Maybe the busy schedule brings out the best of teams, and after a fantastic finish to yesterday’s matches we enter day 13 with high expectations. Things get super hot in Group D as Italy play Uruguay for the right to join Costa Rica in the next round, with England simply trying to get a point or three before heading home. In Group C, Colombia will try to keep their perfect record against the desperate Japan, while Colombia will try to keep Greece with 0 goals and far away from the second place.
The biggest match of the day in terms of the intensity and what’s at stake has to be the clash in Natal between Italy and Uruguay. Each team completely rely on the ability of one player. Uruguay without Luis Suarez simply have nothing to give except a combative spirit, which is usually far from enough. Italy without Andrea Pirlo moving the chains seem like a subpart team filled with names we know but are disappointed to see what they can give.
One thing Italy can’t do is give up space like England did behind their back line. It might mean boring and slow possession, but if Andrea Pirlo gets to touch the ball enough times things should look a lot better compared to their Costa Rica loss. Uruguay might not like the idea, but they have to be in attack mode despite only needing a draw to qualify from second place because their defense just isn’t as strong as it used to be.
In Belo Horizonte, England will be playing the perfect Costa Rica, who only need one point in order to qualify from first place in the group. Even a loss might be enough for them if goal difference works out for them. It’s hard to say what England we’ll see: A hungry team, wanting to prove that they’re not as bad as their record in this World Cup, or a broken side that can’t wait to go home?
We’ll see plenty of changes on the England side, but it’s hard to see if Frank Lampard playing instead of Steven Gerrard is going to be that much easier. England can’t fall to the traps the Costa Rica side uses, drawing teams out of their comfort zone and striking with lightning quick attacks. England need a chance in their tactical view on a match, and it needs to start as soon as possible, including giving up on the failing one line with the back four, simply too prone to mistakes.
Colombia, already in the round of 16 for the first time since 1990, have Japan to deal with. One might say the Japanese team has been a disappointment. Shinji Kagawa has been terrible, and we haven’t seen much from Keisuke Honda and Okazaki as well. Maybe against Colombia, who might lose and still finish first thanks to their +4 goal difference, more open spaces will give us a different team than the one we saw so far.
Colombia might give us a different striker – maybe Jackson Martinez will start instead of Gutierrez, but the strength of this team comes from behind – James Rodriguez, Ibarbo and Aguilar who have been fantastic in this tournament. The same counter attacking approach that blends well with a very aggressive and physical approach shouldn’t change, despite the opportunity to get a little bit complacent.
Somehow, without scoring a goal, Greece find themselves with a chance to qualify. The Ivory Coast are a much better team and will obviously be the dominant side, mostly relying on Yaya Toure and his pushes forward but even more on Serge Aurier attacking from the wing with his fantastic crosses and unmatched speed. Greece don’t mind defending all match long, but it’s hard to believe that without a little bit of initiative they can last against a quicker, bigger team for 90 minutes.