Stories of the World Cup: Why did the bigger teams struggle?
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Germany, Spain, Argentina. Why did so many of the world's supposedly top sides struggle to make an impact at one of the most open World Cups in years? Who has struggled? Many sides have struggled against lesser opponents but the main stands out are the two finalists from 2014, Germany and Argentina. The Germans were beaten 1-0 by Mexico on matchday 1 before reviving chances with a late victory over Sweden. Argentina on the other hand only had a point to there name and faced a real possibility of not reaching the knockout stages, following an opening game draw to Iceland and then a 3-0 hammering from the very impressive Croatia. Other teams that were far from impressive included Brazil, who were held by Switzerland before leaving it late to beat Costa Rica and France, who despite having 6 points seemingly struggled against lesser opposition in Australia and Peru. Why did the big teams struggle? Pressure and expectation? Failure to break down defensively minded sides? Not as good as everyone thinks? Perhaps a bit of everything. Sides such as Argentina and Germany have such a depth to there respective squads that many other counties would take in a heartbeat however they haven't shown it so far. Argentina carries huge amounts of pressure and the expectation is that they should challenge for World Cup glory and who can blame them when they have arguably two of the hottest forwards in world football at their disposal in the shape of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero? However, they looked lacklustre and lethargic during the opening game against Iceland and despite having over 70% of possession, struggled to find the key winner. Much has also been made about the cautious approach from manager Jorge Sampaoli, who has insisted on using two holding midfielders, both over the age of 30 in Mascherano and Bigila and his persistence with a rigid 4-2-3-1 that perhaps is cramming all his best players into the team but sacrificing a tactical balance at the same time. Germany also carries heavy expectations but the tournament hasn't been kind to previous winners in most recent times, with Spain having been knocked out in the group stages in 2014 and Italy suffering a similar fate in 2010.
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