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Jack: Four wonderful games on Day 3 in Brazil

Kristian Jack, TSN.ca
6/14/2014 11:07:17 PM
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The Day in 100 Words or Less

It was another delicious day at the World Cup. The trends continued, and oh boy please let them continue on and on: Space in zone 14 for number 10s to exploit, clinical counter attacks, high defensive lines, poor defending, surprise results and lots and lots of goals. International football desperately needs a really good World Cup. At the moment it is providing a really great one.

England 1-2 Italy

- What a wonderful game of football.

- Great teams can exploit an opponents' weakness and Cesare Prandelli's men did exactly that by working many of their attacks down the right. Matteo Darmian and Antonio Candreva tore England to shreds on that flank. Yes, Leighton Baines looked very average on a big stage but he wasn't helped.

- Wayne Rooney, asked to play the left side of a three inside a 4-2-3-1, struggled terribly defending his flank. Roy Hodgson felt he did 'very well' but if that was the case what was the reason for switching him to the right at the start of the second half?

- Rooney will become the scapegoat the English press need to feast on but for a supposed world class player it is hard to feel sympathy for a man who has created a bar that is higher than most in that country. Few genuine world class players (which Rooney is not) do not play in four different positions during a game which is what the Manchester United man did, flipping from the left to the right back to the left and then up front as England made their subs. For me, he should be played up top as a striker but it is clear his manager has very little faith in him at the moment.

- Rooney, who wasted a great chance by blasting wide on 61 minutes, has now played nine games in World Cups, combining for 685 minutes. He has more red cards (1) than goals (0).

- Rooney's positioning aside it is difficult to think of anything Hodgson could have done differently. His team simply isn't near as good as Italy. He had no answer for the technical brilliance of Italy's central midfield so he played his own game, counter attacking with pace.

- That was how they scored their goal, from this position (below) when it took five seconds for Sterling-Rooney-Daniel Sturridge to make it 1-1.

- Italy were excellent. Andrea Pirlo was even better than he was two years ago at Euro 2012 and alongside Daniele De Rossi and Marco Verratti were able to dictate the flow of the game.

- England defended well and countered but it was difficult to play that style for the entire game and once again England didn't score in the second half (eighth time in their last nine at major tournaments).

- Italy did and it came from a break down the right. Darmian hugged the touchline while the runs of his team-mates already had England nervous as Baines points...

Darmian plays Candreva in behind and England's backline is stretched...

Claudio Marchisio makes an intelligent run to distract Glen Johnson. Candreva cuts back and prepares a great cross for Mario Balotelli to head home the winning goal.

Colombia 2-0 Greece

- The wonderfully proud country of Colombia had waited 5832 days to see their team play at a World Cup. Few things are worth waiting that long for but no Colombian in Belo Horizonte cared anything about the past on this day.

- A year ago they were considered a contender for this World Cup. It scarred the country terrorized by high expectations of 1994 that ended in tragic circumstances. A year on, they were written off by some. Now it was their time to shine.

- The stadium was a sea of yellow and on the pitch the game was played at South American pace. For the third successive day a South American team scored early, and when Pablo Armero's shot bundled into the back of the net on five minutes it was the earliest goal of the World Cup so far.

- Armero got the glory but the architect was James Rodriguez. Without Radamel Falcao, manager Jose Pekerman misses a star striker but it does allow him to play five in midfield, something you cannot do with Falcao in the side. This meant James was placed deeper in a number ten role where he was given license to roam all over the field.

- On the opening goal he picked up the ball deep and had the vision and guile to play a gorgeous ball into space for Juan Cuadrado to run on to. The moment he pinned the ball deep he sprinted into the box and within eight seconds was in the box, receiving the ball and drawing defenders towards him. Moments after this shot he dummied the ball and allowed Armero to slot the goal home.

- Greece were forced to come out of their comfort zone and were the best team for 30 minutes in the first half. This is important because their World Cup is not solely based one match. How they react to this will be vital.

Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica

- It is the World Cup that keeps on giving. A stunning result in Fortaleza has thrown a cat amongst the pigeons inside group D and no one can say Costa Rica didn't deserve it.

