While everyone will have felt that this World Cup had a little bit of everything, day 13 proved those people wrong. There was still the matter of sending a few teams packing, a few teams qualifying, a few goals to be scored, and some PK drama to be seen, but the biggest news of the day came from Luis Suarez digging back into his old bag of tricks again. It is now official: Brazil 2014 has everything.
Costa Rica vs England
This game completely embodies England’s World Cup woes up to this point. Flashes of the talent that the nation possesses without any end product to show for it. Nine line-up changes to start the match for England and this game will give Hodgson very little in his defense when his job comes under review. While England’s three matches saw glimpses of the talent that the future English team will have at its disposal, everyone involved would have liked to take a decent score-line home in their last match. Costa Rica continued to show some impressive attacking intent and, if not for some decent defensive work by the Three Lions, the “underdog” would have made it three wins in three attempts. Exactly what we truly expected from a match where nothing was on the line and where one of the teams had already placed their belonging into their suitcases. Delete this one from the DVR without even watching unless you need to see some of these England players playing for their country for the last time.
For England, there can be zero doubt about shelving Roy Hodgson and moving forward with the talented group of youngsters. Also, it never hurts to lower a fan-base’s standards…despite it being incredibly painful to watch.
For Costa Rica, the players can already start considering themselves legends for the country. While other countries will feel certain pressures to succeed at the next round, Costa Rica has been playing with house money from the beginning…and that will not change going into the knockout round.
Italy vs Uruguay
So much more to talk about here than what transpired on the pitch. The play in the first half was largely uneventful, as both sides continued to show that they left a considerable amount of their talent and confidence back at home. Then, the second half gave us everything that one match could ever hope to hold. Waved off penalties, mouth to shoulder contact, 1v1 action for the keepers, a goal, a red card (but not for what you would think), a guy biting another guy, some flaring tempers, and Suarez deciding to have every Liverpool supporter cower in shame for the rest of the tournament. Uruguay may be going forward, but it feels unlikely that Suarez will be allowed on the pitch for their upcoming games. Italy are already sans coach, but their future seems even murkier than a few of the other quickly removed squads from Brazil. This game showed, once again, how Italy relies 100% on Pirlo working magic in the midfield for them to succeed…and the bearded magician will not consider this tournament to have been one of his best. Watch this match as soon as you can get your TV and DVR turned on…or, maybe just watch the second half.
For Uruguay, there is no huge accomplishment to be the second best team from this group. The three teams thought to be the heavyweights here have been poor, and if Suarez is removed from their line-up, they will return to the sad shape that saw them dismantled at the hands of Costa Rica.
For Italy, the issues feel as if they encompass the whole pitch. So dependent on Pirlo, and now needing talented replacements in every third of the pitch…this exit might echo into the Italian team’s future for some time to come. The truest embodiment of a fairly weak European showing in this World Cup (so far).
Colombia vs Japan
Eight line-up changes in this squad for the Colombians, yet they still are finding the back of the net whenever they truly feel like it. With Japan knowing that their knockout round destiny required a win and some help in the other fixture, the window of opportunity felt there as the went to half-time 1-1. But, once the second half began, Colombia showed why they will be FAVORED against Uruguay in their next game. Possibly the team currently riding the best finishing in the Cup at the moment, Colombia crushed any dreams that Japan had of advancing and made sure that the big European clubs start sniffing around this squad during the transfer window (World Cup performances can launch a career…Ribery anyone?). For Japan, the second half was woeful and showed why they were unable to break down a 10-man Greek side in their last fixture. Colombia fan: watch away! Neutral: see “Colombia fan.” Japan fan: delete immediately and start up a new FIFA career mode.
For Colombia, it feels as if the quarter-finals are not only accessible for this squad, but feel like a round that they might actually get past. Falcao might not be there, but they are looking as if the injury to their star man might have rallied them together. While the story may focus on Uruguay looking poor or maybe missing Suarez if Colombia goes through, this team deserves all the credit.
For Japan, they feel as if they are one of the few underdog teams that did not punch above their weight in this tournament. Despite more of their squad rising into the ranks of football’s elite clubs, Japan still feels a fair distance off of ever being a contender at these tournaments.
Greece vs Ivory Coast
Of course, this World Cup would provide us with a PK deciding a game AND a group. 90 minutes where the teams were completely even on shots taken, and a game where you could never get comfortable about either side was what we got in the game to see which of these two teams would progress. While the Ivory Coast have now figured out that Drogba is not about to drag them along single-handedly anymore, the African country will still feel as if they should have gotten more out of this tournament. While there may be a little debate for fans to launch in to on the late penalty decision, it is tough to side with anyone besides the referee once you watch the incident a few times. Another one worth watching from the second half on…especially the last twenty minutes.
For Greece, a big accomplishment but they still feel like the weakest team to advance to this point (based on their first three matches in Brazil). It will be interesting to see if they can end Costa Rica’s fairy-tale or if they will fall victim to the CONCACAF surprise…
For Ivory Coast, there are a few positives. Bony seems fully prepared to take on the entirety of your goal scoring needs and you can lower the average age of your team in the next tournament by around 5 years!
Keep an eye out for more on the Suarez issue as it will probably hang over the next few days of the tournament like a cannibalistic cloud. Still, it is beginning to feel like this insane pace and crazy storyline of Brazil 2014 has to take a boring nose dive at some point. It almost feels surreal to not have teams playing for the 0-0 score…and I fear the point where that should return! Fingers crossed that this footy-craziness continues throughout the rest of the fixtures…and, perhaps, beyond!