2014 FIFA World Cup: What we learned, Day 9
A review of Friday's World Cup action.
At the end of each day of action at the 2014 World Cup, our writers weigh in on what we learned from each match.
Costa Rica is the real deal: If there were any lingering doubts, those have been extinguished. Sure, Costa Rica beat a Uruguay side without Luis Suarez, but they showed Friday that was no fluke, downing world power Italy. Costa Rica dominated the majority of the game, controlling Italy's attack and frustrating star striker Mario Balotelli. The Italians had few chances, and even those were contested. Beyond that, keeper Keylor Navas takes care of the rest. It's a tremendous luxury to know he's lurking in the net; he's proven to be one of the top keeper's in the World Cup thus far.
The Costa Rican attack was solid if unspectacular, though that may just be picking nits with a side that has looked extremely dangerous in its first two matches.
The Italian attack needs work: Mario Balotelli is a world class striker. But, for some reason, the Italian attack has looked somewhat rusty in their first two matches. Balotelli has had some chances, but not enough to really pressure the opposing side. Italy will have to put points up against Uruguay, one would think, in order to move on. What they've done offensively the first two games, however, doesn't inspire too much confidence.
Group D status: Costa Rica, for the first time since 1990, is through to the Round of 16. England is eliminated. Meanwhile, Italy and Uruguay will play for the second spot in the knockout stage. Italy is through with a win or draw; Uruguay moves on with a win.
France can do it without Ribery: Not only has Karim Benzema proven to be a worthy replacement to the French star, but they've shown a host of other attackers eager to fill the void. Mathieu Valbuena, Olivier Giroud, and Blaise Matuidi have been solid in the attack stage for France, erasing any worry that Ribery's absence would spell doom for the French side. France has looked nothing short of dominant in each of their first two matches.
Why not France?: Of course the French side is always seen as a contender, but their must recent appearance at the Cup ended in disaster. If their first two games are any indication, however, that ship has sailed. The French have looked nothing short of spectacular, scoring at will and dominating both Honduras and Switzerland. It's easy to say the competition isn't up to snuff, but no team in the tournament has been so impressive.
Switzerland needs work: It's not that the Swiss are incapable of moving through, it's just that they need to shore up, well, everything. The attack was disjointed; the defense was shaky; and the goalkeeping was a disaster. Though they were dominated Friday, the Swiss are not completely knocked out. Still, they'll need more from Xherdan Shaqiri in the middle, and especially Diego Benaglio in goal. Switzerland is much better than they showed Friday; but it may be too late for them to put everything together.
Enner Valencia is good: I'm sorry, there should probably be a more clever lead-in here, but why dress it up. The fact of the matter is, Enner Valencia is a player that has so far been dominant attacking for Ecuador. He certainly faces a much more difficult challenge next week against France, but he has been a scoring machine of late for Ecuador. Of course taking down France will be a much taller task, but Valencia is trending towards becoming a transcendent player in this World Cup. Will he? Maybe -- that will be determined by his play against France. Obviously he has flashed the potential.
Group E breakdown: Barring some insane explosion of scoring, France is through. Essentially, they'd need to lose to Ecuador by seven goals, plus Switzerland would need to win by like 10. So, yeah, they're through.
As for Ecuador and Switzerland, the Swiss are certainly facing an easier road against Honduras, but Ecuador is +2 in goal differential. So, basically, Switzerland needs to win and hope for an Ecuador loss or draw and get through on points. Otherwise, if they match Ecuador, it's unlikely they'll overtake them in goal differential.
So, in short, an Ecuador win over France all but ensures those two moving into the Round of 16.
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