They will shine in the other two group matches.

Dani Alves. Woof. The Barcelona right back looked a shadow of his former self. Dribbling into trouble, getting caught upfield… it’s like he’s trying to emulate post-Inter Milan Maicon or something.

Neymar might require the Pirlo treatment. Look, Brazil is good and all, but unless Fred has another gear, they aren’t going to generate a ton of offense without their golden boy. Will anyone take a chance and try to man-mark Brazil’s number ten out of the game?

Will Brazil stick with their midfield? Paulinho and Luis Gustavo are good and all… but hardly good enough to turn in a lackluster performance and keep Ramires, Hernanes, and Bernard on the bench. Head coach Scolari clearly prefers the two he started today, but they need to be better to keep their spots.

Geiger counter – 0



  1. Absolutely brutal PK call. That could’ve easily been a yellow on Fred for simulation – it was that far away from being a PK. And the goalkeeping was pretty weak on all three goals given up – is he really the best they have? No lateral quickness at all.

    • Let’s not forget to mention Nishimura’s early caution on Neymar for elbowing the Croatian player in the head (can’t remember who he elbowed). That looked intentional on the replay, and in a different game, a stricter ref could have easily given a red.

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