by Jake Montgomery
It was a good day at the World Cup for those fans who speak español and have that uncanny ability to rrrrrroll their R’s (—it really is very difficult for some of us), except for one team that I’m forgetting but should remember, as if they were slipping from the spotlight closer and closer to irrelevance…it’ll come to me eventually. Today’s games were pretty standard and unsurprising: Despite the best efforts of a bad line judge, Mexico responded to doubters and earned what seemed to be both an emotional and actual victory over feckless Cameroon; reigning champions Spain lost by four goals; and Chile, led by Neymar’s talented Barcelona teammate Alexis Sánchez, finally put the pesky Socceroos away 3-1 in extra time. Wait. Hold up. Go back a second. Spain lost by four?! Four goals?!? As in the flying Dutchmen almost Fifa apologied the unbeatable Spanish machine that hasn’t lost a major tournament since eight years and two World Cups ago?! (Sorry, Mexico supporters, the olympics don’t count). How did this happen?
To start with, the Dutch were fantastic, led by Daniel Day Lewis and Jean-Luc Picard…or rather Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben. To be honest I got that one form my mom, but check it out. Uncanny:
The Dutch dominated, at least on the score sheet, which is the only thing that matters in a tough group that will likely rely on goal difference to determine which teams go home right away, which team goes home after playing Brazil, and which team has a chance at further glory. However, Spain outplayed the Netherlands in the first half, possessing the ball, creating chances, and almost keeping a clean sheet. Almost. It took a moment of brilliance from Van Persie to break the Spanish Armada’s line and begin the leakage.For the first time all game, RVP was able to make an onside run before exquisitely heading Daley Blind’s long cross over the swiveling head of the Spanish keeper, Iker Casillas. It was the first of five, and the five should have been six. Wesley Sniejder, who didn’t even play that well, missed a gimme at the end. Spain’s defense looked worse than the Miami Heat trying to stop Greg Poppovich’s Spurs at home in games 4 and 5 of this year’s NBA playoffs. Heck, the Spanish defense looked worse than the Miami Heat trying to stop the Dutch soccer team at soccer. Dwyane Wade would fit right into this World Cup, probably drawing a PK for his team in every single game. And that brings us to the negatives for Spain, of which we’ll focus on two.
First, Spain did not score a single legitimate goal in a game where their opponents scored five, almost six, seven, eight. The paradigm of the problem was washed up, futile striker Fernando Torres—who, in case it wasn’t clear before, is not currently a good soccer player and hasn’t been for years—and who, for some unknowable reason, was unwilling to let loose a shot on a gaping, wide open net in the second half. Neymar would have scored the chance with both of his legs tied behind his back. Torres chose instead to give the ball back to some late-arriving Dutch defenders. What manners he has!
Spain’s other striker, the hotheaded Diego Costa, was unable to utilize and answer the heckling of the Brazilian fans in attendence. In case you hadn’t heard, a few years ago Costa chose to play for the Spanish national team although he was born in Brazil. Now, he will likely be suspended for a low-key head butt on a Dutch defender in the middle of a lackluster performance. His only moment of note was the Dwyane Wade-esque flop in the box that led to Xabi Alonso’s PK goal. Spain’s second problem was in front of their own net.
The goalkeeping will no longer be an issue, as Manchester United keeper David De Gea will be able to play with all of the form that Casillas currently lacks. However, the defense will need to shore up its sagging holes before playing Chile in a pivotal must-win for La Roja. That game should be incredible, as Spain is on the brink of unprecedented failure and Chile is on the brink of success with exciting young players leading the charge. Don’t bother watching Netherlands-Australia. Instead, spend that time enjoying Arjen Robben feature in that Star Trek episode you’ve been meaning to rewatch or Robin Van Persie win an Oscar in that Abraham Lincoln movie.
And now the moment you’ve been waiting for, probably the only reason you are reading this article in the first place: I will tell you how today’s action relates to our hero, the bearer of the Brazilian cross (huh?), the maestro of the yellow orchestra, the man, the myth, the heaven-sent soccer prophet, Neymar. In the 2010 World Cup, the highest goal scorers each graced the net 5 times during the tournament. On the first day of the 2014 Cup, Neymar scored 2/5 of that total already, which would seem to set him up to be the tournament’s high scorer except that two more players—Van Persie and Robben no less—tied that mark on Day 2. My bet on Neymar is suddenly in danger, and I can only take solace in knowing that his two challengers play for the same team and will thus likely “steal” goals from one another. Here’s to hoping the Dutch can’t muster five-should-have-been-six in every game…