The underachievers of the 2014 FIFA World Cup

As the 2014 FIFA World Cup heads into the final stages of group play, we’ve already been given a sense of how things may turn…
The underachievers of the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Spain’s Sergio Busquets, right, holds his head after failing to score past Chile’s goalkeeper Claudio Bravo during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

As the 2014 FIFA World Cup heads into the final stages of group play, we’ve already been given a sense of how things may turn out in the knockout stages. Some teams are where they should be, others are not, but there have been a number of teams have surprised the world in both good ways and bad.

This year’s World Cup tournament has been one of the most unpredictable tournaments that we’ve seen in quite some time. And because of that, some teams that were expected to do well are either already packing their bags or not performing up to standards. Other heavily favored teams are on the verge of elimination.

Here are the teams who have left much to be desired (at least so far) in this year’s World Cup in Brazil…..

#1. Spain

They have been the biggest disappointment by far. Their group play losses to the Netherlands (5-1) and Chile (2-0) made them the first defending World Cup champion to lose their first two matches. Their goal differential of minus-6 is the worst in this year’s field of 32.

After winning the 2008 and 2012 Euro tournaments, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and putting up a strong showing in the last two Confederations Cups (third place in 2009, runners-up in 2013), it seems that “La Furia Roja” has lost their magic.

The Spanish team which was once considered by many the best team in the World has looked like a shell of their former selves in Brazil. Their fundamentals in every facet of the game have broken down. They couldn’t defend, they couldn’t score (aside from the one goal against the Dutch), opposing defenses had their way with them, and they lacked the speed and energy that they are accustomed to playing with.

SEE ALSO: Spain suffers a first round knockout in the World Cup

Now, after putting on one of the worst performances in team history, there is speculation as to what the future will hold for the Spanish national football team. Some say that head coach Vicente Del Bosque needs to go. Others say that the team needs to get younger and remove some of long-tenured veteran players.

Whatever happens next one thing is for certain, this will be bitter pill to swallow for the Spaniard faithful.

#2. Brazil

This South American contender has been on a hot streak heading into this year’s competition. They’ve won the last two Confederations Cups (2009, 2013) and they won a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics. Brazil seems primed to make a run at a sixth Golden Trophy.

After two games, the World Cup’s host country sits on top of Group A with four points, a 1-1-0 record and a goal differential of plus-2. Sounds like a recipe for success right? Well…. There are many who feel that Brazil should be doing much better.

Brazilian fans are slightly disappointed with their team’s performance despite the fact that they control their own destiny. At first I thought this assessment was crazy, then I came to the following realization after looking at all of the facts…

In their opener against Croatia, Brazil took home a 3-1 victory. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Brazil could have easily scored more goals and perhaps prevented Croatia from scoring altogether. Let’s also keep in mind that this is only their fourth World Cup appearance since declaring independence from Yugoslavia.

SEE ALSO: The 6 biggest takeaways from the World Cup, so far

In their first World Cup in 1998 Croatia finished third. But since then they haven’t been able to recapture that magic. They were unable to make it past the group stage in 2002 or 2006, and failed to qualify in 2010. So the Croatians aren’t exactly a European powerhouse, and many felt that Brazil could have done more against them.

In their second game against Mexico, Brazil played “El Tri” to a scoreless tie. While both teams got a much-needed point -thanks mostly in part to Memo Ochoa’s solid goalkeeping- this was a very winnable game for Brazil.

Mexico barely qualified for this year’s cup, they’re struggling to find a new identity, every game could be the last for Mexican head coach Miguel Herrera, and they were only able to manage one goal in their opening victory (1-0) over Cameroon.

So it’s very plausible that Brazil could be putting up better numbers and should have six points instead of four, with a higher goal differential. Hopefully Brazil can pick up the pace when they play Cameroon on Monday.

Here are teams that were considered favorites to win but instead are on the verge of elimination….

#1. Portugal

Portugal has one foot out of the World Cup.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo stands on the pitch as German players celebrate following Portugal’s 4-0 loss to Germany during the group G World Cup soccer match between Germany and Portugal at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

The Portuguese got a brutal wake up call when they lost to Germany in their Group G opener 4-0. They have no points, they already have a minus-4 goal differential, they’re dealing with a rash of injuries (including Cristiano Ronaldo), and they have to contend with a hungry United States team on Sunday.

If they are to survive one more day they need to come together, work around the injuries, get their heads in the game and try to play for at least a tie against Team USA.

#2. England

The British have not made it past the World Cup quarterfinals since 1990, and they only have one championship on their resume (1966). They were picked to beat a young Italian team in their Group D opener. But after a second half defensive breakdown, Italy surprised England with a 2-1 victory.

Now, England is near the bottom of Group D, and they must prepare for a suddenly dangerous Costa Rica squad (who’s playing in only their fourth World Cup tournament). Costa Rica put the globe on notice with their 3-1 victory over a stronger team in Uruguay.

SEE ALSO: Super Memo Ochoa gigantic against Brazil

Now they have their sights set on upsetting an English unit that’s considering a lineup change to get a desperate victory. If England has any chance of keeping their hopes of advancing alive, they need to look past the Italy game, correct their defensive mistakes, and find some offense.

#3. Uruguay

After finishing fourth in South Africa in 2010, Uruguay became a contender heading into this year’s tournament. Then they ran into the brick wall named Costa Rica (lost 3-1) –a team on the verge of advancing to the knockout stage- and now they are in last place in Group D (0-0-1, 0 points, minus-2 goal differential).

So now any momentum they had from 2010 is gone, and Italy is licking their chops and itching to eliminate Uruguay and dash all of their hopes. They will need to dig down deep and contain Italy’s offense if they are to live to fight another day.

SEE ALSO: Bad calls pop up again in the Germany – Portugal World Cup match

It’s now or never for these three teams.