World Cup 2014: Day 8
Many expected Netherlands to simply brush aside Australia after their comfortable demolition of Spain last Friday, but it proved anything but. In the opening 10 minutes the Socceroos seemed far from phased as they knocked the ball around with confidence. The deadlock was broken 19 minutes in through Bayern Munich star Arjen Rooben. The midfielder sprinted beyond Alex Wilkinson, before charging all the way into the box and producing a fantastic low finish from a tight angle. It was a fantastic goal, third of the tournament for the former Real Madrid & Chelsea star.
Far from crumble, Australia incredibly took just 69 seconds to haul themselves back level. As the ball was swung in, Tim Cahill pulled off his marker and produced a volley normally reserved for the likes of Dutch stars like Robin Van Persie or, going back further still, Marco Van Basten. It was a truly stunning goal from the former Everton man, one that is bound to compete with van Persie’s header against Spain as one of the early contenders for goal of the season. Cahill then foolishly picked up a booking that will see him miss the final group game against Spain, as he went in heavily on Bruno Martins Indi, a challenge which saw the Dutch man stretchered off to be replaced by Memphis Depay. It proved to be the last action of note in a lively first half.
At the start of the second half, Tim Cahill put the ball in the back of the net again, only to see his effort disallowed for a foul, before Dutch striker Robin Van Persie is then booked for a foul which will see him also miss the last game of the group stages against Chile. Australia were then given a wonderful chance to take the lead from the spot, after Daryl Janmaat was adjudged to handle the ball. Miles Jedinak stepped up to stroke the ball home with ease.
The Dutch took just four minutes to make things all square again, however, this time coming back from behind themselves through Manchester United man Robin Van Persie. Memphis Depay slotted the ball through, and Van Persie took a touch before smashing an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net with his left foot. Netherlands then regained the lead in the 67th minute, as substitute Depay hit a long range shot that somehow beat Australia keeper Mat Ryan. Cruel on Australia, and Ryan will no doubt be gutted the ball was able to squirm beyond him.
Netherlands then had a chance to increase their lead further as Robben picked out Sneijder, but a brave block prevented the Dutch from extending their advantage. Into the final 10 minutes and Australia had a chance from a decent free kick just outside the box, but goalscorer Jedinak was unable to pick anyone out with his attempted cross. To their credit, Australia never stopped believing they could draw level once more, pushing forward at every opportunity. It almost cost them at the end when Wijnaldum found himself in space inside the Australian box, but this time Ryan was up to the effort, making a smart block with his legs. It was a brave effort from Australia, but wasn’t to be as the game ended 3-2 to the Dutch, who now have 2 wins out of 2. I predicted both to score and Netherlands to win, but had no idea the Socceroos would push them so close. Game of the tournament so far for me.
Xavi and Pique payed the price for the poor performance against Netherlands, as both were left out of the starting XI for Spain, against Chile, following the 5-1 thrashing on Friday. Javi Martínez and Pedro Rodríguez came in to replace them. It was the first time Xavi was left out of the starting line-up in a major tournament since he was left out in the 2-1 win against Greece in Euro 2008, when Spain were already through and all the stars were rested.
Chile started brightly, and there was almost an own goal in the opening minute when the ball broke in the area, ricocheting off a Spanish defender before going wide for a corner. Chile then missed a change to take the lead from the resulting set piece, Jara heading wide. Chile continued to press in the opening ten minutes, enjoying the lions share of possession, while Spain had just the one chance from a long Xabi Alonso free kick, swung into the box, but Claudio Bravo reacted quickly to come out and take the ball off the head of Sergio Ramos.
Spain the head a great chance to go in front when they broke in the area. Diego Costa saw his initial shot charged down, then when the ball fell to Xabi Alonso, Chilean keeper Claudio Bravo was again quick to react to dive at his feet and deny the opportunity. Minutes later, the deadlock was broken, and it was Chile who drew first blood with a goal more akin to Spain. Alexis Sanchez broke on the right, slipping the ball inside to Charles Aranguiz, who then somehow managed to square the ball perfectly into the path of Eduardo Vargas, who sidestepped Iker Casillas and slotted home from 5 yards out.
Spain certainly reacted to going behind,and Alonso was again guilty of wasting a chance when he was set up by Diego Costa, leaning back and smashing his effort over the crossbar from the edge of the area. Xabi Alonso was then booked for a poor tackle on Mauricio Isla. It then went from bad to worse for Spain as first he, then Iniesta, nibbled at the Chilean attack to give away a free kick. Alexis Sanchez hit the set piece on target, and Casillas bizarrely opted to punch the ball straight back into danger, and there was Charles Aranguiz to curl a fantastic effort into the top corner. It was clearly another nail in the coffin of the International career for Iker Casillas, who was largely at fault against the Dutch, and in all likelihood may have been dropped today had De Gea not picked up an injury.
Diego Costa wasted a great chance to pull one back after the break, after finding himself free in the penalty area, he controls the ball well but then hesitates allowing Bravo to block the shot. Minutes later Sergio Busquets misses an even better chance. Claudio Bravo can only punch clear a Sergio Ramos free kick, and as Diego Costa hooks it back in, Busquets found himself completely unmarked at the back post, but the ball hits him on the ankle and rolls wide. Costa paid the price for missing several chances as he was replaced by Fernando Torres on the hour mark.
