Part of the reason that the World Cup is always so electrifying is because every match is of critical importance. While the knockout stage is always a must-win situation to advance, the group stage is a little more complicated and therefore a lot more interesting.
Because each team plays three games in the group stage, a single loss is worrisome but not fatal, while two defeats likely results in elimination. The four-team combination of wins, draws and losses creates a chaotic situation that is a lot of fun to watch.
Heading into the ninth day of competition, four of the six teams that will play are 1-0 and are in good position to advance. However, two others are 0-1, desperately needing a win to keep their tournament hopes alive.
Take a look below for live streaming information for Friday’s action, as well as previews and predictions for all three matches.
|World Cup 2014: Day 9 Fixtures|
|Noon ET, 5 p.m. BST||Italy vs. Costa Rica||BBC iPlayer/ESPN Player||2-1|
|3 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. BST||Switzerland vs. France||ITV Player/ESPN Player||1-2|
|6 p.m. ET, 11 p.m. BST||Honduras vs. Ecuador||ITV Player/ESPN Player||1-3|
Italy vs. Costa Rica
Italy and Costa Rica—the top two teams in Group D—each enter Friday 1-0. Costa Rica currently hold the edge in goal differential, but a victory for either side will almost assuredly allow the winner to advance to the knockout round.
Costa Rica had one of the most impressive victories of the tournament in their opener, defeating Uruguay 3-1. They trailed early after Edinson Cavani put a penalty kick past the keeper, but Costa Rica exploded for three second-half goals to put the match out of reach.
The victory made a resounding statement that Costa Rica shouldn’t be taken lightly, nor will they be an easy out, despite being in a tough group with Uruguay, England and Italy.
Coach Jorge Luis Pinto was pleased with the way his team defeated Uruguay but knows they still have much to accomplish, per FIFA.com:
We are happy and I want to congratulate the team for the attitude they showed. The players kept their heads after Uruguay scored. They were composed, stuck to their game and played with a lot of heart. It’s an important win for us and it gives us hope, though we haven’t won anything yet.
Meanwhile, Italy also enter Friday’s match on a positive note. Although the Italians were outshot by 10—only by three on goal—they managed to defeat England 2-1. Italy scored first but found themselves tied two minutes later. However, star forward Mario Balotelli did what he does best—score important goals—as he found the net in the 50th minute in what proved to be the game-winner.
Both sides are solid defensively, but they differ in their offensive execution. Italy prefer to rely on precision passing and smart execution, while Costa Rica prefer to play with energy and pace. Joel Campbell was the star for Costa Rica against Uruguay, as the Arsenal forward, just 21 years old, scored and assisted for his team. Expect him to find the net again, but look for Italy’s offense to be the difference.
Prediction: 2-1 Italy
Switzerland vs. France
Like Italy and Costa Rica, Switzerland and France both won their openers and now sit atop Group E. The Swiss needed a late goal to win, while the French defeated Honduras with ease.
Switzerland won in one of the most dramatic finishes of the 2014 World Cup. The match was tied until Ricardo Rodriguez sent a terrific cross to Haris Seferovic, who put the ball in the net in the 93rd minute to propel Switzerland to a 2-1 victory over Ecuador. Rodriguez assisted on both goals and helped lead an aggressive attack that had 18 shots, including 12 on goal.
France, however, didn’t need a late goal to dispose of Honduras, as the team won comfortably by a score of 3-0. France dominated the match from start to finish, possessing the ball for 63 percent of the game. The team attempted 20 shots, 10 on target, and Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema netted two goals.
Both teams were aggressive in their attacks in their opening matches. Expect that trend to continue with both sides finding the net, but for Benzema to score a late winner.
Prediction: 2-1 France
Honduras vs. Ecuador
Honduras and Ecuador are both 0-1 and are in desperate need of a victory to remain alive in the tournament. They face each other on Friday in a rematch of last November’s friendly, which resulted in a 2-2 draw.
France embarrassed Honduras in the opener. Honduras controlled the ball for just 37 percent of the match, which led to just four shot attempts, including two on goal. In addition, the team will be without midfielder Wilson Palacios, who got a red card against France.
Ecuador lost a heartbreaker against Switzerland in their first game. Enner Valencia netted a goal in the 22nd minute to give his team a 1-0 lead heading into half-time, but Switzerland scored just after half, and a likely Ecuador draw was seized when Seferovic scored in extra time.
Despite the loss, Ecuador played well, as Valencia notched a goal for his fifth straight international match, a streak that includes the draw with Honduras in 2013. Look for Ecuador’s attack to be strong throughout the match, with Valencia continuing his streak and the team dominating possession against Honduras just like France did.
Prediction: 3-1 Ecuador
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