WORLD CUP DIARY: 24 June

WORLD CUP DIARY: 24 June

Brasil 2014 truly is the World Cup that keeps on giving – but on Day 12 it began to take away.

Not only do we start losing four teams a day (with the also-rans like Spain and England forced to play dead rubbers) but we also have the annoyance of simultaneous games, ruining the hopes of those of us who have some strange urge to watch every game.

 

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GROUP B

With Brazil the main event, Spain were left to suffer not only the ignominy of an early evening under-the-undercard kickabout with fellow losers Australia, but also relegated to ITV4 – a fate not even England truly deserve.

England - rubbish at cricket too

England – rubbish at cricket too

Meanwhile over on ITV1, Holland and Chile did battle in what was expected to be a fascinating contest between two of the great entertainers so far.

Well, I’m not saying the first half was boring but I found myself switching over to the cricket to watch the car crash that is England’s latest attempt to throw away a Test match (it’s going swimmingly by the way).

I managed to flick back to the football in time to see Norwich’s Leroy Fer put the Dutch ahead with a powerful header, a training ground goal to decide a disappointing game.

However, there was still time for some Arjen Robben magic as he broke from his own half in injury time before squaring to give Memphis Depay a tap in and win Holland the group.

Villa can't hold back the tears on his international exit

Villa can’t hold back the tears on his international exit

Meanwhile, over in Curitiba, Spain scored three trademark goals (maybe tiki taka isn’t dead just yet?) with David Villa scoring an exquisite backheel opener before exiting in tears for the last time as a Spanish international. 97 caps. 59 goals. Good knock, David.

Fernando Torres (yes, really) and Juan Mata completed the scoring to end a miserable tournament for the pointless Socceroos.

 

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GROUP A

Joel Matip gave Cameroon a shock equaliser

Joel Matip gave Cameroon a shock equaliser

Over to Group A then, and we had some intrigue. Brazil would surely dispose of woeful Cameroon, leaving Croatia and Mexico, who both impressed against Brazil, to battle it out for a last 16 meeting with Holland.

The hosts flew out of the blocks and a country erupted on the quarter-hour when Neymar opened up his body to guide home Luiz Gustavo’s perfect cross.

But Brazil’s defensive frailties were again exposed when Allan Nyom made mincemeat of Dani Alves and provided the easiest of goals for Joel Matip.

Fortunately for Brazil, that man Neymar popped up again to put them ahead before half-time.

Meanwhile, over in Recife it was a fractured and feisty affair with neither side able to break the deadlock before the break.

Cameroon committed the cardinal sin of letting Calamity Fred score (albeit he was offside) just minutes into the second half, meaning I could properly switch my attention to ITV4 – with the commentary coming from a cardboard box in London, a la Sky’s old FanZone, rather than by people actually in Brazil.

I worried for Croatia when a knackered Ivica Olic dragged himself off the pitch with twenty minutes left and from then on it was all Mexico.

Fernandinho sealed top spot for Brazil

Fernandinho sealed top spot for Brazil

They could have had a penalty for a blatant handball but it didn’t matter as Rafael Marquez headed home and then minutes later Andres Guardado finished a smart move.

At this point Croatia were dead and buried and for a minute you thought Mexico might even top the group when Javier Hernandez made it 3-0 with the free-est of free headers.

Over in Brasilia, though, Brazil made certain of a clash with Chile thanks to Fernandinho’s smart finish.

There was still time for a Croatia consolation through Perisic, deserved for their endeavour throughout the tournament, but the game ended on a sour note when substitute Ante Rebic was sent off for a studs-raised tackle on Carlos Pena.

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VERDICT

It may not have been the classic we had hoped for but Holland’s win over Chile earns them a winnable tie against Mexico while Chile face a mouthwatering clash with the hosts on Saturday afternoon. I suggest you clear your diary for that one.

I’m sad to see Croatia go because I’ve enjoyed Perisic, Olic and Rakitic but in the end they just shipped too many goals. Mexico may have been functional at times but Holland know they will have to work hard to beat the impressive Guillermo Ochoa.

 

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Player of the Day: DAVID VILLA – Who else could it be on a day when one of the great international goalscorers bowed out not only with a goal but with a whole heap of emotion. At 32, and now in the wasteland of the MLS, we never see David Villa on our TVs again but the man has been a class act and a Spanish great.

FBL-WC2014-NZL-MEXPlayer for Gray: MIGUEL LAYUN – Just three years ago, the nippy left back was blamed for all Mexico’s ills but in 2014 he has starred in on of the World Cup’s meanest defences.

The 25-year-old, who plays for Club America in his home country but with Spanish citizenship and good English, he could be tempted by a move across the Pond.

 

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TODAY’S FIXTURES

GROUP D – Costa Rica v England (5pm, ITV1); Italy v Uruguay (5pm, ITV4)

GROUP C – Greece v Ivory Coast (9pm, BBC1); Japan v Colombia (9pm, BBC3)

TODAY’S TIPS

Can England really exit the tournament with zero points? I strongly suspect they will, with Roy Hodgson announcing a whole host of changes and surprise package Costa Rica are widely available at 10/3. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Italy follow England out and, if you fancy Uruguay too, a Costa Rica/Uruguay double can be had at a tidy 13/1.

Meanwhile in Group C, put your mortgage on Colombia to overpower Japan, at 7/5 (Bet365, PaddyPower).

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Creg
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