Another day, another round of heavily anticipated fixtures at the 2014 World Cup.
Thursday begins with Colombia vs. Ivory Coast, which could decide who tops Groups C. Both teams won their opening matches, so grabbing six points would all but lock up a place in the knockout stage and put them in pole position in the group.
Following that, England take on Uruguay, which sees the return of Luis Suarez to the starting lineup for the 2011 Copa America champions. Uruguay are a much different side with him in the squad, and after that 3-1 loss to Costa Rica, they're fighting for their tournament lives.
The day wraps up with Japan vs. Greece. While not the most glamorous fixture, this match features an intriguing tactical battle, with Japan's skillful midfield trying to break down the organized Greek defense. This is the kind of match you don't want to sleep on.
Below is a recap of Day 8's results as they come in.
Day 8 Scores
Day 8 Results
Colombia 2-1 Ivory Coast
Colombia took a major step toward advancing to the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time in 24 years after a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast on Thursday.
Just as he had in Los Cafeteros' victory over Greece, James Rodriguez provided the spark in midfield. The AS Monaco star scored the opener in the 64th minute, which gives him a goal in each of Colombia's last four matches, per WhoScored.com:
James Rodríguez: Has scored in each of his last 4 appearances for Colombia #col— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 19, 2014
Without Radamel Falcao up top, somebody needed to step up in his absence, and that's exactly what James has done so far. After the match, he was quick to credit coach Jose Pekerman, per Colombian football journalist Carl Worswick:
James pays tribute to manager Jose Pekerman in his post-match conference: "He has helped us so much. He always wants us to play well."— Carl Worswick (@cworswick) June 19, 2014
As good as James was against Les Elephants, though, he was arguably overshadowed by teammate Juan Cuadrado, who fired in the corner from which James scored. That was his third assist of the World Cup already, the most of any Colombian player since 1966, per OptaJoe:
WhoScored.com pegged the Fiorentina winger as the man of the match:
Juan Quintero doubled Colombia's lead in the 70th minute, after which what had been an entertaining game up to that point opened up and became an end-to-end affair.
Gervinho halved the deficit in the 73rd minute with a winding run through the defense. Tom Williams of the Agence France-Presse thought that the Roma winger got a bit lucky but simultaneously demonstrated his skill on the ball:
Almost the archetypal Gervinho goal, that - two parts luck, three parts sinewy brilliance.— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) June 19, 2014
Of course, any success that Gervinho has is contrasted with his poor time at Arsenal.
ESPN FC's James Tyler joked that the Ivorian might have been purposely bad at the Emirates Stadium because the differences between his Arsenal career and Roma career couldn't be any more massive:
I like to think that Gervinho made a conscious choice not to do things like that for Arsenal.— James Tyler (@JamesTylerESPN) June 19, 2014
European football journalist James Horncastle felt that Gervinho gave fans a little bit of both sides during the match:
Arsenal's Gervinho in the first half. Roma's in the second— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) June 19, 2014
Gervinho's incredible goal was all for naught, as Colombia held firm for the final 20 minutes and maintained a 2-1 victory. Ivory Coast had a couple of attacking moves to try and get level, but they came to nothing.
Los Cafeteros sit top in Group C, while Les Elephants are second. All Colombia need in their third match is a draw against Japan and they take the group.
Ivory Coast, meanwhile, will need at the very least a draw against Greece in their next match in order to qualify for the round of 16.
Uruguay 2-1 England
It just had to be him, didn't it? Luis Suarez scored twice to give Uruguay a 2-1 win over England on Thursday night.
You could see the Liverpool forward was still laboring from the knee injury he suffered back in May. Despite not being able to go full bore, Suarez remained lethally efficient with the ball at his feet, per Ben Smith of BBC Sport:
Uruguay/Luis Suarez had two shots on target vs #ENG and scored with both.— Ben Smith (@BenSmithBBC) June 19, 2014
He scored on a header in the 39th minute and followed up with the winner in the 84th. The marking from England defenders was poor on both occasions. Even Rihanna knew that you couldn't give Suarez any space in the 18-yard box:
Man they know better than to give Suarez that much room bruh!— Rihanna (@rihanna) June 19, 2014
Beyond the Pitch thought it was a bit ironic that two footballers many English fans push away—Suarez and Mario Balotelli—have scored the winners in the Three Lions' two losses:
Fascinating that it was Suarez and SuperMario who put down England with identical score lines .. Moral to the story: #embracethemadness— Beyond the Pitch (@BeyondthePitch) June 19, 2014
The match wasn't altogether dispiriting for England. At least Wayne Rooney broke his World Cup duck, per ESPN Stats and Info:
With back-to-back defeats, the future is bleak for England. They aren't completely out of it yet, but they need a lot to go right in order to qualify for the knockout stages. ESPN Stats and Info puts their chances at 3.6 percent:
England's not done yet -- ESPN's Soccer Power Index gives them a 3.6% chance to advance— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 19, 2014
Expectations back home were pretty low for the Three Lions, so supporters won't be too surprised with the team's slow start. Playing Italy and Uruguay is a tough start for anybody, and once England lost to the Azzurri, their hopes of making the round of 16 were dwindling fast.
Uruguay, on the other hand, received a major lifeline. They still have it all to do against Italy in their last group-stage match, but La Celeste have built a ton of momentum on the back of this result.
And nothing was more important than Suarez showing that he can still be effective even when not at match fitness. If he's firing, Uruguay might become a title contender once again.