Saturday 14 June
Day three of the World Cup dawned and there were four games on offer.
The first game was Colombia versus Greece which I didn’t manage to watch. Colombia ran out 3-0 victors over the Greeks, but the biggest talking point was the group celebration following Pablo Almero’s opening goal. It’s not often you see a great goal celebration as most players focus on the standard routines like the “arms aloft” or “point to the sky”. Not only did this celebration involve the whole team (including subs) but it was pure unadulterated fun!
Next up was Uruguay up against Costa Rica. In our office pool at work, many people made fun of the colleague who had the “misfortune” to draw Costa Rica – considered one of the teams there to make up the numbers. All eyes were on Uruguay who most expected to breeze through this game even in the absence of Luis Suarez who was not risked for this unimportant game. The South Americans started with Diego Forlan and Edison Cavani upfront and were looking for goals. Captain Diego Lugano looked like he was auditioning for a role in an action film as he earned a penalty for Uruguay that was despatched by Cavani. After that early goal, it seemed Uruguay were happy to try and protect their single goal lead as they allowed Costa Rica to come into the game. Sure enough, just after the interval Costa Rica were right back in the game with a well taken goal by Arsenal’s Joel Campbell (naturally there were suddenly a lot of people talking about the young Costa Rican striker after the game). Costa Rica were not satisfied with a draw against the previous World Cup semi-finalists and added two more goals to register the second upset of the tournament.
Twitter was abuzz that Roy “Mr Sensible” Hodgson was ready to use the Liverpool blueprint and unleash the pace and skills of Raheem Sterling on the Italians. With Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge and defender of the year Glen Johnson in the side it would be Liverpool against Italy. A great idea on paper, but games are not won on paper. Italy led through a Marchisio rocket, but two minutes later the accuracy of Sterling’s fabulous through ball, the pace and accuracy of Rooney’s cross and the finishing of Sturridge saw England equalise. Leighton Baines was bamboozled by Candreva, who crossed for Balotelli to score. England were unable to use their pace, as the wily Italians got numbers behind the ball and encouraged England to play the ball harmlessly in the central midfield or wide areas. The game ended 2-1 Italy.
I couldn’t stay awake for the Cote d’Ivoire – Japan game at 0300hrs local time, but was happy to see the African team register a come-from-behind win against the Asians. A great goal scored by Keisuke Honda!
Sunday 15 June 2014
Switzerland v Ecuador was first up. The South Americans took the lead with a header from Enner Valencia from four yards out. The Swiss equalised through substitute Mehmedi on 48 minutes. The moment of the match was Valon Behrami who won a tackle in the Swiss penalty area in stoppage time, and made a lung-busting run past the halfway line before releasing Rodriguez on the left who then crossed for another substitute Seferovich to fire into the roof of the net. A great last-minute win for the Swiss!
I watched the French struggle to impose themselves against Honduras in the first half, until Wilson Palacios’s red card in the 43rd minute. His second yellow card for barging Pogba in the back earned the French a penalty which Benzema duly out away. Benzema added another and there was an own goal to seal a solid 3-0 win for the French.
Pre-tournament favourites Argentina played Bosnia-Herzegovina in the last game of the day. Messi created one goal and scored another as Argentina ran out 2-1 victors. However, the Argentines looks far from convincing (and defensively suspect) as their star-studded midfield and forward players failed to dominate proceedings.
The most irritating part of the game for me was the commentator’s quote after Messi’s goal “A goal the WHOLE WORLD wanted!” he exclaimed. Perhaps it was the goal that he personally wanted, but it did illustrate that a lot of the commentary in this World Cup is biased towards the so-called big stars with Neymar and Ronaldo mentioned breathlessly every time they touch the ball. Some of us viewers are also interested in the lesser-known players and their impact on the tournament.