Tuesday 24 June 2014
Quote of the day via Musa Okwonga (@okwonga on Twitter):
This World Cup is nothing but bread and circuses. But what bread! What circuses!
A couple of big games on in Group D.
Costa Rica vs England
Unfancied Costa Rica were already through to the next round and their game against England provided an opportunity for some of the English squad players to make an impression and hopefully leave Brazil on a high note. Roy Hodgson made wholesale changes and basically gave a run out to all of the team players who hadn’t had game time. Unfortunately for the Three Lions it was a case of same excrement, different players. The game ended in a goalless stalemate as the English failed to make inroads against a well organised Costa Rican team.
As I’ve mentioned previously, the English team is decent in that they have some exciting attacking options and promising youth players. However, they have a very average defence, an extremely suspect right back (that’s you Glen Johnson) and they lack a true world class player with a bit of guile to unlock stubborn defences (is it too late to bring back Paul Scholes and play him properly?). Roy Hodgson seemed to have mixed up his post-match commments when he stated “I am pleased at least to have given the fans something to cheer about in terms of our performance.” From the perspective of a large number of supporters there was very little to celebrate as England exited the tournament with one point.
Thankfully for Mr Hodgson and the rest of the England squad, the spotlight was taken away from their dismal contribution to the World Cup and focussed squarely on a certain Luis Suarez.
“Chewy Luis and the Blues”
The Italy – Uruguay battle was a winner takes all bout, with the victor proceeding to the next round to face Colombia who had already qualified top of the group prior to their final game. However, Italy also knew that a draw would be enough to see them through. The football match itself was hardly a spectacle with an error-strewn and niggly performance by both sides. Italy showed more intent and seemed to want to try and attack the South American side with more purpose. Uruguay seemed happy to try and soak up the pressure and hit the Italians on the counter, but Edison Cavani (who has been very disappointing thus far) and Luis Suarez were well shackled by the Italian defence.
The game turned on its head with a straight red card for Claudio Marchisio for a dangerous challenge on Egidio Arevalo. The Italians protested, but to no avail, as they went down to ten men. From then on, it seemed to be a case of battening down the hatches and playing for the draw by the Azzurri. Everything went according to plan until the 85th minute when Diego Godin (scorer of the goal that sealed the La Liga title for Atletico Madrid) managed to get back and shoulder to a free kick and diverted the ball past the helpless Gigi Buffon.
The biggest talking point of the night was obviously Luis Suarez’s attempted reconstructive surgery on Giorgio Chiellini – using his teeth. Chiellini went down in agony (as dictated by Football Law) clutching his shoulder whilst Suarez was caught on camera touching his gnashers in apparent pain. The referee was disinterested in Chiellini (and the Italians) protests and ignored the Chiellini’s attempts to show him the proof of the bite marks on his shoulder.
Social media went into predictable overdrive with the usual jokes and memes about Suarez having skipped his last meal, and feeling hungry for a bit of Italian and so on and so forth. Equally predictable was also the knee-jerk defence by certain self-proclaimed Liverpool supporters about how Suarez “had not killed anyone” and how “two footed tackles and kung-fu kicks and being caught doping are far worse”.
The standard array of “similar” incidents were wheeled out to show how Suarez’s crime was actually not that bad – Cantona’s kung fu kick on a Crystal Palace supporter, Zidane’s headbutt on Materazzi and the murder of footballer Andres Escobar twenty years ago. All of which completely missed the point.
The facts are that Suarez has now bitten an opponent not once, not twice but for the third time! Once may be an aberration, two is extremely suspect but a third time surely hints at some psychological issues. The most important outcome from whatever process FIFA may follow is not the length of any potential ban (some hinting that a maximum of 2 years may be applied!) – no, the most important thing is that Suarez acknowledge that what he has done is wrong and get treated for it.
What will not help the situation is fellow players and managers protecting him by denying he did anything wrong – yes, I’m looking at you Liverpool management for defending his racist behaviour and pretending it didn’t happen! I’m also looking at you Diego Lugano with your selective Wengeresque myopia and trying to divert blame onto Chiellini.
Anyway, over to FIFA to see how they handle this tricky issue. Suarez’s tournament should surely be over for now, but let’s see what the big dogs do.
Ivory Coast sent packing
The Suarez biting incident was still being chewed on as the West Africans kicked off their crunch match against their Mediterranean opponents. Ivory Coast needed a draw to go through, with Colombia having secured top spot already. The Greeks needed nothing short of victory and played accordingly. They attacked the Ivorians from the first whistle whiles the African nation seemed to have barely woken up to participate in the game.
The Greeks unsurprisingly took the lead following some sloppy passing that conceded possession and the ball was soon in the back of the net. The goal didn’t seem to motivate the Ivorians and they continually lost possession and their big names failed to get involved in the game. Shortly after Giorgos Karagounis saw his 30 yard effort cannon off the crossbar with the Ivorian keeper beaten, the West Africans put together their best move of the match – Kalou showed quick feet and played a glorious through ball for Gervinho, who slipped the ball to Bony to finish.
However, with qualification seemingly within touching distance Ivory Coast conceded a penalty which Samaras converted to see Greece squeeze through. Yes, I know the penalty was dubious as Samaras did a “Torres” and tripped over his own feet but truth be told Ivory Coast played terribly and did not deserve the victory. Had they gone further, I fear they would have been an embarrassment based on this performance.
Colombia vs Japan
Columbia overpowered Japan 4-1 to finish the group stages undefeated. The South Americans took the lead through a penalty but Japan gave themselves a glimmer of hope by equalizing through a well taken header.
James Rodriguez was introduced off the bench and he ran the show from the time he stepped on the pitch in the second half. He provided two beautiful assists and then rounded off the performance with a delicate chip late in stoppage time.