World Cup Daily: June 30
So, after a first round that held a lot of surprises, we’ve reverted to form so far in the round of 16: The group winners have won all four of the matches so far, and the quarterfinals are looking like a battle of the heavyweights. It hasn’t been easy getting there, though.
Sunday ResultsNetherlands 2, Mexico 1; Costa Rica 1, Greece 1 (5-3 PKs)
Two kind of similar games here, as Mexico and Costa Rica each scored early in the second half, then went into a defensive shell, but were unable to hold the lead in the final couple of minutes of regulation. That’s about where the similarities end, though: Mexico’s demise was largely self-inflicted, because they stopped playing their game shortly after they took the lead, removing goal-scorer Giovanni Dos Santos and staying content to let Holland have all the possession. That backfired when the Dutch earned a tie in the 88th minute on a Wesley Sneijder rocket that all-world goalie Memo Ochoa never saw, then Arjen Robben earned a penalty two minutes later, converted by late sub Jan-Klaas Huntelaar. Mexico feel robbed, no doubt; captain Rafa Marquez’ foul on Robben was a very close call indeed, even in slow-motion replay. Still, they can’t complain too bitterly; a first-half no-call, also on a foul on Robben, clearly should have been a penalty. So things even out, I guess. Costa Rica’s defensive shell, on the other hand, resulted from a red card that came shortly after their go-ahead goal, and forced them to play a man down for the last 50 minutes, including a nail-biting overtime after Greece finally tied the game in stoppage time. In the end, Tico keeper Keylor Navas – whose stock has risen during this tournament almost as much as Ochoa’s – made a diving, reach-back, one-handed save on the final Greek penalty kick, and that was the difference. What a day!
Monday’s Games:11am: France-Nigeria
Interesting how each day of the round of 16 brings a different continental theme: Saturday was the all-South American day; Sunday featured two Europe-North America matchups; today has Europe against Africa, and Tuesday is back to Europe vs. the Americas. Europe and CONCACAF split yesterday’s games, but France and Germany should have little trouble disposing of the two African entries today; both were frankly lucky to get this far, as the runners-up in the two weakest groups in the draw.
And looking forward, tomorrow is Argentina-Switzerland at 11am, and Belgium-USA at 3pm. And this weekend’s quarterfinal draw is starting to come together:
Friday, July 4
Saturday, July 5
3pm: Netherlands-Costa Rica