Three days in, we've already seen more entertaining football in the 2014 World Cup than we did for the whole of the 2010 edition.
The 2010 World Cup is most remembered for boring matches and pragmatic tactics. But through the first three days of this summer's tournament, goals and attack-minded play have reigned supreme. Brazil started it with their 3-1 win over Croatia, and the Netherlands continued it with their 5-1 annihilation of the reigning world champions.
With four matches on tap for Saturday, fans are promised more of the same, with Colombia vs. Greece and Italy vs. England highlighting the day's fixtures.
Here's a look at the action from Day 3 and how it affected the group tables.
Colombia 3-0 Greece
So much for Colombia needing Radamel Falcao. Even without their top goalscorer and star player, Los Cafeteros blitzed Greece early and never let up, picking up a comfortable 3-0 victory. That win bodes well for the Colombians based on their World Cup history, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Last time Colombia won their opening game was the last (and only) time they advanced out of Group Stage (1990 - beat UAE 2-0). #COLvsGRE— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 14, 2014
Many wondered if a South American World Cup would put countries from other continents at a disadvantage. So far, the answer to that question is a resounding yes, per Bleacher Report UK:
Colombian coach Jose Pekerman spoke of his pride after his team's performance, via football journalist Carl Worswick:
Pekerman: "I'm really happy, because we faced a hard rival and we're very happy with both the result and the victory."— Carl Worswick (@cworswick) June 14, 2014
Pekerman: "We are capable of generating chances and scoring goals. Every one of our players fulfilled their role in the team."— Carl Worswick (@cworswick) June 14, 2014
Greece are regarded as one of the most defensive teams at the World Cup. They can be hard to break down, but once they concede, it's over. So when Pablo Armero scored in the fifth minute, you knew the Greeks were in trouble.
Perhaps if Kostas Mitroglou's time at Fulham went better, Greece would've had the kind of striker who could snatch a goal out of nothing and bring the match level. Instead, they were largely bereft of attacking ideas. Panagiotis Kone had a good chance saved by David Ospina before the half, and Theofanis Gekas had a header carom off the crossbar in the 63rd minute, but by then, the score was already 2-0.
That was the extent of the Greek threat.
The match was a coming-out party of sorts for James Rodriguez. Many football fans have known about the Colombian winger for years now, but not many have seen him play at either Porto or AS Monaco. The World Cup is a chance for James to truly shine on the world stage, and he didn't disappoint on Saturday.
The Monaco star scored Colombia's third goal and played a large role in their first two. He earned man of the match honors from both WhoScored.com and Squawka:
The three points put Colombia in pole position for Group C. This group always looked to be theirs to lose, and all they need now is a victory over either Cote d'Ivoire or Japan and they're through. With the way that Los Cafeteros looked on Saturday, that shouldn't be a problem.
On the other side, this loss is devastating for Greece, particularly the one-sided nature of the loss:
Man, that's brutal for Greece's GD. Not sure they can even score three goals in two games.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) June 14, 2014
They have dug themselves into a massive hole, and they have it all to do in their next two matches in order to get into the top two of the group.
Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica
Costa Rica knew fighting Uruguay wasn't going to be easy, so they went to the Arsenal and found a secret weapon.
Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell was the star man as Los Ticos upended 2010 semifinalists Uruguay, 3-1, on Saturday night in what was by far the biggest surprise of the tournament so far:
When Edinson Cavani scored from the spot to give La Celeste a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute, it looked like business as usual. The team everybody expected to win was ahead and could coast to the finish.
But Campbell and Costa Rica had other plans.
The Olympiacos winger scored in the 54th minute to make it 1-1 and then assisted on Marcos Urena's goal in the 84th minute that made it 3-1 and secured the three points for Los Ticos. As you'd expect, that was good enough to earn man of the match:
Costa Rica were deserved winners. Unbelievably, they bullied the Uruguayan defense and gave Cavani and Diego Forlan very little in terms of chances in front of goal.
Luis Suarez's absence was certainly felt. Goal's Thomas Floyd wonders about their chances if the Liverpool forward can't go:
Uruguay without Suarez just isn't Uruguay. If he can't even go five minutes today, then they're done after this loss. #URUvsCRC— Thomas Floyd (@thomasfloyd10) June 14, 2014
ESPN's Max Bretos also wonders how much fatigue is a factor. Oscar Tabarez has relied on many of the same players over the last few years, so playing the 2010 World Cup, 2011 Copa America, 2013 Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup can add up:
Uruguay have that heavy legged, dazed and confused look that we saw from Spain. Long seasons, also playing back to back summers? Worn out...— Max Bretos (@mbretosESPN) June 14, 2014
This win should make fans realize how tough qualifying out of CONCACAF truly is. Quite a few people share the opinion of former France coach Raymond Domenech and believe that North American qualifying is a cakewalk and automatic road to the World Cup.
With this result, it's anybody's guess how Group D will unfold. Costa Rica are in the driver's seat, but they may struggle against England and Italy. Uruguay have their backs against the wall and that makes them very dangerous.
England might advance after all.
England 1-2 Italy
An entertaining Saturday continued with Italy's 2-1 win over England. You knew that with the humid Manaus atmosphere that both teams couldn't keep going for 90 minutes but the match more than delivered on the hype.
Claudio Marchisio opened the scoring with a goal in the 35th minute off an Italian corner. Notable about the set piece was Andrea Pirlo's incredible dummy. He sucked the England players in, leaving Marchisio with acres of space to place his shot.
German football journalist Christian Nyari thought that the midfielder deserved at least an assist:
Pirlo should get an assist for that brilliant dummy.— Cristian Nyari (@Cnyari) June 14, 2014
Goal USA described Pirlo as a "wizard":
That goal was roughly 60 percent Andrea Pirlo's dummy because Pirlo is magical and stylish like a wizard in an Armani suit.— Goal USA (@GoalUSA) June 14, 2014
The Azzurri had little time to enjoy their lead, though, as Daniel Sturridge leveled the match in the 37th minute.
Italy had to wait until the second half to find the breakthrough, with Mario Balotelli getting on the end of a great cross from Antonio Candreva to head in what would be the winning goal. This was the AC Milan striker's first World Cup goal.
Bleacher Report's Matteo Bonetti was happy to see Balotelli enjoying himself on the pitch:
Really happy for Balotelli tonight, and GREAT to see him celebrating after a goal. Not even he could contain joy for 1st WC goal.— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) June 15, 2014
It wasn't a poor performance from England, but some are picking out how little Wayne Rooney affected the match. He played on the left wing, which is an unnatural position for the Manchester United striker. He did assist Sturridge for the goal, but he was otherwise anonymous.
England manager Roy Hodgson defended Rooney after the match:
Most expected Italy to be the class of Group D, and so far, that's how it looks like things will play out.