Day 3 of the 2014 World Cup will also be the longest one with four matches taking place. The biggest of course will be in Group D as England and Italy face each other, and Uruguay playing Costa Rica is also in that group. Group D opens and closes the day, first with Colombia playing against Greece and then the Ivory Coast against Japan.
The match that starts the day will be between Colobmia, a team that had high expectations going into the tournament but now things seem different because of the injury to Falcao, and Greece, everyone’s most effective sleeping pill. Fernando Santos has tried changing things from the slow, cynical, boring football of almost 10 years ago, but it’s hard to argue about its effectiveness, as Greece have missed only one major tournament since Euro 2004.
But without Falcao doesn’t mean no good footballers: James Rodriguez will be the one trying to find a break through in the tight and disciplined Greek formation, while help from the wings in the form of Juan Cuadrado is going to be crucial for the young Monaco playmaker to show his talents, as he’ll be trying to feed Carlos Bacca up front against of Sokratis Papastathopoul and Kostas Manolas, who is a downgrade compared to his Olympiacos teammate that isn’t the squad.
For Greece, the key will be soaking the pressure and hoping it starts affecting the judgement of the Colombia players. Kostas Mitroglou and Dimitris Salpingidis will start up front unless Mitroglou is injured, but won’t have too many players joining them. The goal is to either score on the break with the few players they use, including Samaras, or simply wait for Colombia to become restless and take advantage of the holes in a less than impressive defensive unit.
Next comes the match between Uruguay and Costa Rica, which on paper should be the automatic three points for the team heading into the tournament with plenty of expectations on its back, but possibly a weaker side compared to the one from four years ago. However, the same things were said of the Netherlands before their match against Spain, and we all know how that turned out.
Luis Suarez is the man with the plan and the one all the eyes will be set to. The best striker in the Premier League isn’t only the best scorer but also the main creative outlet, which means helping Edinson Cavani fulfill his civic duty and score goals. For Costa Rica, Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell should be the danger men while Cristian Rodriguez of Atletico Madrid will play a big part for Uruguay down the left wing.
Despite their attacking prowess, Uruguay are a defensive-minded team, relying on few players to do a lot up front. We will probably see a bit more adventurous attempts from Costa Rica during the match, but not by much. In a group that isn’t exactly welcoming to their hopes of repeating their success from 1990, caution and relying on counter attacking football seems to be the path they’ll choose most of the time.
England and Italy provide the main dish of football for the day, although it won’t be the last match. Last time these two met on the big stage was two years ago in Euro 2012, when England played some awful and defensive football to make it into the quarterfinals and once again lose after penalty kicks to the Italians. Despite the low expectations from the English side, the speed of Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling next to Wayne Rooney might be a problem even for a team like Italy.
The Italians stick to their known formula – strong defense with Buffon playing behind his two Juventus centre backs, while Daniele De Rossi is almost like a third centre back. Andrea Pirlo will be the creative force in the middle of the pitch, connecting everything, and it’ll be interesting to see who plays wide and slightly behind Mario Balotelli, who will man the front line as Prandelli hopes he’ll be in a good mood.
Ivory Coast and Japan end the day with a match that might not seem too exciting on paper but should provide some excellent football between two teams that open things up and allow the game to flow. One big problem for Japan will be their central midfield, which might get overrun by the powerful Ivorian side. Yasuhito Endo will start, and next to him will be Makoto Hasebe. They’ll need help either from Shinji Kagawa or Keisuke Honda.
And that duo of creativity will be the most important factor in Japan’s offensive performance – connecting the midfield, helping out, and running at the Ivorian defense, not their strongest part of the pitch, trying to make Shinji Okazaki. On the other hand, facing Yaya Toure, Chiek Tiote and Didier Zokora will prove to be a problem due to the physical inferiority, although Didier Drogba won’t have it too easy playing between Maya Yoshida and Yasuyuki Konno.