Most entertaining start ever

It is billed as the greatest show on earth and so the World Cup in Brazil is exceeding expectations. Maybe it’s the samba atmosphere that has permeated onto the pitch which has helped produce entertaining football in the first 11 games.

Thirty-seven goals were scored and there were no draws, all World Cup records.

The fact that weaker teams are going out and trying to win and not be too cautious about conceding goals, is refreshing.

Fouling and bad sportsmanship appears to have decreased too, which all makes for a much more enjoyable spectacle of what Pele daubed the beautiful game.

Mark Scotland, former minister of sports and current president of Bodden Town Football Club has just returned from a week in Brazil, attending Caribbean Football Union and FIFA congresses as an observer. He was also at the opening ceremony and saw Brazil beat Croatia 3-1.

“It was a very exciting match and the opening ceremony was good, very cultural and it was a great experience for Brazil,” Scotland said. “Obviously, there were handicaps here and there with the stadia not being 100 percent ready, but all in all they did a good job to get them more or less finished.”

He was amused that of the 62,000 in the Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo, it seemed 61,000 supported the hosts. “It was a very good atmosphere for the game and there have been excellent standard of play so far and surely good things will come for the World Cup.”

Scotland added that FIFA’s organization of things is excellent and the fact that Sao Paulo is a massive, sprawling city of 11 million means that it already had world-class infrastructure so their hotels, transport systems, restaurants and shopping are all up to standard.

He is pleased that the day a city hosts matches it is declared a public holiday to ease notorious traffic problems.

Scotland is looking forward to returning for possibly some quarter-final matches and certainly for the semis and finals.

He expects Brazil to get to the final possibly to face Holland who were impressive in their opening match, annihilating world champions Spain 5-1.

Nevertheless, Scotland does not count out the Spanish who also lost their opening game at the last World Cup finals.

“I pick Brazil for several reasons,” he said. “Because of their playing style and the fact they are hosting it, I would say they are odds on favorites to win.

“Belgium, on paper, have a very good team, Holland too but this is a month-long tournament. We’re also keeping an eye on the CONCACAF teams – Honduras, Costa Rica, Mexico and USA. Winning group matches is important and if we can see one or two in the second round that will be very good.”

Belgium could indeed spring a surprise as the nucleus of their side play for top clubs in the English Premier League.

They can boast players of the caliber of Thomas Vaermaelen (Arsenal), Vicent Kompany (Manchester City), Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard (both Chelsea and Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United).

Belgium open their Group H account against Algeria on Tuesday, 11 a.m. Cayman time. Tuesday’s other games are Brazil v Mexico (2 p.m.) and Russia v South Korea (5 p.m.).

Phillip Berry is a defender with Scholars International in West Bay. He is enjoying the open style of the lesser teams no longer content to grind out a scoreless draw in dull games, which is the norm for group stage World Cup matches.

“The fact that we’ve had so many goals is a positive,” Berry said. “I’m also pleased that the Caribbean teams have played well. Costa Rica caused a surprise in beating Uruguay 3-1 and although Honduras lost to France, it was against a good team.”

Berry is glad that Mexico, another CONCACAF team, beat Cameroon 1-0.

He feels that tournament favorites Brazil and Argentina rely too heavily on their star players Neymar and Lionel Messi, respectively, and the trophy will go home with Holland who were beaten finalists against Spain four years ago.

“Holland have the power, quality, depth and presence to do it this time after going so close previously,” he said. “They have players like Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Nigel de Jong.”

Maybe it’s the samba atmosphere that has permeated onto the pitch which has helped produce entertaining football in the first 11 games.