Cavani 24' (pen)
RED: Pereira 90'+
The day started with a workman-like dismantling of Greece by the Colombians, who got on the board early and then stifled the non-existent Greek offense. In the second game Uruguay got on board early when Júnior Díaz took Diego Lugano to the ground in the box with what American football fans would recognize as a perfect form tackle; Edinson Cavani drilled home the penalty to give La Celeste the lead. But shortly after halftime the underdogs struck back with a vengeance; and unmarked Joel Campbell leveled less than ten minutes into the half, and just a couple of minutes later Óscar Duarte dove to connect with a Christian Bolaños and headed it in... and suddenly the Ticos had the lead. As the game wore on, Luis Suarez desperately tried to get ready to enter the game, but his knee wouldn't cooperate; at 86' it ceased to matter when Campbell led Marco Ureña to Costa Rica's third goal. To cap off Uruguay's horror show, in stoppage time Maxi Pereira got himself sent off for a cynical and utterly pointless attack on Campbell; with Suarez still very questionable and both England and Italy lurking, Uruguay's hopes have probably already joined the Graf Spee in Montevideo harbor.
Of course, England may not be a problem if they can't figure out how to kick the ball lower than 25 feet in the air. After Claudio Marchisio struck just ten minutes before the half, Daniel Sturridge immediately countered and leveled the match. But Mario Balotelli scored for the Azzuri just after halftime, and then Italy did the standard Italian thing and slowed things to a crawl. England had chances in the final fifteen, but were suddenly afflicted by an inexplicable case of "unable to kick the ball where we want". Several attacks ended with shots that sailed high over the net for no reason, and Wayne Rooney launched the most absurd corner kick in the history of soccer at one point. FIFA should probably check to see whether Italy is outfitting their goalie with some sort of anti-gravity technology.
Closing out the extended day, Ivory Coast placed themselves into sterling position to reach knockout play for the first time in history as they netted a pair of goals within two minutes midway through the second half to overcome a 1-0 Japanese lead. Keisuke Honda had put the Blue Samurai ahead at 16' with a rocket from just inside the box, and it stayed that way for almost 50 minutes. But Didier Drogba, left out of the starting eleven, came on as substitute at 62', and the game immediately changed. Wilfried Bony (who'd started in place of Drogba) found the net after a nice cross from Serge Aurier less than two minutes later, and before another two minutes had passed Aurier fed another cross to Gervinho. Although Drogba had no touches in the runup to either goal, his presence had an effect. Never mind any psychological edge the Elephants gained from his arrival; the Japanese were concerned enough that attention was drawn away from the rest of the Ivory Coast attack. A game-changing -- and possibly World Cup-changing -- substitution, for which Sabri Lamouchi deserves credit.
And with that, on to Sunday!
|MATCH||TIME (CT)||NETWORK||GROUP||TEAMS / SITE||ANNOUNCERS||ODDS|
Switzerland vs Ecuador
Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, Brasília
France vs Honduras
Estádio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Argentina vs Bosnia and Herzegovina
Estádio do Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
Game 8: Switzerland-Ecuador
A defensive battle is on tap as the Swiss meet Ecuador for the first time in history.
|1||Goal||Diego Benaglio||VfL Wolfsburg (GER)||30||57||0|
|13||Back||Ricardo Rodriguez||VfL Wolfsburg (GER)||21||21||0|
|22||Back||Fabian Schär||Basel (SUI)||22||6||3|
|5||Back||Steve von Bergen||Young Boys (SUI)||31||41||0|
|2||Back||Stephan Lichtsteiner||Juventus (ITA)||30||63||5|
|10||Midfield||Granit Xhaka||Borussia Mönchengladbach (GER)||21||26||4|
|14||Forward||Valentin Stocker||Basel (SUI)||25||24||3|
|18||Forward||Admir Mehmedi||SC Freiburg (GER)||23||21||2|
|23||Midfield||Xherdan Shaqiri||Bayern Munich (GER)||22||33||9|
|19||Forward||Josip Drmic||1.FC Nürnberg ()||21||7||3|
German manager Ottmar Hitzfeld's formation's set, and he has no injuries to contend with, but his personnel are still a bit up in the air. Hitzfeld could opt for former Valencia defender Phillipe Senderos, who just signed with Aston Villa, in place of Schar; Johan Djourou of Hamburger SV (GER) is also a possibility. In the midfield, Bleri Dzemaili or Valon Behrami, both of Italian side Napoli, are possibilities to supplant Xhaka. And while Drmic appears to be the likely striker, Hitzfeld may wish to provide Le Nati's offense with more experience and opt for Real Sociedad forward Haris Seferovic.
