It’s not so easy to whittle down 56 games worth of frenetic, fraught-filled football fun into a list of five, but here at Ladbrokes News we’re more than willing to put in the hard yards for your reading delectation.
Here are our top quintet of World Cup 2014 clashes so far. Agree?
5. Switzerland 2-5 France
After Didier Deschamps’ unpredictable outfit had seen off a poor Honduras side with ease in their opening fixture, a big performance against Switzerland was required if France were to be taken seriously in the tournament, and the players duly obliged.
All five France goals against Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men were scored by different players, although striker Karim Benzema thought he’d doubled up when netting with the last kick of the match, but the referee’s whistle was already being used to signal full-time.
Three strikes in 23 first-half minutes put paid to the match as a contest, and two more with just over 15 minutes to go turned it into a rout.
Switzerland weren’t quite finished though, with Blerim Dzemaili’s grass-cutting free kick and Granit Xhaka’s smart volley ensuring a nervy end to the match for Les Bleus.
4. Spain 1-5 Holland
La Seleccion’s World Cup defence was going splendiferously until a minute before half-time, with Xabi Alonso’s 27th-minute penalty separating Spain and Louis van Gaal’s Oranje.
Just over an hour later, Vicente del Bosque’s boys had been Robin and Robben-ed, with the Dutch duo bagging a brace apiece and shattering Spain’s six-year aura in one fell swoop.
3. Brazil 0-0 Mexico
What the hosts’ second Group A fixture lacked in goals it more than made up for in intensity and drama, with everyone’s favourite free agent, Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, pulling off six saves, including a Gordon Banks-esque launch across his line from Neymar’s header.
2. Belgium 2-1 USA (aet)
This last-16 clash will be many fans’ favourite of the tournament so far, and with fair cause after the eye-catching attacking fare served up by Marc Wilmots’ men came so close to nothing thanks to inspired Stars and Stripes goalie Tim Howard.
Everton’s number one made 15 saves during the fixture, but was finally thwarted first by Kevin de Bruyne and then Romelu Lukaku in extra-time.
That wasn’t all she wrote though, with Team USA boss Jurgen Klinsmann finally forced to introduce 19-year-old Bayern Munich forward Julian Green at half-time in extra-time, who duly obliged with a sharp volley that kept Belgium nerves a jangling.
Jermaine Jones almost forced a penalty shoot-out following Green’s effort, but Klinsmann’s improving outfit eventually bowed out with pride.
1. Germany 2-2 Ghana
If only Kwesi Appiah’s Black Stars had been more alert to USA’s attacking threat in their first-fixture 2-1 loss, instead of reacting like blinded rabbits when Clint Dempsey stormed through to open the scoring from kick-off, then they might still be involved in Brazil.
Ghana showed what they can do in spades against the 5/1 shots for a fourth World Cup win when charging back from a goal down to take the lead at 2-1, before Miroslav Klose equalised to tie with Brazil’s Ronaldo as the top scorer in World Cup history, with 15 goals.
Despite Germany claiming over 60 per cent of possession, Ghana had more shots on and off target than Joachim Low’s men, with brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew both guilty of wastefulness towards the end of the match.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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