Tuesday, June 17, 2014

FIFA World Cup 2014 - Reviews Day 4

FIFA World Cup 2014 Review Day 4

France 3-0 Honduras
France vs Honduras

France started their World Cup campaign with a 3-0 victory over an extremely physical Honduras side in Porto Alegre on Sunday. Honduras came into the game looking to make up the deficit in technical quality by brute force, though that strategy backfired when Wilson Palacios was sent off and Les Bleus took the lead on the stroke of halftime before netting two more goals in the second half.
The victors made a surprisingly haphazard start to the match and initially struggled to break down Honduras' robust defensive structure. Luis Fernando Suárez's side was happy to commit tactical fouls and attempt to disrupt Les Bleus' attacking flow, and with the exception of a Blaise Matuidi chance that was tipped onto the crossbar by goalkeeper Noel Valladares, they were rather impotent early on.
Midway through the first half, France rattled the woodwork for a second time when Antoine Griezmann leaped to head Patrice Evra's deep cross against the bar. The team grew ever more frustrated, and midfielder Paul Pogba was especially unimpressed with Honduras' physicality. He kicked out at Palacios after being repeatedly stamped on after 26 minutes, with both players lucky to escape with only yellow cards.
However, their personal feud didn't end there, and was reignited with significant consequences inside the final couple of minutes of the first half. Palacios barged the Frenchman over in the box and earned his second yellow card, as well giving away a penalty kick. Karim Benzema stepped up to stroke the ball into the top corner, giving a relieved France the lead on the stroke of halftime.
Any French fears that Honduras would make the second half as difficult as the first were allayed within three minutes of the restart, when goalline technology awarded its first ever World Cup goal. A close-range Benzema volley rebounded off the post and against the hand of Valladares, with the ball crossing the line before the embarrassed Honduras keeper had time to sweep it to safety.

France managed to add a third inside the final 20 minutes, when some penalty box pinball resulted in Benzema smashing the ball into the roof of the net via the fingertips of Valladares. From then on, coach Didier Deschamps was left hoping his players just emerged unscathed against their rather robust opponents, which they fortunately seemed able to do.
Germany 4-0 Portugal

Germany VS Portugal
Monday was an absolute nightmare for Portugal. They lost two players to injury, another to suspension, and went down 4-0 to Germany. One game, one utterly horrendous implosion. Unless they can turn things around quickly, Portugal's World Cup campaign could be over before it's even begun. An absolute disaster for Portugal just got a whole lot worse. Hugo Almeida has picked up an injury, Pepe has been sent off and now it looks like they'll be down a third player for their game against the United States, with Fabio Coentrao going down injured. His injury was bad enough that he couldn't leave under his own power, and he was crying as he was taken off on a stretcher.

We won't know exactly what Coentrao injured until later, but he grabbed the inside of his left thigh. And it's probably not a mere muscle pull, given how much pain he was in and that he was unable to leave under his own power. Andre Almeida replaced Coentrao, and while he's certainly a capable backup, there's a big dropoff. Coentrao is genuinely world class and Almeida is simply a very capable backup player. He's a bit worse than Coentrao at literally everything.

Argentina 2-1 Bosnia And Herzegovina

Argentina VS Bosnia and Herzegovina
The early own goal from Bosnia-Herzegovina was huge, as Argentina looked ordinary for most of the opening 45 minutes. Bosnia had more chances during that span, especially with Senad Lulic making runs from the left side and finding some openings via crosses. They also had several free kicks in dangerous spots, but couldn't capitalize.
After the break, Argentina made a couple of adjustments, putting Gonzalo Higuain up front next to Sergio Aguero, with Lionel Messi right behind them. Moreover, they took a defender off, moving to a back four instead of a back five, and pushing forward a bit more. The move paid dividends after just 20 minutes, as Messi beat a defender, laid it off, got it back, beat another defender -- who collided into a teammate -- and then beat Asmir Begovic by placing his shot inside the post. Up 2-0, Argentina looked like it might get a third -- as Bosnia brought on a couple of attackers in an attempt to steal a late goal. It worked out, with Vedad Ibisevic finishing inside the six to get a goal back.

That's the way it would end, with Argentina getting all three points. Bosnia-Herzegovina looked like a tough out and a worthy choice as second-place finisher in the group, but they are in a hole early.

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