FIFA World Cup:: Meet the minnows who rose this year...
Costa Rica were in the Group of Death alongside England, Italy and Uruguay, so psychologically they had to go all out with nothing to lose. And they did just that, and thanks to quality players like Bryan Ruiz, who scored the winner against Italy, and Joel Campbell they went on to top Group D beating both Italy and Uruguay en route. Tactically, technically and defensively Costa Rica are a strong team and proved this with a sturdy draw against England, which was enough to take them to the second round. They play Greece next, a quarter-final spot seems certain.
Costa Rica players celebrate their goal against Uruguay during a Group D match at the Castelao Stadium in Fortaleza recently. Pic/AFP
Australia had an equally tough group (Spain, Italy, the Netherlands). One thought they would totally depend on striker Tim Cahill. But surprisingly, they played like a well-knit unit both in attack and defence. This showed this in the game against the Dutch, which they nearly won (2-3). Though they did not make it to Round 2, they thoroughly entertained and provided one of the goals of this tournament — a fantastic volley from Cahill against the Netherlands.
Algeria comparatively had an easy group (Belgium, Russia, South Korea). The North Africans impressed with some slick passes and a steady defence during their 1-2 defeat to Belgium and 4-2 rout of South Korea. The hardworking midfield comprising Nabil Bentaleb, Sofiance Feghouli and Saphir Taieder have relayed some defence-splitting passes to in-form striker Islam Slimani, bringing them on the verge of qualifying for the second round.
Ecuador were unlucky to lose 1-2 to Switzerland before going on to beat Honduras and then playing out a draw with France. They relied heavily on striker Enner Valencia and he delivered. Had it not been for a stoppage time error (93rd minute) against the Swiss, they could've been in Round 2.
The writer is a former India vice-captain and striker