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The Clean Sheets: Early Group Stage Reactions

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird, a four-time FSWA Award finalist, is RotoWire's Senior Soccer Editor and an editor for the site's NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, CBB and DFS content.

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew M. Laird
Sent: Monday, June 18, 2014 9:06pm
To: Nick Pitner
Subject: The Clean Sheets

I wanted to wait until Spain and Netherlands played another match before starting this up because I wasn't sure what happened during their match, which saw the Dutch post five goals on a Spain side that hadn't given up that many goals in the last two World Cups.

Was this the end of an era for La Roja or just an incredibly bad day against a Dutch side that was clearly playing at their best?

After beating Australia 3-2 on Wednesday, it looks like Oranje are for real. And after getting blanked 0-2 by Chile, Spain are done. Thanks to goal differential, they are dead last in Group B, a shocking thing to see after two matches. Both of us predicted a relatively short run for the Spanish in this tournament, but did anyone see them giving up seven goals in two matches, while their only score was from a Xabi Alonso penalty?

If there's one thing I'm certain of, it's that Diego Costa absolutely does not fit in with this side; and ironically, he's exactly what Brazil are missing.

Talk about a completely different team against Mexico than they were against Croatia. Free agent goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was an absolute brick wall against Brazil, who had to contend with a keeper playing about as well as any goalie in the world. But let's get real here: if Brazil are to win the World Cup, they have to be able to score goals. Yes, this is a more defensive-minded unit than we've seen in the past, but you still need to put the ball in the net, and outside of Neymar, who had a number of excellent opportunities turned away by Ochoa, who is going to score for the Brazilians?

There is plenty more to talk about, including my voice finally starting to get back to normal after shouting about how much I loved John Brooks on Monday, but let's start here.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Pitner
Sent: Monday, June 19, 2014 3:25pm
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: re: The Clean Sheets

The 2010 final rematch certainly went unexpectedly in my book. The aging Dutch were seemingly sliding, while Spain was coming off three straight major tournament victories and had just added a premier striker in attack. Needless to say, Holland blindsided the Spanish in spectacular fashion and the match's momentum ultimately carried over to the following contest for both teams.

The Netherlands are expectedly reliant on the Robin van Persie/Robben combo, but manager Louis van Gaal's three-man defense offers great offensive potential and it will be interesting to see if he implements the same system at Manchester United this season.

As you said, Diego Costa's decision to represent Spain instead of his native Brazil is clearly the wrong one. He looked like a fish out of water in La Roja's "tiki-taka" game. On the other hand, Costa is exactly the kind of target man that the host country is yearning for up front, especially since current No. 9 Fred has been absolutely invisible in the tournament thus far.

Brazil still looks solid in defense, but as I anticipated, their attackers not named Neymar need to fulfill their potential in order to make a deep tournament run. Outside of Oscar, nobody has impressed in complementing Neymar's dazzling ability.

With regard to the US, their opening game versus Ghana was fascinating. After claiming a lead 30 seconds into the action, America took a back seat to their opponents for virtually the entire match. Nonetheless, some late heroics earned the Stars and Stripes an all important three points. However, with Portugal being embarrassed in their opener, the sledding will only get tougher for the States. Fingers crossed we have more tricks up our sleeve.