Nobody told me that I had repeated Day 11 in my headlines twice. But I fixed it! I’m confused about what day of the week it is anyway since my workweek for this week is Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday (taking two vacation days).
Groups C and D get settled today and half of the final 16 will be set. Brazil and Mexico moved on from Group A and Netherlands and Chile moved on from Group B. (Although that was clinched.) Costa Rica and Colombia are playing today after having clinched spots in the final 16 from Groups C and D respectively. England is the only team playing for pride alone.
9 am Group C
The Costa Rica-England match won’t matter too much since the TIcos have already clinched a spot in the final 16. England is out. The Three Lions are returning to Belo Horizonte, scene of one of their most shocking losses, a 1-0 loss to the USA in 1950.
England’s squad is obviously dispirited after its early ouster from the tournament. If Roy Hodgson can get the team to put in a halfway decent effort, he should be applauded.
The Ticos are walking in rarefied air. They did advance to the Final 16 in 1990, but their wins that year were against Sweden and Scotland. This year, they’ve beaten two of soccer’s longtime powers: Uruguay and Italy. If Costa Rica beats another former champion, this will be one of the World Cup’s most surprising runs, probably on a parallel to Senegal’s run in 2002. (England is actually a slight betting favorite at -125 to win. Because CONCACAF gets no respect. Although there are pretty good reasons for that.)
You should know that CONCACAF stands for “Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.” It’s the governing body for all the teams in those areas, plus Suriname and Guyana, who don’t want to play with South America. Because they would get slaughtered. Instead they get slaughtered by El Salvador.
Italy and Uruguay are battling for the second spot in the group and they both could also finish atop the group. Italy holds the upper hand as they can advance with a draw. Uruguay needs a win.
Both the Azzuri and the Charruas are well known for spoiling the party at the World Cup, so it will be interesting how they match up when one has to spoil the other’s party. I would lean to Uruguay because Luis Suarez seems to be healthy and, despite being History’s Greatest Monster, he is a lot better at scoring than anyone on Italy’s roster. Oddsmakers have this pretty much as a tossup. I don’t think there will be a lot of goals in this one. Which means there will be a lot of goals in this one.
Noon Group D
Colombia is already through in this group with six points after two impressive wins over Greece and Cote d’Ivoire (or Ivory Coast, I go back and forth.) The Ivorians (nicknamed the Elephants) have the best chance of making it to the round of 16, but even Japan and, God forbid, Greece can make it through.
Despite outscoring its opponents by a 5-1 margin, Colombia is just a slight favorite over Japan, who has just one point. Japan have to beat the Cafeteros to have any chance of advancement. The Japanese (the Samurai Blue if you prefer) need the Elephants to lose to Greece, whom I do not think deserve a nickname.
Japan has just one goal in two matches, although in their second match, against Greece, it was pretty hard to score against a Greek defense that parked the bus, hid the keys, ripped the starter out, and then slashed their tires after they went down a man early.
Colombia will win the group with a draw. Japan is going to need to play their best match to get to the Round of 16.
In the other match, Cote d’Ivoire will try to finally make it out of group play with its “Golden Generation” of players. This team may be a bit long in the tooth, but it should be able to beat Greece (or even draw) and get to the next round.
If Greece wins (and by a large margin) and makes it to the Round of 16, you will be able to hear me sighing and moaning if you are standing near the Parthenon.
The winner of Group C plays the runnerup of Group D and will play in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday. The winner of Group D will play the runnerup of Group C and play in Recife on Sunday.
If you want to look ahead, if you assume Costa Rica wins Group C and can beat the Group D runnerup (probably Cote d’Ivoire), the Ticos would be playing Brazil on July 4, if Brazil beats Chile.
I forecast the other quarterfinal coming out of these groups to be the Netherlands vs Colombia on July 5.