Samaras 90'+ (pen)
Cuadrado 17' (pen)
Group D Finale
Costa Rica secured top place in the group with a desultory draw against the Three Lions. England had the run of the game, and had plenty of chances to billow the net, but none came to fruition. For the Ticos part, they were clearly content to settle for a scoreless draw right from the opening kickoff, barely generating any chances. Simply not much to say about this one.
Does the result even matter? The only story anyone cares about from Italy's meeting with Uruguay is now Luis Suarez biting Giorgio Chiellini. Sure, a minute later Diego Godín scored the goal which put Uruguay through to the round of 16 and sent Italy home, and that's important, but that's not going to be the story of this game, ever. A shameful incident, and one which I simply cannot wrap my head around. What goes through a person's mind to make him do this not once, not twice, but three times? You look at the footage of all three incidents, and it's not even as though Suarez is trying to defend himself. When he bit Otman Bakkal while he was with Ajax, the two players were jawing at one another, and suddenly Suarez is chomping on his neck. The incident with Branislav Ivanovic was just cynical; coming from behind Ivanovic while setting up for a scoring chance, Suarez just grabbed his arm and tried to take a hunk out of it. And here in Brazil, the incident was just ridiculous. Suarez lowers his head to Chiellini's shoulder, lays teeth in, and then recoils away as if he's been shot, pretending that Chiellini has hit him in the face.
I'm a Liverpool supporter, and while I realize there are economic issues in play here, he's got to go. That simple.
|GROUP D FINAL STANDINGS|
Group C Finale
There was controversy in Group C as well, only this time it actually related to the results. Greece finally scored a goal after Andreas Samaris grabbed a bad pass by Cheick Tioté and, after a quick give-and-take with Giorgos Samaras (man, that's confusing), fired right into the center of the net past Boubacar Barry. About a half-hour later, the Elephants equalized when Gervinho fed Wilfried Bony in the penalty area. It looked like the Ivorians had the point they needed to advance when in the final minute of stoppage time Samaras -- to all appearances on television -- tripped over his own feet and got tangled with Giovanni Sio. The problem: Ecuadorian ref Carlos Vera saw it differently and pointed to the spot. Samaras took the penalty and drilled it home; after reviewing it, I'm of the opinion that Barry could have saved, but hopped forward to cut down the angle before diving to the side. Had he not moved forward, he probably would have been able to punch it away. But that's all academic. What isn't is that Greece are through to the knockout rounds for the first time ever, and Ivory Coast still can't break through the group stages.
Colombia, meanwhile, cruised effortlessly to the top of the group in a decisive victory over Japan. Seventeen minutes in, Yasuyiko Konno was whistled on a bad challenge in the area, and Juan Cuadrado hammered home the penalty kick to give Colombia the lead. That held until just seconds before halftime when Keisuke Honda whipped a cross which Shinji Okazaki headed in for the equalizer -- just in time, as the referee blew halftime immediately. With the result in doubt, José Pékerman subbed in his sublime star James Rodríguez, who he'd hoped to rest. It was a brilliant decision. Ten minutes in, Rodríguez laid a perfect pass to Jackson Martinez for the Colombian's second goal. The pair struck again a half-hour later, Rodríguez again feeding Martinez to end a lightning-quick counter. And then to put the icing on the cake, Rodríguez netted a goal himself in the final minute before stoppage time, weaving through the defense before popping a little chip shot into net. Although other players have scored more goals, Rodríguez is quickly becoming one of the revelations of the tournament.
|GROUP C FINAL STANDINGS|
|MATCH||TIME (CT)||NETWORK||GROUP||TEAMS / SITE||ANNOUNCERS||ODDS|
Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Iran
Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Nigeria vs Argentina
Estádio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Ecuador vs France
Estádio do Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
Honduras vs Switzerland
Arena da Amazônia, Manaus
Game 44: Bosnia and Herzegovina-Iran
Bosnia's out, but may not give their reserves a shot because they'd really like to salvage something. Iran won't either, because they can still advance with a win and an Argentina win. Iran is perfectly capable of keeping a clean sheet here; the problem is that they may not be capable of marring Bosnia's.
Game 43: Nigeria-Argentina
Argentina is through, but they still need a point to secure the group championship (and avoid France), and they still need to work on their cohesion as they haven't really been impressive thus far. Nigeria want the win for the same reason Argentina want the point. Don't expect any changes in the lineups. Argentina will be heavy favorites here, though, and Nigeria really need to hope Iran doesn't win.
Game 42: Ecuador-France
Les Bleus technically need only a point to secure top spot; realistically, they just need to not get bombed out, as they have a +6 advantage in goal differential. Even losing 3-0, France would still claim the group win. Ecuador, on the other hand, needs to win to guarantee advancement; a draw would still see them through if the Swiss draw Honduras as well, but that's horribly unlikely given the form of the two teams thus far. As a result, France is almost sure to rest some folks, while Ecuador will be at full strength. It will probably not be enough.
Game 41: Honduras-Switzerland
Wilson Palacios returns to the Honduran lineup after missing the Ecuador game thanks to the two yellow cards he picked up against France. That's likely the only change in the offing for Honduras. Switzerland will replace injured Steve von Bergen, possibly with Phillipe Senderos, and there may be changes up front as well. The Swiss need a win, and they're going to get it; if France manages a result, Switzerland will advance.
You'll note we haven't linked to the SB Nation previews, because they've not been posting until morning. We'll try and remember to link them before match time. Today looks like a full deck of mismatches, but if there's one thing we've learned in the past two weeks is that surprises happen. This is, of course, your open thread; join us and share your thoughts.