Things can turn quickly at the World Cup. Just ask American striker Clint Dempsey, whose deft goal just 34 seconds into the Americans’ critical match with Ghana turned the Group of Death on its head. The US scored early and late as it exorcised its Black Star demons in dramatic fashion on Monday night.

 

As we approach the one week mark of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we take a moment to celebrate the unexpected as well as the familiar, forcing us to reconcile the things we know with the things we thought we knew. Perhaps the only thing we can say with certainty is that life sure looks a whole lot better when viewed through the prism of Rio. With that in mind, let’s pour the cachasa and take a Group by Group look at the highs and lows of the tournament thus far.

 

Neymar, Brail Forward in June 12, 2014 FIFA World Cup game against Croatia (J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Neymar, Forward, Brazil in June 12, 2014 FIFA World Cup game against Croatia (J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Group A: The host country, Brazil, holds steady with a workmanlike victory over Croatia. Neymar proved that he is ready for the big stage, while Fred proved that the best play in futbol is to fake an injury and hope that someone rewards you with a penalty kick. Brazil appears in no danger of conceding this group. As suspected, Mexico vs. Croatia will be the money match for this quartet, while the Lions of Cameroon are prepared to bow out with a meek roar.

 

Robin Van Persie-FIFA-Getty Images

Robin Van Persie, Forward, Netherlands in June 13, 2014 FIFA World Cup game vs. Spain (FIFA/Getty Images)

Group B: Who needs Batman when you have Robin and Robben? Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben each potted a pair of goals for the Netherlands, who thoroughly embarrassed the defending World Cup champions. The Dutch might want to send Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas a couple cases of Heineken, as he muffed his way through a disastrous debut. Let’s all raise a glass to Van Persie’s instant-classic header, which earned him the nickname the Flying Dutchman and set the bar high for goal of the tournament status. Chile remains a threat for the number two slot in the group, with a convincing win over the Aussies, who no doubt have already tapped the keg on the Foster’s and are staking out their spots on Copacabana beach.

 

Didier Drogba, Forward, Côte d'Ivoire in June 14, 2014 FIFA World Cup game against Japan

Didier Drogba, Forward, Côte d’Ivoire in June 14, 2014 FIFA World Cup game vs. Japan (www.thestar.com)

Group C: Do not count out Didier Drogba just yet, as he was the catalyst for Ivory Coast’s inspired win over Japan. The knockout stage is certainly within grasp for Les Elephants, who just might salvage some magic for the golden generation. Colombia appears to be the class of this group, with Greece quickly assuming its defensive doormat posture. Japan has an uphill climb, but the Blue Samurai will force Ivory Coast to remain sharp for the remainder of group stage.

 

Group D: What in the name of pura vida happened here? Los Ticos of Costa Rica thoroughly outclassed the plucky, Suarez-less Uruguayans. With all due respect to the Dutch, this is the shocker of the tournament, and it puts a serious dent in the South American side’s bid for a deep run. La Celeste will go toe-to-toe with European stalwarts England and Italy in the upcoming days, with the Azzuri appearing to be the kings of the quartet. Their match vs. the Brits deep in the heart of the Amazon was fascinating on so many levels, mostly because the city of Manaus may very well be the most humid place on earth. It was a bad hair day for everyone involved, including England’s Wayne Rooney, whose hair plugs continue to be a bit unsettling. Only time will tell if the loss of Italy’s stalwart keeper Gigi Buffon will be a fatal flaw.

 

Group E: Well, let us give the French some credit for not totally embarrassing themselves so far. The laughingstocks of the 2010 World Cup toyed with Honduras and are certainly in prime position to capture the group title. Switzerland’s legion of loyal cheese heads proved to be more boisterous and a whole lot slimmer than their Green Bay counterparts, and the Swiss emerged from a fondue haze to stun Ecuador with a game-winning goal in extra time. It is hard to imagine Ecuador recovering from this dagger, but there’s always a chance that the French will do something completely dumbfounding.

 

Messi, Forward, Argentina (www.adelaidenow.com.au)

Lionel Messi, Forward, Argentina in June 15, 2014 FIFA World Cup game vs. Bosnia Herzegovina (www.adelaidenow.com.au)

Group F: Messi. The best player on the planet punctuated Argentina’s efficient win over Bosnia with a breathtaking marker, and one can only hope it leads to a breakout World Cup for the boy wonder who has often been thwarted while playing for his home country. Nigeria and Iran set the sport back 100 years with a soporific 0-0 special. World Cup rules dictate that two teams must emerge from this group, but we may be hard-pressed to find a deserving dance partner for the tango-toed Argentines. The Super Eagles appear to be grounded like Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons. If only they could breathe fire. Bosnia could advance by default.

 

Thomas Müller, Midfielder/Forward, Germany (Stu Forster/Getty Images))

Thomas Müller, Midfielder/Forward, Germany in June 16, 2014 FIFA World Cup game vs. Portugal (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Group G: We are happy to report that some things will never change in the World cup. That means the entire male population can perpetuate its universal hate — read: jealousy — towards Christiano Ronaldo while we rejoice in Portugal’s quadrennial implosion. This year it took approximately 23 minutes for the meltdown to commence, as the worst-first-half-ever featured a red card and three goals conceded to Germany. As for Duetschland, that…was…awesome! Simply put, they are a force to be reckoned with. Given Team USA’s opening match salvo, all eyes will be in the Amazon once again this weekend for the pivotal contest with Portugal.

 

Group H: The most intriguing team of the World Cup is one of the last to kick off. The Red Devils of Belgium are the trendy pick among futbol hipsters. Quite frankly, there’s no reason they should  not dominate this flawed bunch.

 

 

What are your most memorable moments from the opening week of the World Cup? Talk about it here or reach out to me @endbadly on Twitter.