In stark contrast to the usual festival of draws that is the World Cup, the first matches in Group D and Group E each produced a winner, though not the expected result in some cases.
With only victories and defeats in the groups so far, it sets up crucial second matches, with some teams facing elimination and others looking to secure a berth in the knockout stage.
Italy outlasted England 2-1, and Switzerland survived Ecuador by the same score thanks to a heroic goal from Haris Seferovic in the 93rd minute. However, the most shocking result of all saw Costa Rica smother Uruguay 3-1.
With both groups shaken up already, here are the full details for the Day 9 TV schedule and live stream, as well as predictions for each result.
|Italy vs. Costa Rica||D||12 p.m.||ESPN||Recife|
|Switzerland vs. France||E||3 p.m.||ESPN||Salvador|
|Honduras vs. Ecuador||E||6 p.m.||ESPN||Curitiba|
|Country (Group)||Win||Loss||Draw||Goal Diff.||Points|
|Costa Rica (D)||1||0||0||2||3|
Italy vs. Costa Rica
Italy handled England in a rousing opening match between the European titans. Mario Balotelli's header provided the difference in the end, but the barrage of deft passing by the Italians vexed England's defense and helped stymie any attack.
Italy's passing prowess actually surpassed that of Spain and the renowned tiki-taka system, and Andrea Pirlo's technical proficiency and experience helped lead the way for the Azzurri.
Italy completed 92.2% of passes vs England. Highest pass pct by any team in a #WorldCup game since 1966.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 15, 2014
Andrea Pirlo completed a game-high 65 (of 69) passes in 1st half, sending them everywhere: pic.twitter.com/hTLhwwL7xz— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 14, 2014
Costa Rica's stunning 3-1 win over Uruguay proved their quality, but they also did not have to contend with ailing striker Luis Suarez, who scored in the team's second match against England.
Moreover, Italy field a team with much more talent and consistency, and the combination of crisp passing and stingy defense will be more than Costa Rica can handle. The only hope for the Costa Ricans lies in stealing an early goal and desperately trying to hold on for points.
This is crazy: Italy is 16-5-16 (W-L-T) at the #WorldCup when tied at halftime.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 14, 2014
If the game reaches halftime with Italy either level or in front, the game will already be as good as over.
Result: Italy wins 2-0
Switzerland vs. France
Similarly to Costa Rica, the Swiss must jump in front early to have any hope of stealing three points. France boast total domination when leading at halftime of World Cup matches.
France is undefeated (17-0-1) at WC when up at half. That's the most WC halftime leads of any team w/o a loss.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 15, 2014
Switzerland's Seferovic conceded that France are a dangerous on the attack but noted that the run of play should be more open than it was against the cagey defense of Ecuador, as reported by Tom Conn on Inside Spanish Football. Now, it will be Switzerland's turn to try to hold down their opponent.
Swiss soccer has improved steadily in recent years, and they've ascended to sixth in the FIFA rankings. Moreover, Switzerland went undefeated in their qualifying matches, a stretch that included a win over Brazil.
The Swiss exhibit stingy defense and will pose a much tougher opponent than France faced during the Honduran walkover. Switzerland will look for counterattacks and opportunities off long downfield passes.
The openness of play could help favor France and their superior scoring threats, but the teams are more evenly matched than they seem at first glance. Expect the Swiss to frustrate France with a draw.
Result: 1-1 draw
Honduras vs. Ecuador
Honduras did not demonstrate much of anything in their 3-0 loss to France. They did not manage a corner kick, put only four shots on goal and forced the French keeper to make only one save.
Ecuador, on the other hand, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of a 1-1 draw by conceding the latest game-winning goal in group-stage history.
Coach Reinaldo Rueda told The Associated Press' Steve Douglas that the loss was "more our fault. We were not beaten by our opponent."
Ecuador will be eager to avenge that letdown, and Honduras have not demonstrated anything close to the quality needed to come away with three points.
Result: Ecuador wins 2-1