2014 World Cup - Day Three Digest: England Have To Win Their Next Two Games
1 - James Rodriguez is really pretty
Colombia’s star man now that Falcao is injured, James Rodriguez took the bull by the horns and was man of the match against Greece in his countries first game, scoring and playing an integral part in their 3-0 victory. Not only was his performance eye-catching though, because the boy himself is strangely pretty - not handsome - but pretty. A very boyish face, effeminate features and an of the moment haircut to boot, he could easily be part of a South-American version of One Direction if somebody wanted to put that together (we do).
2 - Neil Lennon hates Georgios Samaras
Neil Lennon left Celtic recently where he was manager, and part of his squad was on Samaras, who happened to be playing for Greece against Colombia during his first pundit shift for ITV. Lennon then systematically took apart Samaras’ game, every VT he had put together was mistakes made from the man, every comment he had to make was aimed at his former charge and he proceeded to behave like a proverbial dog with a bone for the entirety of the analysis. I’m unsure if there’s something more there, but if the coverage was anything to go by, I wouldn’t be surprised.
3 - Luis Suarez isn’t even close to being fit
If he was anything close to being match fit, Luis Suarez would have appeared for Uruguay against Costa Rica at some point. But, as we know, he didn’t. In truth, Uruguay looked largely terrible without him, Edison Cavani really isn’t close to being on the same level in the slightest, and when they went behind, I’m sure most of anticipated a Suarez substation that alas never came. Whether or not he’s going to be fit to play England remains to be seen, but I’d imagine he’d be risked regardless with both sides desperate for a win after losing their opening games. Similar to Diego Costa toward the end of the season for Atleti, this could be a risk too far, and he may breakdown again if rushed back before he’s ready.
4 - Arsenal could really do with Joel Campbell
Costa Rica were written off as Group D’s whipping boys pre-tournament, but they were anything but in their opening game. Going behind to an early penalty, they took a while to get a feel for the game, but once they realised that Uruguay were there for the taking they stepped it up entirely. The catalyst for the turnaround was one Joel Campbell, owned by Arsenal for around three years, but yet to make an appearance for a range of different reasons. His performances this season both in Greece, the Champions League and now in the World Cup have shown that he’s got plenty to offer his parent club. Scoring the equaliser, wonderfully setting up the third, he looks every inch an Arsenal player. With their forward options too, it really seems like a no brainer for next season.
5 - *EVERYBODY* thought that Sterling had scored
Raheem Sterling’s first competitive touches for England in the World Cup had literally everyone celebrating a goal that wasn’t. A rocket from fully 30+ yards away clipped the side netting toward the top right corner, and rippled and fell in a fashion that looked like it had flown in. However, it hadn’t. From there on in, Sterling was England’s best player on the night, and well and truly justified his selection on the night, and most probably for the rest of the tournament. An offensive outlet, defensively capable of tracking back, intelligent enough to play at any point across the front three, Sterling is everything that England have been crying out for.
6 - Pirlo and Balotelli proved that they’re as good as we’ve been saying that they are
A large percentage of the pre-match talk was centred around one question: ‘how do you stop Andrea Pirlo?’. Despite the added threat of Veratti in the same midfield three alongside De Rossi, their midfield was always going to be an incredible threat, and Pirlo played his part, exploiting his passing range at every opportunity to release the wing-backs on the overlap. Perhaps not as influential as he was in Euro 2012 against England, he stilled pulled more strings that we should have allowed him to. Furthermore, often a figure of fun in this country due to the media coverage surrounding his time at City, one Mario Balotelli doesn’t get the recognition he deserves as a footballer. Still very young, with lots of potential and football ahead of him, Balotelli showed his goalscoring instincts by losing his defender at the far post and scoring the winner in a World Cup match. It doesn’t matter how many fireworks he’s set off in his own bathroom before, that doesn’t mean he’s not a fantastic footballer.
7 - Wayne Rooney, Glen Johnson and Leighton Baines could all be dropped
Despite his assist, Wayne Rooney was clearly the weakest link across England’s front line. Danny Welbeck was outstanding, Daniel Sturridge was a threat and got his goal, and as mentioned, Sterling was the man of the match. Rooney, however, let the left wing be a playground for Italy, with their wing-back making a mockery of Leighton Baines at every given opportunity. Baines too, was hardly the most exciting prospect either. Constantly exposed, which isn’t his fault, he failed to deal with his man on several occasions, including in the lead up to the winning goal, where he was turned far too easily and looked defensively suspect throughout. Ashley Cole’s omission was obviously brought up more than once on twitter, but that level of performance might open the door for Luke Shaw.
8 - England have to win their next two games
To get out of their group, England now have to win their next two matches against Costa Rica and Uruguay. On paper, they are far from easy matches, and won’t be that way in reality, either. However, if England perform in the same manner, and at the same pace and intensity they did against Italy last night, they should have too much for both sides, and solidify their path out of the group stages. It’s a massive task for England now, but it’s nice to have renewed faith in the group and quiet confidence in our ability to perform in tournament football given the negativity beforehand. Self-deprecation has turned in to self-confidence overnight, and that is wonderful feeling after giving us no chance previously.
9 - Gary Bloom is the best commentator at the World Cup
ITV commentary is terrible. They speak down to who is watching, dabble in cliche and display a worrying lack of knowledge on an incredibly regular basis. However, at 2am, with Japan playing Côte d’Ivoire, it was the first time in an extremely long time that I’ve actually enjoyed commentary of a football match. Gary Bloom took the care to pronounce each players name flawlessly, without making crass jokes, he had pre-existing knowledge of the camps of both sides and the feelings going in to the match. He provided insight, context and spoke to the viewer like a human being rather than an idiot, sharing intelligent views rather than spoon-feeding news we were already all well aware of. If ITV want their coverage to be finally taken seriously, they need more Gary Bloom on their games, and more commentators like him.
10 - Japan vs Côte d'Ivoire was well and truly worth staying up for
A select few of us stayed up past England’s match, didn’t go out and kept each other company on twitter throughout yet another amazingly fun World Cup match. Japan started brightly, with Honda scoring an absolute rocket of a goal in the first half, Côte d’Ivoire looking overly reliant on Yaya Toure and Bony missing every chance he got spectacularly. However, in the second half, perhaps spurred on by Costa Rica earlier on in the day, Côte d’Ivoire launched an improbable quick-fire comeback. Aurier provided two fantastic deliveries within as many minutes, Bony finally converting the first, and then the second turned in by Gervinho soon after. There hasn’t been a bad match so far this tournament, and this one was actually one of the best, and well worth staying up for.