Day 13 of the FIFA World Cup provides ample reason to find an excuse to stay glued to your television set.
All eyes on Tuesday will be focused towards Natal, where Italy and Uruguay must duke it out for a spot in the Round of 16. Both are level on points (four) in Group D, two behind Costa Rica who are already through. A draw would be good enough for the Italians to move on.
Over in Group C, all four teams have a realistic chance of finishing in the top two. Colombia has secured their place in the knockout round ahead of their encounter with Japan. However, the Blue Samurai must win and get some help along the way to avoid an early exit. Despite having yet to score a goal in the tournament, Greece can advance if it beats Ivory Coast—coupled with any result other than a Japanese victory. The Africans only have to avoid defeat to claim their place.
Here are the four key factors for Day 13.
Tuesday programming alert: Watch Costa Rica vs. England (at 11:30 am ET) and Japan vs. Colombia (at 3:45 pm ET) live on all four main Sportsnet channels. | TV schedule
The Luis Suarez Effect
The Italians only need to avoid defeat, therefore, they must extinguish the scoring threat of Suarez. It's become fairly obvious that Uruguay is not the same team without their star striker, which was evident during the 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica. Despite being well below 100 percent fit, Suarez scored twice to sink England and keep La Celeste’s hopes alive. The Liverpool front-man is the heart and soul of the team, driven by pure pride and emotion, and his impact cannot be understated. Stop Suarez, and Uruguay is as good as dead.
Los Ticos chasing perfection
The Costa Rican's have become the feel good story of the World Cup. It’s safe to assume no one gave this tiny CONCACAF nation any hope of making it out of the group, let alone claim top spot. England has nothing left to play for and manager Roy Hodgson has confirmed that he will dress his “B” squad in Belo Horizonte. Costa Rica are full of confidence and momentum, and the prospect of finishing the group stage with a perfect record by beating three former World Cup winning nations is extremely likely.
Is Colombia stronger without Falcao?
All the talk leading up to the World Cup centred around Radamel Falcao's battle to regain his fitness following a nasty ACL injury suffered at the beginning of the calendar year. Six months is not enough time to overcome a knee injury that required surgery, therefore his absence was for the most part expected. Having won both of their group matches (3-0 vs. Greece and 2-1 vs. Ivory Coast), an argument can be made that Colombia are a more cohesive and dangerous unit with Falcao watching from the stands. James Rodriguez has emerged as the golden boy of the so-called golden generation—scoring a goal in both games—garnering a majority of the spotlight and deservedly grabbing headlines. A balanced attack has led the way, complimented by an unexpected attention to detail in their defensive zone.
Will Greece give their fans something to celebrate?
We are all well aware of Greece's defensive game-plan and knack for not scoring goals. Win, lose or draw, Greek supporters are at the very least hoping to be given the opportunity to celebrate a solitary goal should they exit the World Cup on Tuesday. Kostas Mitroglu has been ineffective and virtually non-existent, while the duo of Theofanis Gekas and Georgios Samaras has created very little in the attacking zone, having barely threatened the opposition’s goalmouth. However, the Greeks built their reputation on squeaking out 1-0 victories through accurate set-pieces, and a similar result might be enough to take them into the next round.
2014 FIFA World Cup: Sportsnet.ca is your home for in-depth coverage of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. TV viewers can watch all 64 games on CBC and Sportsnet from June 12 to July 13. Be sure to watch Connected every night on Sportsnet for all of the latest news and analysis. And check out Sportsnet magazine’s team profiles of all 32 nations.