If you did not believe that the World Cup is capable of surprises, you were likely convinced by a dramatic Day 3 in Brazil.
Colombia started the day off with an easy win over Greece, but fellow South American squad Uruguay was not as successful, losing to Costa Rica in a major upset in the first week of the tournament.
The battle between Italy and England was just as good as anticipated, but Italy were able to come away with the narrow victory. In the final contest of the busy day, Ivory Coast had a come-from-behind victory over Japan to put themselves in good position going forward.
Considering half of the World Cup teams are still yet to play their first match, you can imagine a lot more excitement going forward. Until then, here is a breakdown of what happened in Saturday's matches.
Day 3 Recap
Colombia 3, Greece 0
Coming into the tournament, there were questions whether Colombia would be able to score without injured striker Radamel Falcao. After a dominant showing in the first match, these have been answered.
Pablo Armero only needed five minutes to give his side the 1-0 lead on an impressive shot past the goalkeeper. While there were no more goals in the first half, it was clear that Colombia had the advantage in this match.
In the second half, the squad was able to double its lead when Teo Gutierrez—who took Falcao's position and number—scored off a corner kick. Bleacher Report UK provided a look at the goal while noting that he was the star's replacement:
Greece had a few chances to get onto the scoresheet, but a James Rodríguez goal in stoppage time helped secure the win as Colombia got the three points they wanted from this match.
After the competition, Gutierrez described the motivation from replacing a great player, via FIFA.com:
The coaches and my team-mates gave me the confidence to wear the jersey. It was important for me to repay that faith with a goal, a goal that’s also reinforced my self-belief. We all need to work for the good of the team here, because the team is each and every one of us.
Radamel always keeps an eye on us. He’s a great striker and a lovely person and I’d like to dedicate part of this win to him.
Things will remain tough for Colombia as they will have to play Ivory Coast next. In a wide-open group, any misstep could hurt a team's chances of advancing. Still, they have to be more than satisfied from the opening performance against Greece.
Costa Rica 3, Uruguay 1
This was supposed to be a dominant win for Uruguay as one of the contenders to make a deep run in this tournament. Unfortunately, no one told Costa Rica of these plans.
Things started as expected with Uruguay getting out to an early lead. Diego Lugano drew a foul in the box coming off a set piece, and Edinson Cavani was able to score the penalty in the 24th minute. This allowed the favorites to go into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
However, things changed dramatically in the second half when Costa Rica came out firing. Joel Campbell scored the equaliser on a nice shot in the 54th minute, which was quickly followed by a heading goal by Oscar Duarte.
Fox Soccer Trax captured the emotion of the moment:
When Marco Urena scored the third goal for Costa Rica in the 84th minute, the upset was complete. This has continued an interesting trend this week with teams finding ways to come from behind:
Also notable is the fast start by CONCACAF, as noted by Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated:
This certainly bodes well for the United States after they finished first in qualifying in the region. Still, this is a great moment for Costa Rica as they try to shock the world to advance to the next stage.
Italy 2, England 1
This was one of the most highly anticipated games in the group stage as both Italy and England come into the tournament with plenty of current talent and historical success. Fortunately for fans, this battle lived up to the hype as there was plenty of excitement throughout.
Italy took the lead in the 35th minute when Claudio Marchisio fired a shot into the back of the net from just outside the box.
However, this did not last long as it took only two minutes for England to even up the match on a goal from Daniel Sturridge. Dan Roan of BBC News described the impressive play:
These teams went into halftime even at 1-1, but Mario Balotelli changed that shortly into the second half on a header in the 50th minute. The striker was held in check for much of the match, but England simply lost him on the go-ahead score, as noted by AS:
This score was even more devastating than usual for England after Balotelli's comments earlier in the week saying that England cannot win the World Cup.
Italy held on to win, putting the squad in great position to advance out of the group if it can keep it up.
Ivory Coast 2, Japan 1
Both teams came into this match knowing that it could greatly affect which side escapes the group, but it was Ivory Coast that came away with the victory.
Japan got off to a strong start when star midfielder Keisuke Honda fired a shot into the top-left corner of the net to put the team ahead 1-0 in the 16th minute. Considering the Ivory Coast struggled to get anything going offensively, the Asian team had to be feeling good going into halftime.
Everything changed when Didier Drogba was substituted into the match in the 62nd minute. The legendary player seemed to lift the spirits of the Ivory Coast team, and it led to an immediate turnaround in the competition.
Brett Martel of the Associated Press described the action that took place:
CBS Sports' Jerry Palm notes how quickly the match shifted:
Japan simply could not recover from this huge shift in momentum and fell short in the 2-1 match.
Ivory Coast are now in great shape going forward in this tournament. If they can get any points from the next match against Colombia, that could be all the squad needs to ensure a spot in the knockout stage.
|2014 World Cup Group Standings|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|2014 World Cup Initial Fixtures|
|Brazil vs. Croatia (Brazil wins 3-1)||Thursday, June 12|
|Mexico vs. Cameroon (Mexico wins 1-0)||Friday, June 13|
|Spain vs. Netherlands (Netherlands wins 5-1)||Friday, June 13|
|Chile vs. Australia (Chile wins 3-1)||Friday, June 13|
|Colombia vs. Greece (Colombia wins 3-1)||Saturday, June 14|
|Ivory Coast vs. Japan (Ivory Coast wins 2-1)||Saturday, June 14|
|Uruguay vs. Costa Rica (Costa Rica wins 3-1)||Saturday, June 14|
|England vs. Italy (Italy wins 2-1)||Saturday, June 14|
|Switzerland vs. Ecuador||Sunday, June 15|
|France vs. Honduras||Sunday, June 15|
|Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina||Sunday, June 15|
|Iran vs. Nigeria||Monday, June 16|
|Germany vs. Portugal||Monday, June 16|
|United States vs. Ghana||Monday, June 16|
|Belgium vs. Algeria||Tuesday, June 17|
|Russia vs. South Korea||Tuesday, June 17|
Day 4 Preview
The highlight of Sunday's matches will be the debut of Argentina, which might be the most exciting squad in the competition. Lionel Messi is the star of the squad as arguably the best scorer in the world, but he will get plenty of help from Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria on the attack.
However, there are still question marks about how the defense will fare, as noted by Mario Kempes of ESPN FC:
"From midfield and forward, they're incredibly strong; but from the midfield to the back, they are not quite there yet. Overall, the defenders' names are not as big, aside from Man City's Pablo Zabaleta, so if there is a vulnerable spot, it will be the defence."
Bosnia and Herzegovina will attempt to take advantage of this weakness, but it still will be difficult to outscore Argentina.
In the first match of the day, Switzerland will try to live up to their seed after a strong performance in qualifying. They might not get much respect on the international scene, but they will be a tough team for anyone in their group to beat.
Finally, France will attempt to improve upon their miserable result from the 2010 World Cup. This will not be easy without the injured Franck Ribery, but they still have the talent to make a deep run in this tournament.
If they can make it past Honduras, they should have plenty of confidence to keep winning in the group stage.
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