Tuesday, June 17, 2014

FIFA World Cup 2014 - Reviews day 3

FIFA World Cup Day 3 Review

Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica

As if Luis Suárez’s already vaunted reputation needed any further bolstering, his absence on Saturday night as his team sank to defeat in their opening game of the 2014 World Cup merely confirmed what many have thought about this Uruguay: they are half the threat without him.
With his side trailing 3-1 against a spirited, adventurous, pacy Costa Rica, the man who scored 11 goals in qualification, more than any other player in South America, remained an unused substitute, sitting sullen on the bench. His damaged knee, so recently operated on, was still not considered sufficiently healed to risk, even in this most pressing of circumstance. It was a telling moment.
If there had been any remote chance he was up to it, then, with his side heading for defeat against the side reckoned the weakest in the group, this was surely the time he would have been used.
“We have gone through various phases with him but we need to wait until he reaches a point when he can intervene,” said Oscar Tabarez, his coach, who added cryptically: “It was his demand to be on the bench.”
Without Suárez’s guile, drive and goals Uruguay had looked poor. Their goalkeeper was absent without leave at set pieces, while their defence, slow and easily beaten in the air, had long before the end reverted to type. Both Diego Lugano and Maximiliano Pereira inflicted unnecessary revenge on Costa Rica’s athletic man of the match Joel Campbell. Pereira’s nasty stamp in the closing seconds earned the Benfica full-back a red card, which will prevent him playing against England.
On Thursday he faces England, a side not without the sort of pace and aerial ability at set pieces which so undermined his defence in Fortaleza. Yet he also has at his disposal a player whose abilities could render such drawbacks irrelevant, a player whose match-winning capabilities are all too familiar to Premier League defenders. That is, if Suárez is fit to take part against England.
“He no longer is hurt, otherwise he wouldn’t have been on the bench,” Tabarez said. “He has gone through the phases we had foreseen in his recovery, we will have to see. If he meets the challenges, we will see when he can intervene. We still have four days before we face England, if he improves there is a chance he may play.” A chance he may play: as a rallying call for Uruguayan resolve it was hardly Churchillian.

England 1-2 Italy

Balotelli remains one of the most unpredictable players in world football. When in the mood he is a brilliantly ruthless central striker capable of converting half-chances into goals but, if uninterested, he drifts around on the periphery of matches. The quality of Balotelli’s runs is the major thing that changes. As Italy threatened down the right throughout the first period, Balotelli’s movement was lazy – as the only crossing target, he frequently positioned himself between Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka, making it easy for the England centre-backs. After the break, however, Balotelli varied his movement.

England were humbled in the jungle. But defeat was no disgrace. Far from it. Italy scored twice, hit the woodwork twice but the chances were created and spurned by Roy Hodgson’s team also. Uruguay and Costa Rica can both be beaten. England can still progress. Group D does not mean death. There is too much life and desire and ability in this England squad.
Finally Italy retreated. How much had this taken out of England? They tried not to relent. A Baines free-kick threatened to beat Sirigu but he responded again while, in deep in injury-time, Pirlo curled a sublime, lazy-looking free-kick of his own that beat Hart but popped up off the crossbar. It almost looked like he meant it. And England were beaten.

Côte D'ivoire 2-1 Japan

Gervinho, and Swansea man Wilfried Bony, scored two second-half goals to earn the Ivory Coast a 2-1 win over Japan in Group C. Japan took the lead after 16 minutes through Japan’s talisman Keisuke Honda. The midfielder collected the ball on the edge of the box after a corner kick, and what he did next was superb.However Ivory Coast, who weren’t starting Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, were on top of Japan for most of the half, without really testing the organised Japanese side.Moments after Drogba come on, Ivory Coast’s pressure told on 64 minutes when a great cross from Serge Aurier was met by Swansea striker Bony, who brilliantly glanced his header inside the far corner.It only took the African side two minutes to take the lead after equalising. Aurier again provided with a superb cross, this time met by Gervinho’s who forced the ball inside the near post. However Japan goalkeeper Kawashima will feel he could do better as the ball went under his body.

Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador

This World Cup really is that good

On paper, Switzerland vs. Ecuador should have been about as unexciting as group-round action gets. Both teams arrived with potential fitness issues in the Brazilian climate (Ecuador due to altitude, Switzerland to "we're from Europe"), both lack a top-shelf striker, and neither is exactly known for a gung-ho, damn-the-torpedoes offensive philosophy. And there were times in Sunday's match when the expected lulls materialized.But by and large things remained entirely watchable, and the jaw-dropping end-to-end climax in stoppage time will go down as one of the most thrilling moments of the tournament. When even Ecuador and Switzerland are giving us entertainment of this quality, yeah, things are good.

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