WORLD CUP DIARY: 21 June

WORLD CUP DIARY: 21 June

The day after the night before.

England needed a miraculous Costa Rica victory over Italy to stand any chance of progressing while France faced their toughest test yet against ‘sixth-best-team-in-the-world’ Switzerland.

Welcome to our review of Day Nine at the 2014 World Cup!

 

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Costa Rica v Italy

Last night’s game meant that England were left praying Italy would do them a favour by beating Costa Rica – a result you would have done as a banker this time last week.

Well as it turned out Costa Rica did us all a favour by putting England out of their misery and dumping us out in the group stage for the first time ever (EVER!)

In truth, I only had half an eye on the game as during the first half I had one eye on the Test Match and during the second half I had both ears on the vitally important Worcestershire v Warwickshire T20 Blast game!

Congratulations Costa Rica - deservedly through to the last 16 at England's expense

Congratulations Costa Rica – deservedly through to the last 16 at England’s expense

From what I saw it seemed Italy took great heart from being cheered on by 60 million Englishmen and women and turned in a performance England would have been proud of.

Credit to Costa Rica who have now beaten the ‘big two’ in Group D and can afford to rest their star names against the whipping boys next Tuesday and probably still run out comfortable victors.

Bryan Ruiz got the only goal of the game with a close range header just before half-time and Costa Rica progress to the knockout stages for the first time since 1990.

 

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France v Switzerland

With England out of the tournament after a less than sparkling six days, we could now sit back and enjoy a tournament that has already been pretty damn enjoyable despite the shortcomings of the Three Lions.

More than a few jealous glances were thrown France’s way when they drew Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras in their group after a less-than comfortable qualifying campaign but, with eight goals in two games, they are up there with Holland as the team to beat to date.

They couldn’t really be judged on a 3-0 victory over a Honduras side who have adapted kick-and-rush into kick-and-push but the way they waltzed to a 3-0 lead at half-time against the Swiss demanded respect.

Pint-sized Valbuena made it 3-0 to France

Pint-sized Valbuena made it 3-0 to France

There was nothing spectacular about Olivier Giroud’s header on 17 minutes but a minute later they were 2-0 up after the Swiss gave the ball away straight from the kick off and Blaise Matuidi finished off a swarming attack.

France’s third reminded me of the days when swift counter-attack was an English trait, with Mathieu Valbuena tapping home to end a piercing move that started with a Switzerland corner. The only blot on their copy book was that Karim Benzema had already had a penalty saved and Yohan Cabaye missed the rebound.

But Benzema was to have his goal in the second half before Moussa Sissoko compounded Switzerland’s misery with a fifth.

Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men restored the tiniest degree of respectability with two late goals, Granit Xhaka’s in particular a real peach, but there was still time for Benzema to be denied the goal of the game when his stunning post-injury time effort beat everything but the final whistle.

 

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Ecuador v Honduras

Enner Valencia Ecuador

The 25-year-old is key to Ecuador’s hopes against France

I wasn’t expecting the last game of the day to be a classic but it ended up being an entertaining game in its own right.

Both sides tried to attack quickly down the wings, avoiding the centre of midfield, and of course Honduras weren’t afraid to get stuck in, kicking a man before they even kicked the ball!

Ecuador’s weakness in the first half seemed to be converting good positions into good chances and they were punished when Carlo Costly put Honduras ahead, finishing smartly from a long ball over the top.

The Hondurans weren’t ahead long though as Enner Valencia peeled away from his man at the far post and slotted home an equaliser.

In the second half Ecuador looked the likelier and particularly threatened from set pieces. It was a beautifully curled in free kick by Walter Ayovi that set up the winner, with Enner Valencia headed home emphatically.

 

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VERDICT

England can have absolutely no complaints that they’re heading home after two games and today’s result even dilutes the excuse of ‘Well at least we played well against Italy’. Talking of the Azzurri, they now need to avoid defeat against an invigorated Uruguay to progress themselves.

France put down a real marker with their thumping win over Switzerland and, assuming they win the group, a potential second round clash with Bosnia/Nigeria/Iran won’t hold any fears. Ecuador will have to hope France rest a few players in their clash if they are to make it through though.

 

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Bryan RuizPlayer of the Day: BRYAN RUIZ – I struggled to resist the urge to go for Benzema (again) who should now have had two hat-tricks in two games.

I’ve plumped for Brian Ruiz because, after a torrid half-season for Fulham, he has redeemed himself in his homeland at least by scoring the goal that sends them through to the next round. And I can’t begrudge him that.

Player for Gray: TEXT HERE

 

 

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TODAY’S FIXTURES

Germany beat Ghana 1-0 at the 2010 World Cup

Germany beat Ghana 1-0 at the 2010 World Cup

GROUP F – Argentina v Iran (5pm, ITV); Nigeria v Bosnia & Herzegovina (11pm, BBC)

GROUP G – Germany v Ghana (8pm, BBC)

 

TODAY’S TIPS

For once we have three games that in theory have predictable outcomes and the simple Germany/Argentina/Bosnia treble is available at around 3/1.

Lionel Messi won me some cash as an anytime goalscorer against Bosnia but I’d be tempted to go for Pablo Zabaleta against Iran at 10/1 (SpreadEx). Germany, meanwhile, will want to outdo France and I predict Over 3.5 Goals in their clash with Ghana, which is 6/4 with Coral & William Hill.

 

world cup Brasil emblem 01

Creg
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