Day 8 at the World Cup should be thrilling—not just because the entire tournament has been that way, essentially, but also because the day features some truly interesting matchups.
Below, I'll review all three games on the schedule while also giving my overall thoughts on the two groups that will be represented.
It's gonna be fun, folks.
Colombia vs. Ivory Coast
This is for control of the group. With both teams winning their opening games, the winner here will all but assure they advance—and will guarantee they move on if Japan and Greece draw. Even a draw for each of these teams will help them, though it would also keep things pretty tight in Group C.
Colombia will be the favorites. Led by James Rodriguez and a blistering attack, the Colombians really picked Greece apart in a 3-0 win and could cause a lot of problems for a shaky Ivory Coast defense.
However, the African side are no pushovers and are extremely dangerous in the attack themselves, led by Gervinho and Yaya Toure, among others.
This should be a breathless, exciting, wide-open match. Don't blink—you'll likely miss something.
Greece vs. Japan
Can Greece score? That is the prevailing question when it comes to this team. They've only scored two goals in their World Cup history, both in 2010, and have yet to advance from the group stage.
They were also thoroughly outclassed by the Colombians, making the game against Japan of the utmost importance.
Japan, meanwhile, looked the better team for spurts in their opener against Ivory Coast, but ultimately conceded twice in the second half and lost 2-1.
Talisman and AC Milan star Keisuke Honda thinks part of that loss may have had to do with the squad being a bit starstruck against the Ivory Coast. According to Goal.com, he told reporters that's a mentality the Japanese must tweak:
I think there were a few causes (for the defeat) but especially I think we might have respected the opponents too much. It means that our consciousness to take the opponents' strengths away might be bigger than the one to show our own strong points.
Yes, playing aggressively is what we have built up and it is our belief and fundamental for our confidence. There were some dangerous players of Ivory Coast and there are some of Greece too and we need to show the respect to them but it is better not to show it too much.
One would guess that Japan would be the aggressors in this match, with Honda and Manchester United Shinji Kagawa stimulating the attack. Greece will look to keep their shape and counter, but will the goals come?
Probably. Japan's defense isn't particularly stout. With that said, don't be surprised if the Japanese simply outscore the Greeks in a game that ends up being surprisingly high-scoring.
Uruguay vs. England
This is the match of the day—the probable return of Luis Suarez, even if his true fitness level remains uncertain, a Uruguay team that must earn three points, an England squad that should be gunning for three but would still be in a strong position after a draw, the-ever present gaze of a nation on Wayne Rooney as he looks to fulfill some sort of prophecy of greatness that the English have become obsessed with.
Whoo boy, it should be fun.
Of course, we can't simply brush over the obsession with Rooney, mostly because if and where he'll play is really the key tactical decision England must make. Patrick Barclay of Fox Sports has more:
The pattern has tended to be that, with his goals and all-round leadership in qualifying, the Manchester United striker-cum-creator gets England to tournaments, only to let it down with mundane performances when the going gets tougher.
There’s a difference this time. England want to get the best out of Rooney—but they don’t need it. The talk of him being dropped—a pre-tournament space-filler for the media—has at last subsided as it’s become known that he will start once more against the Uruguayans, but at least it indicated the Hodgson has options in the creative attacking roles.
One of them is Southampton’s technically gifted Adam Lallana. Another, now he’s nearing full fitness after a knee problem encountered in the pre-tournament friendlies, is Arsenal’s young Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Hodgson believes both will have a part to play if, as England rightly expect, they keep their hopes alive in Sao Paulo, ready for the final group game against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte.
But while England fret and worry, the truth is the squad played a top-notch game against Italy and were simply bested. Against most other teams in the tournament, they would have won.
Uruguay can't say the same for their showing against Costa Rica.
They looked flat for much of the game. Without Suarez, the attack surprisingly lacked bite, all the more disappointing because the team still possess world-class forward Edinson Cavani. According to Juan Arango of The Telegraph, it was the PSG man who talked about the disappointment of that game:
Cavani: "It was a tough loss for us, not because we thought #CRC were easy, but because of how we played."— Juan Arango (@JuanG_Arango) June 18, 2014
Uruguay were sleepy to start World Cup qualifying in South America, so perhaps the result against Costa Rica shouldn't have been as astonishing as it was.
One thing is for certain: If they play like that again, their World Cup will be all but over by the end of Thursday.
Group C and D Predictions
Both games in Group C are going to be brilliant, but look for Colombia and Japan to win, keeping things really interesting in Group C. I still think Colombia and the Ivory Coast will get out of this group, but I'm not willing to completely dismiss Japan either.
Which team will win Group C?
As for England taking on Uruguay, that's tougher to call.
If Suarez is fit, Uruguay are dangerous. The problem is, we don't know how far he's actually come along. We do know that England played a strong match against Italy, however.
I want to project a draw in this match, mostly because I know how dangerous Uruguay can be but my gut is saying England will sneak away with a win.
Either way, expect another brilliant day of footy.