- They were 7:1 underdogs heading into this game but they showed just how silly those odds looked. They never looked unsettled after going a goal down, through an Edinson Cavani penalty, and would defend brilliantly when asked.

- At times they played a 5-5-0 formation with Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell dropping deep and demanding the ball. It was some contrast to Uruguay's front two who couldn't get in the game.

- World Cups do not care one bit for reputations. They create them. Many times we have seen old, slow players passed their prime be chewed up by the biggest stage and a day after Iker Casillas faltered for Spain, Diego Forlan did the same for Uruguay.

- With no Luis Suarez (knee), Uruguay's over-reliance on the front two meant the 2010 Golden Ball winner was thrust back into the limelight. It seemed like a big gamble by Oscar Tabarez and so it proved. Uruguay have a pedestrian midfield four, their wide players offer little, meaning the front two needs to click. Forlan's place in the side pushed Edinson Cavani further forward and the two were invisible. Cavani is wasted as a pure target man.

- It was a night that exposed Uruguay's flaws. Much of their success has come against teams who have a lot of the ball who they can counter against. They couldn't do that today and, for once, when asked to be the team that dictated the match they buckled.

- Fernando Muslera in goal is pathetic at this level; his centre-backs have no confidence in him or each other at set plays and don't have any help defensively – outside of Cavani – when clearing. The alarm bells were ringing in that area at half-time and Costa Rica exposed them in the second half.

- Joel Campbell was great and benefited from a superb cross to score the first and laid in Marco Urena to complete the rout to make it 3-1. In between, Oscar Duarte wasn't tracked on a free kick and scored at the back post although he was inches offside.

Ivory Coast 2-1 Japan

- It was played while many slept in their beds or stumbled over their pint glass but if you missed it, you missed another good one.

- For the fourth time already at this World Cup a team came from a losing position to take the lead.

- Another trend at this World Cup has been momentum and, down 1-0 in the 64th minute Ivory Coast rocked Japan back, through the lively right back Serge Aurier. The Toulouse man, destined for a move to the Premier League, produced two outstanding crosses into the box in three minutes and headers from Wilfried Bony and Gervinho changed the game.

- Japan, ahead through a Keisuke Honda bullet, couldn't find another gear. Much like Croatia, Spain and Uruguay they had been rocked by a comeback and were not the same when behind.

- Yaya Toure doesn't look himself, however, and a funny moment took place in the first half when the ball from a teammate hit him in the face. He shook it off without a problem but I wondered if his mate didn't care too much for birthday cakes.

Man of the Day

Nominees:

Mark Geiger – The World Cup needed a good referee to step up and get things right. The American, who was helped by Canadian Joe Fletcher as his assistant, did exactly that in the first day of the game.

James Rodriguez – The Monaco magician was 7-years-old the last time Colombia played a World Cup. He has performed wonderfully in the Champions League but this was his big moment. He is so important to Jose Pekerman, allowing him to play five in midfield and be that deep lying playmaker, making up a midfield three, while also providing the decisive runs into the final third. His passing map (46 of 52) was special.

(Stats powered by Opta)

Joel Campbell – We should be careful using small sample sizes to come to conclusions about the club game but no one can convince me that Yaya Sanogo is a better option at Arsenal, the club that Campbell belongs to.

Andrea Pirlo – Nothing he does should surprise anyone any more. England couldn't find a plan to counter him so they simply didn't even try this time.

Antonio Candreva – His tactical intelligence was marvelous. It is one thing for a coach to set out a team to play a certain way; it is something different to have his players recognize key developments in-game.

The winner:

Andrea Pirlo – Candreva may have changed the game, Balotelli and Claudio Marchisio may have scored the goals but it was Pirlo who was the maestro and who everyone was talking about. It doesn't matter what country you support, this is the last time you will see the magician at a World Cup. Simply sit back and enjoy him while you can.

What Comes Next?

Switzerland vs Ecuador (12pm/9am), France vs Honduras (3pm/noon), Argentina vs Bosnia-Herzegovina (6pm/3pm).

Burning Question for Tomorrow

Can Switzerland's young stars find the space and beat Ecuador in a pivotal Group E match?

Key stat of Day 3

At the 2010 World Cup 25 goals were scored through the first 16 games. At the 2014 World Cup only half the teams have played and we are already at 28 goals.




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