WORLD CUP DIARY: 15 June

WORLD CUP DIARY: 15 June

Welcome to Day Three of the Owlsalive World Cup Diary!

Could the third day of Brasil 2014 live up to a thrilling Day Two which saw the Netherlands brutally dispatch World Champions Spain?

With four games over 11 hours it was bound to be a marathon – with England in action it was bound to be nerve-wrenching…

 

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Preparation

Attempting to watch four football matches back-to-back, with an expected finish time of around 4am, involves dedication, preparation and most importantly a degree of sobriety. Not easy when one of those games features England. Nonetheless, an afternoon nap meant I was ready for a bit of Colombia v Greece build-up come 4pm.

The Beeb, however, weren’t prepared to pretend that this game was anything other than a warm-up to the ‘main event’ at 11pm, devoting 40 minutes of their Col/Gre analysis to Phil Neville talking at 100mph about England’s expected line-up and an interview with the Geordie Andrea Pirlo, a.k.a. Jordan Henderson.

Reassuringly when they did take five minutes to talk about the early game, it only took ten seconds for a lazy feature about classical Greek philosophers, and the modern-day heros, Angelos Charisteas and Giorgos Karagounis.

 

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Colombia v Greece

More threatening than Greece going forward?

More threatening than Greece going forward?

One things the BBC did get right was profiling Monaco’s James (Ham-ez) Rodriguez as Colombia’s danger man (although preview guru Danny pointed this out some weeks ago).

Straight away it was clear that Colombia would have the advantage of a partisan crowd and the noise from the kick-off had barely died out when Pablo Armero tapped home an opener for the South Americans.

From that point on, they barely needed/attempted to get out of second gear against a Greece side with all the attacking threat of a feather duster.

Their defending wasn’t much better, illustrated by Colombia’s second goal when a mis-hit Rodriguez corner was flicked on for Teofilo Gutierrez to tap in at the back post. Something about Greeks bearing gifts…?

Greece’s impotence was summed up five minutes later when Theofanis Gekas, attempting his own version of a ‘van Persie’, headed against the crossbar when it was easier to score. Moments later he was substituted, presumably never to be seen again in this tournament, replaced by Kostas Mitroglou, an £11 million striker who couldn’t even get in stricken Fulham’s team a few months ago.

Rodriguez had pulled the strings throughout the first half and it was fitting that he slotted home a third deep into stoppage time, after Colombia’s most effective passing move of the game.

 

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Uruguay v Costa Rica

You didn’t see that one coming did you?

It all looked to be going swimmingly for a Suarez-less Uruguay in the first half. Edinson Cavani scored when he was offside, sliced wide when he was onside and then slotted home from the spot when Uruguay skipper Diego Lugan was rugby tackled.

You wondered whether Navas’ brilliant save just before half time from Forlan’s deflected shot might be a big moment but you never would have expected how Costa Rica exploded into life in the second half.

Oscar Duerte enjoyed putting Costa Rica ahead

Oscar Duerte enjoyed putting Costa Rica ahead

Oscar Duarte should have equalised with a near post header but it was a sign of things to come.

The excellent Joel Campbell fired home from inside the box to level the game ten minutes into the second half and within minutes a panicked Uruguay were behind when Duarte made amends by heading home superbly at the near post from a free-kick.

Once it became clear Luis Suarez wasn’t going to enter the fray, Uruguay seemed to lose any hope and it was a Costa Rica sub, Marcos Urena, who put the result beyond all doubt with his first touch – a brilliant clip past Muslera.

There was worse to come for Uruguay, though, when a brainless hack from Maxi Pereira in stoppage time earned him a red card and a suspension for Thursday’s game against England.

Joel Campbell was the real star of the game with his pace, power and willingness to shoot from pretty much anywhere!

 

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England v Italy

England suffered an unusual injury setback

England suffered an unusual injury setback

Well you all watched it, so there’s not much point me re-telling the story is there?

