World Cup Daily
A daily update on the action in Brazil
Nick Barbaro, 6:52am, Sat. Jun. 21
And so the calculus deepens. On Friday, the ninth day of the 2014 World Cup, surprising Costa Rica and France booked spots in the final 16; England was officially eliminated; and Italy and some others were left with a clear picture of what they have to do in their final group stage games, if they’re to keep their title hopes alive into the knockout rounds.
Friday ResultsCosta Rica 1, Italy 0
There are a lot of reasons to love Costa Rica: they have gorgeous beaches and ecotourism, they have no military, they use the dollar, they have excellent public education and a strong economy, they’re a warm and friendly people with an international outlook … and they love their soccer, which they are very very good at, considering the size of the country. After surprising top seed Uruguay in the opening game, the Ticos proved that was no fluke yesterday, by thoroughly frustrating and outplaying favored Italy, pressuring the ball all over the field, and holding a very high defensive line that the Italians never could solve. Bryan Ruiz converted a beautiful header for the lone goal that guaranteed Costa Rica a spot in the final 16 out of Group D. The result also eliminated England, who had lost to Uruguay on Thursday. Italy and Uruguay play Tuesday with the winner taking the second spot in Group D; Italy, with a goal-differential advantage, will go through in the event of a tie.
France 5 (!), Switzerland 2
France isn’t a big underdog like Costa Rica, but in a way they’re just as surprising, because they’re playing so well, and with such confidence and flair, even without their supposed offensive leader, injured Franck Ribery. No worries, because Karim Benzema is the player of the tournament so far, with a goal and two assists today to add to his two-goal opener. And there could’ve been more: he had a penalty kick saved, and a beautiful goal disallowed at the very end, when the referee mercifully blew the final whistle just before the ball went in the net. As it is, France’s second 3-goal win doesn’t mathematically clinch advancement, but they’re in unless they lose their last game to Ecuador by four goals or more, while Switzerland beats Honduras by five.
Ecuador 2, Honduras 1
The Hondurans put up a better fight here than they had against France in the opener, but they’re almost certainly eliminated by this second straight loss -- which was also the eighth come-from behind win of the tournament. Ecuador and Switzerland are now tied for second in Group E, with Ecuador (0 goal differential) facing France in the finale, and Switzerland (-2) facing Honduras.
Saturday’s Games:11am: Argentina-Iran (Group F)
After a tight comeback win over Bosnia in the opener, look for Lionel Messi and Argentina to break out against one of the weaker teams in the field, and to win the group.
2pm: Germany-Ghana (Group G)
Ghana is no slouch – many considered them the best of the African teams coming in – but Germany look like the complete package at this early stage. A German win sets things up nicely for the USA, who play Portugal on Sunday.
5pm: Nigeria-Bosnia/Herzegovina (Group F)
This is probably the game for second place in this group behind Argentina. Nigeria didn’t show much in their opening scoreless draw against Iran; they’ll need to do better against an underrated and well-organized Bosnia.