Everything that happened yesterday as pretty much as expected. Brazil and the Netherlands finish top of their groups, joined by Mexico and Chile. Brazil will play Chile and the Dutch will play El Tri, and both of those games should be entertaining as all four teams have gone out to win matches rather than not lose them.
Which brings us to today’s matches. We’ll start with Group C, which plays at 4:00. Greece actually have to try to score goals in order to beat Cote D’Ivoire. They should be able to score, but in making the attempt, they won’t have their usual numbers behind the ball when the Ivorians attack. It might be a prettier game than most Greek matches, but the result likely won’t be pretty for the Piratiko. Colombia are through already and have nothing to play for against a Japanese squad that needs a win if they’re to have any chance going through, combined, most likely, with a Cote D’Ivoire loss.
England and Costa Rica play at noon and feature two of the tournament’s biggest surprises, in good and bad. While England’s flame-out is both less unexpected and less dire than Spain’s, it is still a much poorer performance than anticipated. This was the last run for the Golden Generation, and the youngsters brought along to bolster them never quite managed to gel with the old hands. Raheem Sterling has been great, as has Daniel Sturridge. For as much shit as Rooney gets, he’s far from the reason they’re headed back. England were in both of their first two matches but never put their stamp on either, eventually run out in the late minutes of both.
Costa Rica is the opposite. A team that, outside San Jose and a few of their CONCACAF opponents, wasn’t given much of a chance. They don’t have stars and they don’t have history. Yet, they took advantage of what they were given — and what little respect they were paid by both Italy and Uruguay — and took hold of two matches against perennial powers with some of the world’s brightest stars. Given their next matchup will likely be against Group C’s second place entry, they could be primed for a long run that no one saw coming.
Italy and Uruguay have it all to play for, however, and it should be good watching. Goal differential means that a draw would put Italy through, so Uruguay will have their ears pinned back and ready to attack at every opportunity. If there’s any team in the World Cup that can actually succeed by playing the ball recklessly forward and fully committed to scoring, it’s Uruguay. The problems come if and when they get the lead and then need to sit on it and withstand an Italian attack that can recognize and pick apart weaknesses. With a makeshift back line that will be missing Diego Lugano, Uruguay will have trouble absorbing any sustained Italian pressure on their goal. For Italy, maintaining possession, keeping their lines and not letting Suarez or Cavani in behind will be key. Pirlo should be able to get the ball up to Balotelli in dangerous positions, given Uruguay’s hole at center back. Should they play too intently for the 0-0 that will get them through, the Uruguayan defense will be rested if and when Italy need to come up with an answer.
That’s it! Have fun streaming the games!