Chile then had a great chance to make it 3-0 when a great counter attack saw Mauricio Isla stretching at the back stick with the net at his mercy, but he and Casillas could only watch on as his shot flashed over. Santi Cazorla then saw hit effort saved after Spain had wasted the chance in a 3 on 3 break. With minutes to go, Cazorla then saw another chance saved as Spain pushed to at least find a consolation goal with a free kick. The referee indicated 6 minutes stoppage time. Sergio Ramos had a chance, but could only fire against the shins of a Chile defender as Chile held on to a famous 2-0 victory that sees defending European and World Cup champions Spain out of the competition with a game still to play. How Spain failed to score I’ll never know, but Chile deserved to win, blowing my prediction, and a lot of pundits, out of the water, in the process.
In the final game of the evening, Cameroon became the third side to crash out of the World Cup, following Spain and Australia, after they fell to defeat against Croatia. Cameroon started brightly, wasting a free kick early on, while Eric Choupo Moting then did well to win a corner. Vincent Aboubakar then did well in beating Southampton defender Dejan Lovren to win another free kick as the African side continued to press in the opening 10 minutes. Croatia then started to feel their way into the game, Ivan Perišić again looking a danger down the right as he did against Brazil. 11 minutes in and the Croatians had the lead, when Perišić again caused problems, squaring the ball into the centre, where veteran striker Ivica Olić was on hand to fire home.
Things then got worse for Cameroon when former Arsenal midfielder Alex Song was sent off for a stupid challenge on Mario Mandžukić. The Barcelona man deliberately tried to strike the Croatian striker, in direct view of the referee, leaving him no option but to produce the red card. Wolfsburg star Perišić then doubled the lead, after a poor clearance from Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje fell straight to him, and he showed great determination, producing an excellent run and smart finish at the near post.
The returning Mandžukić, who missed the first game against Brazil through suspension, then added a third when he was left completely unmarked in the middle to head home from a Danije; Pranjic corner. The Bayern striker then added his second of the game when Itandje could only push out former Arsenal striker Eduardo’s effort, and Mandžukić was on hand to tap home from close range. Cameroon looked dead and buried, although they almost snatched one back at the death when Pierre Webó forced an excellent save from Stipe Pletikosa. The 4-0 defeat means African side have now failed to reach the second round in their fifth successive World Cup, and while Alex Song has to shoulder a lot of the blame for the scoreline, there will have to be a marked improvement from the indomitable lions to prevent a similar defeat against hosts Brazil in their final game.
The first game today sees Colombia take on the Ivory Coast in Brasilia. Colombia were dangerous going forward against Greece in the opening game, but looked far more vulnerable at the back than the 3-0 scoreline suggests. Armero, Gutiérrez and Rodríguez were all on target that day, but Greece dominated possession as well as creating more chances in the game. Form wise, they have now won 4 and drawn 4 of their last 8 games, only failing to score in one of those. Ivory Coast come into the match following a 2-1 win against Japan in their opening game. Les Éléphants actually found themselves behind in that game after a great strike from Keisuke Honda. However, two goals in just two minutes saw them turn the game on their head, with goals from Swansea City striker Wilfred Bony and former Arsenal striker Gervinho. Those goals mean the Ivory Coast have now hit the net in their last 26 games. I think Colombia just edge it on form, but prediction wise I’m going for both teams to score in what should be a good attacking encounter.
The second game of the day sees Uruguay take on England in what has turned into a vital game for both sides. Uruguay suffered a shock 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica in their opening game, while England were slightly unlucky to go down 2-1 to Italy. Both sides now desperately need victory in this clash as they look to escape from Group D. Despite taking the lead from the spot through Cavani, Uruguay were outclassed and outplayed by the unfancied Costa Rica, Arsenal man Joel Campbell creating the problems, while he, Duarte and Ureña produced the goods. The defeat was Uruguay’s first in 7 games, but the manner in which it came, along with the positive showing from England in their opener, means many will fancy the European side to come out on top. A 2-1 defeat didn’t tell the whole story of England, who put faith in their youngsters and produced a display of real attacking verve. But for defensive frailties allowing Mario Balotelli to head home unmarked, England would more than likely have taken a point from the match, and they will be full of confidence coming into this one. There is still some doubt as to whether Luis Suárez will be declared fit to face his Liverpool colleagues, the striker having not featured now in the last 5 games, while his Liverpool strike partner Daniel Sturridge will be looking to build on his reputation, which was enhanced greatly as he grabbed his first World Cup goal against the Italians. Again I’m looking at both teams to score as the safest bet. Naturally I’m hoping and praying for an England win, and they should start the game as slight favourites, but I’m taking nothing for granted in this one.
The final game takes place in Natal, as Japan take on Greece in the other Group C game. Japan were unlucky to lose 2-1 to the Ivory Coast in their opening game, ending a run of 5 straight victories in the process. They have also managed to find the goal 18 times in the last 7, and will fancy their chances against a Greek defence that at times fell apart against Colombia. Greece also showed potential going forward in their game, despite failing to hit the target in their game against Colombia. Prediction wise, I think Japan will have just too much energy for the opposition, and I’m going for both teams to score and Japan to win this one.
Both teams to score – Colombia v Ivory Coast
Both teams to score – Uruguay v England
Both teams to score and Japan to win against Greece
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