Who needs Falcao?: There was concern in some quarters before the tournament, misguided as it was, that Colombia would struggle in Brazil without the talismanic Radamel Falcao, ruled out with a knee injury. The Colombians, though, are proving they are more than just a collection of players built around the talents of the AS Monaco goalscorer. Los Cafeteros have been a pure joy to watch at this compeition, spurred on by young midfielders James Rodriguez (who bagged his second goal of the World Cup) and Carlos Quintero. Also, veteran defender Mario Yepes, 38, has been solid for the Colombians, silencing many doubters who thought manager Jose Pekerman made a mistake in bringing him to Brazil. Colombia was rewarded for its bright and attacking play on Thursday with a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast, marking the first time in tournament history they’ve won back-to-back games. And when Greece and Japan tied later in the day, it was enough to send the Colombians through to the next round. With Rodriguez proving to be the breakout star, and the side showing great confidence on the pitch, don’t be surprised if Colombia goes on a magical run in Brazil.
Suarez makes the difference Outplayed and outclassed by Costa Rica last time out, Uruguay needed a much better effort—and more important, three points—against England in Sao Paulo. Luis Suarez had to watch the capitulation against Costa Rica from the bench due to injury, but unfortunately for England he was fit for this one. And it was the Liverpool man who made the difference by scoring both goals for the South Americans, including the later winner off a botched clearance by Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard. Suarez started brightly, buzzing around Joe Hart’s penalty area for the opening minutes. For long stretches, though, he was less involved and negated by England. But Suarez is the type of player who only needs a chance or two to influence the game. That’s what he did against the Three Lions. Just before half time, he seized on Phil Jagielka’s lax defensive awareness and floated into the box before nodding home a delicious cross played from the flank by Edinson Cavani. Then with five minutes left in regulation, he ran onto Gerrard’s backwards header, took it in stride and powered home a shot past a helpless Hart in the England goal. Two moments of pure genius, and pure class from Suarez, who has helped his country claw back into contention in Group D, and at the same time left England clinging to faint hope.
90 minutes we’d like to have back : The best thing that can be said about Japan and Greece’s goal-less stalemate is that it officially clinched a second round berth for Group C leaders Colombia. This was a dreadful game of soccer, marred by the Greeks’ dour defensive tactics, which they clung to even more after Kostas Katsouranis was sent off late in the first half for earning his second yellow for a reckless challenge. Japanese coach Alberto Zaccheroni didn’t help matters much either by leaving Shinji Kawaga on the bench, and waiting until the 57th minute to finally bring the Manchester United creator into the game. Japan displayed the odd flourish of attacking intent, but never fully capitalized on the man advantage against a Greek side that bunkered down. It’s a shame that the Euro 2004 champions, who like Japan have one point, could sneak through as the second-place team in this group. Their performances have been woeful and dire, and completely devoid of imagination. The sooner they’re knocked out, the better.
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Game within the game
Maybe Roy Hodgson should abandon his “double pivot” formation with Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in holding roles. It would leave the defence somewhat exposed, but England could have badly used a creative force in midfield against Uruguay, as neither Gerrard nor Henderson successfully linked up with Wayne Rooney or into the hole behind Daniel Sturridge in the first half (see map below). Rooney, too, wasn’t effective in his link-up play, completing a grand total on four passes in the opening 45 minutes to Sturridge and Raheem Sterling. Henderson was one of the game’s top passers (54 of 61), but tellingly only one his passes led to an actual shot on net.
Ivory Coast’s Gervinho scored a beauty against Colombia, making a brilliant solo run off the right flank—slaloming around three Colombian players in the process—before firing it past goalkeeper David Ospina at the far post.
Save of the day
Moments after Luis Suarez gave Uruguay a 1-0 lead, Daniel Sturridge nearly equalized for England. The Liverpool man took a pass into the box from Wayne Rooney only to see his blast parried away by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera at the near post.
Match of the day
Two great goals from Luis Suarez. Wayne Rooney finally breaking his World Cup drought. End to end action. Uruguay vs. England was entertaining to watch.
Best moment of the day
Edinson Cavani’s inch-perfect cross into the box for Luis Suarez to nod home was world class.
He said it
“We are a team that is making progress but results decide everything and both results have been negative. Where does it leave us? I don’t know. I don’t quite know.” – Roy Hodgson, England manager
Question of the day
Tweet of the day
How good was Japan vs. Greece as a spectacle? A former French international didn’t seem too interested:
Bixente Lizarazu is in Rio airport, his back resolutely turned to Japan-Greece.
1) Luis Suarez: Uruguay was revitalized with the Liverpool man in the line-up, as he bagged a brace vs. England to keep his country’s hopes alive. 2) James Rodriguez: Another outstanding performance from the young midfielder who orchestrated Colombia’s attack and scored a goal. 3) Mario Yepes: The aging centre back was a tower of strength for Colombia, making a number of crucial tackles and clearances.