|22||Goal||Alexander Dominguez||LDU Quito (ECU)||27||18||0|
|10||Back||Walter Ayovi||Pachuca (MEX)||34||90||8|
|2||Back||Jorge Guagua||Emelec (ECU)||32||59||2|
|3||Back||Frickson Erazo||Flamengo (BRA)||26||37||1|
|4||Back||Juan Carlos Paredes||Barcelona (ESP)||26||38||0|
|7||Midfield||Jefferson Montero||Morelia (MEX)||24||40||8|
|6||Midfield||Christian Noboa||Dynamo Moscow (RUS)||29||42||2|
|23||Midfield||Carlos Gruezo||VfB Stuttgart (GER)||19||3||0|
|Manchester United (ENG)||28||71||8|
|13||Striker||Enner Valencia||Pachuca (MEX)||25||10||4|
|11||Striker||Felipe Caicedo||Al-Jazira (UAE)||25||50||15|
Reinaldo Rueda, the Colombian coach of La Tri, is contending with the loss of Segundo Castillo, the Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia) midfielder. That doesn't really complicate his decision-making process, though. Another problem is that Noboa was banged up against England in a pre-cup warmup; if he can't go, his place will be taken by Édison Méndez of Colombia's Santa Fe club.
Switzerland is, of course, already famous for their defense; in 2006, they accomplished the dubious feat being eliminated from the World Cup despite not having conceded a goal in regular play. Worse for Ecuador, their offense is a bit damaged. If there's an opening-flight game that could end in a 0-0 draw, it's this one. Callum Hamilton isn't as pessimistic in his full preview of the match at SB Nation.
Game 9: France-Honduras
Another first-time meeting between two nations. I would never suggest you not watch a World Cup game, but if you need afternoon time to celebrate Father's Day or are going to need a mid-afternoon nap...
|FRANCE (4-3-3 OR 4-3-2-1)|
|Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)||27||57||0|
|15||Back||Bacary Sagna||Arsenal (ENG)||31||41||0|
|13||Back||Eliaquim Mangala||Porto (POR)||23||3||0|
|21||Back||Laurent Koscielny||Arsenal (ENG)||28||17||0|
|3||Back||Patrice Evra||Manchester United (ENG)||33||58||0|
|6||Midfield||Yohan Cabaye||Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)||28||30||3|
|19||Midfield||Paul Pogba||Juventus (ITA)||21||11||2|
|14||Midfield||Blaise Matuidi||Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)||27||23||3|
|8||Forward||Mathieu Valbuena||Marseille (FRA)||29||34||5|
|10||Forward||Karim Benzema||Real Madrid (ESP)||26||66||21|
|11||Forward||Antoine Griezmann||Real Sociedad (ESP)||23||4||3|
The formation won't really affect the personnel used by Didier Deschamps today. France is, of course, missing their long-time star Franck Ribery, who's out with a back injury. Sagna might give way to Newcastle's Mathieu Debuchy, and either Raphaël Varane of Real Madrid or Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho could take the place of Mangala. Up front, it's possible Les Blues might instead feature Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud in the center, with Benzema shifting to the right wing and Griezmann watching from the bench.
|21||Back||Brayan Beckeles||Olimpia (HON)||28||23||1|
|5||Back||Víctor Bernárdez||San Jose Earthquakes (MLS)||32||78||4|
|3||Back||Maynor Figueroa||Hull City (ENG)||31||105||3|
|7||Back||Emilio Izaguirre||Celtic (SCO)||28||68||1|
|19||Midfield||Luis Garrido||Olimpia (HON)||23||20||0|
|8||Midfield||Wilson Palacios||Stoke City (ENG)||29||95||6|
|6||Midfield||Juan Carlos García||Wigan Athletic (ENG)||26||34||1|
|15||Midfield||Roger Espinoza||Wigan Athletic (ENG)||27||42||4|
|11||Forward||Jerry Bengston||New England Revolution (MLS)||27||44||19|
|13||Forward||Carlo Costly||Real España (HON)||31||70||31|
Arnold Peralta of Rangers is out for the squad helmed by Colombian manager Luis Fernando Suárez. Los Cotrachos would appear to have answered most of their pre-tournament questions, though both Martin Chávez of Chivas USA and Andy Najar of Belgian side Anderlecht are in position to supplant Juan Carlos García in midfield.