It was heartening to see England come out and attack from the word go and we all (even the BBC) thought we were 1-0 up within three minutes, but Raheem Sterling’s rasping long-range shot had hit the side netting.

Italy weathered the early storm, began to dominate possession and went ahead through a combination of class from Andrea Pirlo and his stepover, naive defending from England and a crisp finish by Claudio Marchisio.

The speed with which England levelled was breathtaking though as Sterling’s perfect through ball found Rooney, who delivered a delicious cross from the left for Daniel Sturridge to slot home coolly. Gary Lewin managed to dislocate his ankle in the celebrations but England were back in the game.

Italy’s winner was a sickener really, with the excellent Antonio Candreva given far too much time and space to deliver a cross and Mario Balotelli nodding home clinically.

England huffed and puffed but failed to properly penetrate and the game was lost. Andrea Pirlo’s magnificent free-kick that struck the crossbar showed his obvious class but I wonder if England focussed too much on him and not on Italy’s other attacking outlets.

 

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Ivory Coast v Japan

Admittedly it was difficult to muster any enthusiasm for the final game of the day, especially once the adrenaline of watching England faded away.

But with the Ivory Coast coming out firing, it looked like we would have another open game on our hands.

Karl Fletcher...Monday Bandele...Jamie Parker...those were the days

Karl Fletcher…Monday Bandele…Jamie Parker…those were the days

There was the added bonus of Gary Bloom, star commentator of old computer games and Harchester United, and his hilarious insistence of calling the African side ‘Cote d’Ivoire’.

However, it was Japan who really made it worth the late night, playing some brilliant counter-attacking football in the first half.

They deservedly took the lead thanks to a thunderous strike from Keisuke Honda and continued to look the better side, despite Ivory Coast’s superior possession, who unfortunately kept giving the ball to Salomon Kalou.

Looking increasingly toothless, Ivory Coast finally called for Dider Drogba on the hour and immediately the Africans came forward with added impetus.

Drogba wasn’t involved in the move that saw Ivory Coast equalise as Wilfried Bony headed home a perfectly whipped in cross by Serge Aurier.

And the full back was at it again moments later to provide for Gervinho, who headed past a stationary Eiji Kawashima in the Japan net.

The two goals in two minutes left Japan shellshocked and they never really threatened an equaliser, a real disappointment after their first half showing.

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VERDICT

Staying up until 3.53am watching back-to-back-to-back-to-back football isn’t great for your sanity.

Colombia were clinical while Greece look like they will struggle to get a goal in the tournament. Costa Rica shocked a toothless Uruguay and England valiantly lost against the ever-dependable Italy. Ivory Coast, meanwhile, have taken a big step towards qualification even at this early stage.

 

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Joel Campbell - he shoots from anywhere

Joel Campbell – he shoots from anywhere

Player of the Day: JOEL CAMPBELL – He’s yet to play for Arsenal but Arsene Wenger may well take a look if he continues his fine form throughout the tournament. He was lively throughout the game against Uruguay and you couldn’t help but love his desire to shoot from any range, no matter how ridiculous.

Player for Gray: KEYLOR NAVAS – Well Chris Kirkland still hasn’t signed a new deal and with young Cameron Dawson not quite ready yet, we could do with some experience.

27-year-old Navas was excellent for Costa Rica, tipping over brilliantly to deny Forlan in the first half and keeping calm once his side took the lead. After two seasons at Levante, surely he’s ready for a big club?

 

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TODAY’S FIXTURES

GROUP E – Switzerland v Ecuador (5pm, ITV); France v Honduras (8pm, BBC)

GROUP F – Argentina v Bosnia and Herzegovina (11pm, BBC)

 

TODAY’S TIPS

My safe bet today would be the simple Argentina/France double, available at around 2/1.

If you’re feeling bold, and based on the tournament so far, I think there will be goals in both Switzerland/Ecuador and Argentina/Bosnia. BTTS in the early game is 6/5 (BetVictor, Coral) while Over 4.5 Goals in Arg/Bos is a bit of a punt at 11/2 (BetVictor).

 

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Creg
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