The first round of matches is already over after a whirlwind first few days at the World Cup. We've had resounding victories, crushing defeats, surprising comebacks, shocking calls and a glut of goals in what has been one of the best starts to a major tournament in recent memory. Let's take a look at the winners and losers from the first phase of the tournament:
Netherlands - There's no better way to announce your intentions on the world's greatest stage than defeating the defending European and World Champions, and the fact that it was a 5-1 demolition has made that feat all the more impressive. Louis Van Gaal has put together a fluid, attack-minded team that will be brimming with confidence heading into their next match with Australia. If only I had any Dutch players in my fantasy team...
United States - Despite being overmatched and overrun for the vast majority of their match against Ghana, the US team was able to claim victory over their nemesis in the first match in a way that encapsulates what America is all about, and brings back memories of the win over Algeria four years ago. Jermaine Jones was phenomenal and John Brooks will have a memory for a lifetime, but the Americans will have to recover and up their game to get a result against Portugal.
Joel Campbell - In the biggest upset of the tournament so far, Costa Rica was able to take down Uruguay by a score of 3-1, and Campbell had a breakout performance with a goal and an assist. The Arsenal man, who has spent the season on loan at Olympiakos, will be attracting a lot of interest from big clubs after his all-action display. Arsene Wenger could certainly do worse than to bring him back to London for next season.
Guillermo Ochoa - This is probably cheating things a bit as it was his performance against Brazil in match day 2 that really earns him a spot here, but it's impossible to leave out the free agent keeper after consecutive clean sheets. He'll be celebrated as a national hero, especially if Mexico can make it out of Group A.
Thomas Mueller - An opening game hat-trick against Portugal is a dream start for the German striker, who continues to perform at the highest level in international tournaments. You can't help but love the guy, and kudos to you if you managed to have him in your team. With the form he's in, Miroslav Klose may only get a chance at breaking the all-time scoring record in the World Cup if the Germans have already sealed their place in the next round by match day 3.
Spain - Conversely to the Netherlands, it was almost embarrassing to see the greatest generation of Spanish players fizzle out with barely a whimper against the Dutch. With their four goal deficit in goal differential, there's a distinct possibility of them not making it through to the Round of 16.
Uruguay - As a top team playing on home turf of sorts in South America, you'd expect the Uruguayans to come out of the gates with an impressive first-match performance, but falling 3-1 to Costa Rica was a real shock. Whether it was the absence of Luis Suarez or underestimating their opponents, La Celeste will need to up their game significantly against England and Italy.
Greece - For a team lauded for its defensive prowess, falling 3-0 to Colombia in the first match was extremely disappointing. The Greeks will need to get their act together on both sides of the ball if they're going to have any chance of advancing from what looked like a promising group for them.
Jozy Altidore - While his team got a crucial victory over Ghana, it came at a heavy cost for the young striker, who was just looking like rounding back into form. Hamstring injuries are awful to recover from, and the way he pulled up suggests it's a bad injury that will rule him out of the remainder of the tournament. It's a real shame for a player who, even when he isn't scoring, is giving his all to create chances for his teammates.
The McDonald's Fantasy Game - It's great to be able to play fantasy during the World Cup, but there have been a number of issues with the game so far, from unannounced rule changes, formation change glitches, random scoring discrepancies and more, it's been a frustrating and disappointing start to the tournament from a fantasy perspective.
Up For Debate
Brazil - The host nation has put four points on the board in their first two matches, which is enough for them to lead the group at the moment, but not being able to score against Mexico and depending on a controversial call to claim three points over Croatia has shown us that the host nation isn't as dominant as we all thought they'd be. Still, if they can get their act together and claim victory over Cameroon they'll be through to the next round and will have a chance to make a deep run in the tournament.
England - There were quite a few positives to take from the England - Italy match for the Three Lions, chiefly the exciting attacking approach taken by Roy Hodgson in the first half. Raheem Sterling was particularly excellent and Daniel Sturridge scored a well-taken goal, but the Brits were still unable to claim a point and Hodgson made some questionable substitutions as the game approached its conclusion. Keeping Wayne Rooney on for the full 90 when he was obviously off his game is perhaps an indication of the lack of ruthlessness needed to get the best 11 on the pitch.
The referees - The match officials didn't set a great tone for the World Cup with a bad penalty call in Brazil's favor in the tournament-opener, and things didn't get much better with two additional incorrectly judged offside calls in the Mexico - Cameroon game. However, there has been some world-class officiating on display, most notably in the dying moments of the match between Switzerland and Ecuador when Valon Behrami was tumbled over in his own half. The Swiss midfielder got back to his feet quickly, however, and the referee allowed the advantage to develop. The result? A stoppage-time winner directly from the counter-attack Behrami started. Hopefully we're in for more displays like that and less of the officiating we saw in the first two matches.
After a slightly disappointing 97 points for my team in Round 1, I'm hopeful of a better performance this time around. I've got 16 points on the board from Julio Cesar and Neymar, and hopefully my second captain of the round Ivan Rakitic can deliver the goods against Cameroon.
What have been the biggest stories from the World Cup so far for you? Who do you think will win their matches during the second phase? Let's chat!