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World Cup Daily: June 25

A daily update on the action in Brazil
Nick Barbaro, 7:59am, Wed. Jun. 25
There was high drama Tuesday, and late winners in both Groups C and D, as first Uruguay ousted Italy on an 81st-minute goal – a result almost overshadowed by another Luis Suarez biting incident – and then Greece knocked out Ivory Coast on a penalty kick scored on the last touch of the day. Great stuff.

This was group play at its best: multiple scenarios in play, and survival hanging in the balance down to the last minutes.

Tuesday Results

Costa Rica 0, England 0; Uruguay 1, Italy 0 (Group D)
Costa Rica had already clinched one of the top two spots in Group D, and their scoreless tie with England was enough to win the group, and send England home with their worst WC result ever. Meanwhile, Uruguay-Italy was a nail-biter, and a treat to watch. With Uruguay needing a win to overcome Italy’s tiebreaker advantage, their attack became more urgent as the game progressed. A straight red card to Italian midfielder Claudio Marchisio in the 60th minute seemed a bit harsh, and completely changed the game, sending Italy into a defensive shell. In the 79th minute, Suarez leaned into the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, and appeared to bite him. Indeed, if FIFA decides, on the video evidence and apparent bite marks on Chiellini, that that is indeed what happened, Suarez’ World Cup is surely over; he’s admitted to two previous biting incidents, which earned seven- and ten-game bans. Two minutes later, as viewers and no doubt participants were still trying to absorb and analyze that, Uruguay captain Diego Godin knocked in a cross off a corner kick to send Italy home, and move his team on to face Colombia in the round of 16 – with or without Suarez.

Colombia 4, Japan 1; Greece 2, Ivory Coast 1 (Group C)
Colombia had never won more than one game in any of its four previous WC appearances, but they looked scintillating here again: needing just a draw to win the group and eliminate Japan, they never really seemed threatened. Which made the Greece-Ivory Coast game another win-or-go-home affair, with hugely talented Ivory Coast favored to win, and holding the edge in case of a draw. Greece took a shock lead in the first half, and defended it doggedly until, with a quarter-hour left in the game, Ivory Coast clawed back an apparent saving goal and seemed in control. In the end, though, what I’ll remember about Ivory Coast is watching half of their team walking back toward their defensive end in the final minute, as Greece pushed forward desperately for the goal that would save them. When you’re defending a one-goal lead with 45 seconds to go in a WC elimination game, you run back to play defense. They were dogging it, and they’re going home.

Wednesday’s Games:

11am: Nigeria-Argentina; Bosnia/Herzegovina-Iran (Group F)
Argentina probably wins this group; Nigeria can be the other team to advance with a win or draw, but if they lose, and Iran beats Bosnia, Iran can go through instead, depending on goal differential and goals scored. If both games end in the same score this could go down to a coin toss.
3pm: France-Ecuador; Honduras-Switzerland (Group E)
France has looked phenomenal, and is almost certainly the group winner, on goal differential if nothing else. Ecuador will likely have to beat them to take the second qualifying spot and make South America a perfect six-for-six in advancing to the next round.

Want to hear more. I’ll be on The Horn, ESPN radio, 107.9FM, today around 3:20pm, and every Wednesday through the rest of the WC.

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