At the end of each day of action at the 2014 World Cup, our writers weigh in on what we learned from each match.
Complete reversal for Uruguay. After a disastrous showing against Costa Rica both in regards to the backline and the finishing, a patchwork defense and Luis Suarez helped reverse Uruguay's fortunes. First the defense, as Martin Caceres and young Jose Gimenez were phenomenal against Raheem Sterling, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge. In what was mostly an even game, the difference came down to the backline as Uruguay consistenly locked down and impeded any combination play. Sure, it helped that Rooney missed some golden chances, but the tackling and possession were oustanding, especially given that it was without two regulars thanks to a suspension and an injury. Keeper Fernando Muslera came up huge on a point-blank shot from Rooney that may have altered the match.
Luis Suarez showed fine form with his two goals and again proved why he's so feared. He had six shots and five were on goal. The first one was set up from a perfect lob via Cavani, but the second one was mostly a showcase of his deadly skill inside the box.
Even with goal, Rooney didn't do enough. You'd think that scoring your first World Cup goal in 10 matches would've sufficed, but it wasn't enough on Thursday. England doesn't have any other veteran strikers besides Rooney. Sturridge and Sterling, especially tracking back in the midfield, were good on the ball and created chances. But Rooney himself missed the header from one yard out, missed a point-blank chance in front of Uruguay's goal in the second half, and (narrowly) missed a first half free kick. He finally scored, but when the defense is making egregious errors, one goal won't do it. Suarez's second goal was actually flicked backwards off the head of Steven Gerrard, another one of the Three Lions' costly mistakes. He looked sick once he realized the result of the play.
Both teams still alive: Costa Rica has cast Group D into utter chaos. It beat Uruguay 3-1 and currently sits atop the group with three heavyweights. Italy will play Costa Rica tomorrow, and if Italy wins, England is still technically in it. England would need to beat Costa Rica and overcome goal differential (while also hoping that Uruguay loses to Italy in its final game).
Uruguay could live with a number of scenarios regardless of what happens tomorrow. We'll walk you through once we see the results.
Colombia is for real: There was talk of Colombia's attacking prowess in the months headed up to the World Cup, and that was certainly on display Thursday. James Rodriguez has been magnificent in two games, and there is a wealth of bodies available to fill in any gaps. Juan Quintero came off the bench and scored his first international goal, while Juan Cuadrado was solid in the midfield. There were somewhat shaky in the back, especially late. In fact, 38-year-old Mario Yepes nearly gave Didier Drogba an open goal in the waning minutes, and there were various other errors that nearly resulted in Ivory Coast goals.
But the group was strong in the first half, so the talent level is there. As it is, Colombia is in wonderful position to move through to the knockout stage for the first time since 1990.
Ivory Coast is okay: Chances are, the Ivory Coast will make its first appearance in the Round of 16 in its history. And they should. As they showed Thursday, there's a wealth of talent on this side capable of beating almost any side when they're clicking. Gervinho, Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony, Drogba -- these are game-changing players. The ball didn't bounce their way Thursday -- quite literally, at times -- but they should have a much easier go against Greece next week. If they take care of business there, the Ivory Coast should be through.
Japan, just, poor Japan: It cannot be overstated just how much Japan wasted a chance Thursday night. They had everything working in their favor: A solid attack and a 10-man Greek squad. But they simply squandered too many chances at goal and had to settle for a draw in a game they dominated. Keisuke Honda, Yuya Osako, Yoshito Okubo all had solid shots at goal to no avail. They could have put themselves in a good position to move through; now they must beat Colombia.
Bravo, Greece: The other side of the coin, of course, is the effort from the Greek side. Down a man against a team with a strong attack, Greece withheld shot after shot after shot to stay in the game, and even returned the favor somewhat. They never gave up attacking, even earning four consecutive corners at one point. Their effort was commendable, and it's a minor miracle they're still alive in Group C.
Group C scenarios: Now that we're two games in, here's how Group C is shaking out. Colombia is through to the Round of 16 for sure; the others are in a battle for that other spot. The Ivory Coast has the best chance, as they have three points already. A win over Greece and they're through. If both Greece and Japan win it will come down to goal differential for those two. As of now, Greece is -3 and Japan -1, so obviously the advantage is with Japan. A Greece draw with Ivory Coast and Japan win is the other way the Japanese could get through, but they'd have to take the Ivory Coast on goal differential, and they're currently a goal behind.
Get all that? Basically we're probably looking at Ivory Coast going through for the first time in its nation's history.