I must say I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of the games so far and the tournament is making a very good impression. Brazil, in Group A, remains favourite because of their win over Croatia. Despite their controversial penalty they were good value for the win and are the best team in this group. They have special quality in Oscar and Neymar but have quality throughout their team with offensive full backs who attack repeatedly. Second place could be between Mexico and Croatia who seem well matched. Mexico has advantage after their win over Cameroon despite two disallowed goals against a good but disorganised African team.
Therefore and as I said, the second position does not seem sure because Croatia is not a bad team, there are quite equal.
As for Group B, Spain will have to try and thrash both Chile and Australia if they want to qualify, but probably in second place. Holland showed power aggression ambition and great speed on the counter attack in a display that makes them clear favourite to win the group. Australia sadly seems not to have many options and Chile, as much as Spain, will be aware that goal difference may be as decisive as points.
When we look at Group C, Columbia and Ivory Coast look like they will decide first and second place when both teams clash after their respective victories against Greece and Japan. Unless, of course, we have a surprise result.
Looking at the more difficult Group D, the absence of Luis Suarez has weakened Uruguay greatly and will possibly be the cause of their elimination. Both England and Italy have superior squads with more potential than Costa Rica and Uruguay. Perhaps only a fit Luis Suarez would be able to help the Uruguayans to qualify.
The games in Group E have shown a French side far superior to Honduras and Switzerland. Every game will be different but the late victory of Switzerland leaves them favourites to qualify alongside a group winning France.
Argentina with Messi, Higuain and Agüero leading their attack are not expected to have any trouble winning Group F with a defensive line of four or five (they switched at half time). Bosnia will contest second place with Nigeria and Iran, who played out a goalless draw. Argentina will be favourite to progress further in the competition.
Group G matches have left Germany in a position of strength after their victory against Portugal, who as well as suffering a heavy defeat, lost two players due to muscle injuries (Coentrao and Almedia) plus one dismissed (Pepe). USA’s last minute victory from a Brooks goal means they will be in good spirit to play Portugal with their missing players and possible low morale. As in group B maybe goal difference will be vital for the second place.
The first Group H game was a very interesting clash between Algeria and Belgium. Algeria led through a Feghouli penalty and Belgium struggled until the end as they played with no pace or ingenuity. Mertens and Fellani changed Belgium when they came off the bench, both players scoring in a 2-1 win. I felt sorry for Faouzi Ghoulam our left back at SSC Napoli but had to be pleased for Dries Mertens who displayed the quality he has shown all season for us playing on the right sometimes against Fauozi. A great response from Belgium. The other surprise was Russia, who didn't play well and needed Kerzhakov’s goal in order to draw after the mistake of Akinfeev. Both teams are still favourites but need to improve if they want qualify on the 26th June when this group finishes.
The balance of the first round has been very good with lots of goals and better pitch conditions than we were led to expect. The heat has been affecting some teams but as they adapt the games will speed up. With even more goals and entertainment. Enjoy it!