This game is going to be a rout. I don't care about the "France hasn't even scored in their opening game since Joan of Arc" nonsense. I don't care that France has had well-publicized problems winning World Cup games at all since Zidane's headbutt. This is likely one of the biggest mismatches in the opening flight of games. At SB Nation, Hamilton is of the same mind in his preview.
Game 10: Argentina-Bosnia and Herzegovina
Argentina should hold against a team they've beaten twice in two meetings, but it could be a minor challenge.
|ARGENTINA (4-2-3-1 OR 4-3-3)|
|1||Goal||Sergio Romero||AS Monaco (FRA)||27||47||0|
|2||Back||Ezequiel Garay||Benfica (POR)||27||18||0|
|4||Back||Pablo Zabaleta||Manchester City (ENG)||29||36||0|
|16||Back||Marcos Rojo||Sporting (POR)||24||22||0|
|17||Back||Federico Fernández||Napoli (ITA)||25||26||2|
|14||Midfield||Javier Mascherano||Barcelona (ESP)||30||98||3|
|5||Midfield||Fernando Gago||Boca Juniors (ARG)||28||49||0|
|7||Forward||Ángel di María||Real Madrid (ESP)||26||47||9|
|20||Forward||Sergio Agüero||Manchester City (ENG)||26||51||23|
|9||Striker||Gonzalo Higuaín||Napoli (ITA)||26||36||20|
The biggest question ahead of kickoff is whether La Albiceleste manager Alejandro Sabella will opt for the above, or whether he'll instead bring on Internazionale midfielder Ricardo Álvarez and leave Higuain on the bench; that would move di Maria up into a more forward position and effectively create a 4-2-1-3 or 4-3-3. Sabella actually prefers a 5-3-2... but he's just got too much offense and not enough defense to implement that.
|BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA (4-2-3-1 OR 4-4-2)|
|1||Goal||Asmir Begović||Stoke City (ENG)||26||30||0|
|5||Back||Sead Kolašinac||Schalke 04 (GER)||20||4||0|
|Bayer Leverkusen (GER)||33||74||3|
|3||Back||Ermin Bičakčić||Eintracht Braunschweig (GER)||24||7||1|
|13||Back||Mensur Mujdža||SC Freiburg (GER)||30||24||0|
|18||Midfield||Haris Medunjanin||Gaziantepspor (TUR)||29||35||5|
|7||Midfield||Muhamed Bešić||Ferencváros (HUN)||21||9||0|
|16||Forward||Senad Lulić||Lazio (ITA)||28||33||1|
|8||Forward||Miralem Pjanić||Roma (ITA)||24||48||8|
|20||Forward||Izet Hajrović||Galatasaray (TUR)||22||7||2|
|11||Striker||Edin Džeko||Manchester City (ENG)||28||62||35|
Look, there's no easy way to say this. Whatever bossman Safet Sušić decides to throw out on the field tonight will probably be different than what anyone's predicting, a state of affairs quite perfectly illustrated by the fact that nobody agrees on what he's going to do at all. There are as many as seven players tipped to take the field at kickoff other than the eleven above. What you can be sure of is that Begović, Kolašinac, Spahić, Bešić, Pjanić, and Džeko will be out there for the Dragons; everything else is a crapshoot.
The likelihood is that Argentina will handle business tonight, but there are some interesting factors at play here which could make things interesting. Most importantly, while everyone knows Argentina has a great attack and assumes (correctly) that Bosnia's defense is iffy, the reverse is also true. The biggest battle will be in the midfield where, as Jack Sargent explains in SB Nation's match preview, a strong effort by Bešić to shut down Ángel di María could make it a very long and disappointing evening for the Argentinians.
This is your open thread for today, as always. Who ya got? Enjoy Father's Day, enjoy three more matches, and if you've got spare time come join us to discuss!