If anyone wasn't convinced before that the 2014 World Cup will go down as the World Cup of the unpredictable, they should be now. Costa Rica made sure of that.
The Costa Ricans surprised the world once more this World Cup by defeating Italy, 1-0, on Friday, ensuring their place in the knockout stage and assuring England that they won't be advancing out of the group stage.
It was Bryan Ruiz with his first World Cup goal to mark the difference between the two sides, as ESPN Stats and Information captured:
With no noticeable sense of urgency in the second half and Mario Balotelli vanishing from relevancy in the match, the Italians looked more likely to concede a second goal than equalize in the second half. It puts the Italians' backs against the wall heading into a must-win game against Uruguay to see who joins Costa Rica in the next round.
Disappointment wasn't on the horizon for France, however, who stomped Switzerland in a 5-2 defeat. Five different Frenchmen scored to give them a five-goal lead before the Swiss closed the gap in the closing minutes.
However, they will have to wait to advance until the final round of the group stage. But as Infostrada Sports summed up, it would take the unlikeliest of circumstances after France opened up with two victories:
France are not officially in the last 16. If Ecuador beat France by 4-0 and Switzerland beat Honduras 5-0 France are OUT.— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaLive) June 20, 2014
The reason why France will have to wait is because Ecuador mounted a comeback victory over Honduras to take all three points in a 2-1 victory. A Honduras win or draw would have ensured the advancement of the French.
Carlo Costly put Honduras up early with a 31st-minute goal, but Enner Valencia answered back quickly for the Ecuadorians in the 34th minute. The match carried on into the second half, when Valencia scored his brace to separate the sides, per Footy Vines:
Valencia with the header!! https://t.co/IuoUtU1ESu— Footy Vines.com (@Footy_Vines_) June 20, 2014
Costa Rica advancing after two matches in a group with three world champions is up there on the list of surprising results from Brazil, but we might just be getting started in terms of unpredictable finishes.
Let's take a look at what's next as we approach Day 10.
|12 p.m.||Argentina vs. Iran||ESPN||3-0 Argentina|
|3 p.m.||Germany vs. Ghana||ESPN||3-1 Germany|
|6 p.m.||Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina||ESPN||2-1 Bosnia|
Argentina vs. Iran
After a tight-yet-impressive 2-1 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina to open up play in Brazil, next up for Argentina is a matchup with Iran that could send Lionel Messi and company on into the next round.
Iran have one point after an opening draw against Nigeria and could put themselves in a position where they have a shot at advancing on the final day. But it would take a positive result against the Argentinians to put them in that position.
The Iranians aren't short on confidence despite playing one of the World Cup favorites, as Iran goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi made clear:
Iran is heading into the match confident of their abilities to come out with the valuable point or even three of them, but it won't much matter. Argentina are one of the most talented teams in the tournament and are destined to win Group F.
Messi got his goal in the opener, but Argentina faced plenty of struggles against a Bosnian defense that didn't give them much. Expect them to press even more against Iran with the opportunity to get their offense on track with a number of goals.
Germany vs. Ghana
Germany made an early statement in Group G by dismantling Portugal in their opener, but the Germans could take a real stranglehold over the group with a victory over Ghana on Saturday.
Starting out with a 4-0 drubbing of the Portuguese was just what the doctor ordered for Germany. Although the USA can keep pace with them, they face Portugal next, and that gives Germany the chance to take over the group should the Americans falter.
Ghana showed that they have elite speed and ability in the attacking third throughout their opening match against the U.S., but they also showed signs of vulnerability. If the Americans are able to strike with a couple of goals on the Ghanaian defense, there's no telling what the Germans are capable of.
Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina
Bosnia-Herzegovina didn't stand much of a chance in their opener against Argentina despite playing well and pressing the opposition. In their second match, it will be a different story.
Nigeria enter with more points than their opponents after opening with a draw against Iran, but the Bosnians will quickly show their form. Edin Dzeko was all over the pitch against Argentina and will have many more chances to seize those opportunities against a weaker Nigerian back line.
The Nigerians have more than enough ability to make the Bosnians pay, but the quality in the starting 11 for Bosnia-Herzegovina is without question. If their talent is any indication, they won't have much of a problem grabbing three points and positioning themselves to advance in Group F.
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