Daily Cup Check: Day 8
One more into the second round, one more likely on the scrapheap, and then two teams basically wasted our time. Let’s check out the goings-on…
Colombia 2 – Ivory Coast 1
The Colombians are quickly becoming the darlings of the tournament, partly thanks to the exuberance of both their squad and their fans. Quick story: The only experience I’ve had with Colombian fans is when I was in Paris for France ’98. Colombia won their second group game somewhere in the south of France, but there was one fan on a scooter in Paris who was shouting “CO-LOM-BIA!” all the way around town. Needless to say, there’s a few more in Brazil.
Also, James Rodriguez looks poised to become the Mesut Ozil of this tournament, as its breakout star. Sure, he’s already been a stud at Porto, and now Monaco, but after this tournament the big boys of the continents could be sniffing around. The most amazing thing about Rodriguez is not only is he making the killer passes out of midfield, but he’s also the guy arriving late in the box. He’s simply everywhere. And you can’t just fixate on him, because Cuadrado and Zuniga will tear you apart on the right, and and then they bring Quintero off the bench on the left, and there’s still plenty left in midfield, which makes it feel like the attack is just coming from everywhere and at such pace.
Los Cafeteros still needed every inch to get past Ivory Coast–who if they could complete a cross as they did in their first match might have gotten something out of this. Then again, CIV weren’t playing the pint-sized Japanese defense. That said, I still think Tiote is going to kill someone before this tournament is out. Too much depends on Yaya Toure and the few moments of competence Gervinho can pull off. It’s still funny how useless Salomon Kalou is.
Uruguay 2 – England 1
It’s kind of amazing how big a story it is to some people who a team that was expected to go out in the group stage is now probably going out in the group stage. There were hardly any expectations of this England team, and that’s what made it interesting. They could play freer than they had in a long time because no one expected them to do much. But of course, this never happens when Roy Hodgson is your manager.
It was clear Hodgson wanted to at least somewhat simulate what Liverpool did this season: fluid movement among quick and clever forward players. Except he forgot the part where you pressure high, look to get the ball back up the field, and then strike quickly. It feels like the England manager just threw his players out there and said, “Go be this!” without instructing anyone on how to actually do it.
And then Hodgson started Danny Welbeck for reasons that remain unclear. England didn’t play between the lines, didn’t try to pick their way through the defense, but instead just used the wide areas they were given to hoof cross after cross to two short forwards in Rooney and Sturridge.
Oh, but they did pick up Liverpool’s habit of slack defending and heartbreaking moments from Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool and England captain has cobbled together quite a list of heartbreaking gaffes: Lisbon ’04 to Henry; Again to Henry at Highbury the following season; Carling Cup ’05 against Chelsea; At Anfield twice against Chelsea. I’m probably leaving one or two out, even. Was he unlucky on Thursday? Sure. He probably expected Cavani to get something on the ball, and when he didn’t his header turned into the perfect through-ball for Suarez, who was correctly played offside by Cahill and Jagielka. But these things just tend to happen to Gerrard, who we can at least say has a penchant for panicky decisions under the most intense pressure. To be fair, he also has a tendency for brilliance when under the most pressure. He’s just always in the center of things.
But it could have been different. Had Rooney found the net instead of the bar in the first half and England gotten a lead, Uruguay would’ve been forced to come out and leave more space. If Godin had been rightly sent off for his second bookable offense on Sturridge. Had Glen Johnson gotten within a zip code of Cavani before he was allowed to cross. If, if, if.
There’s a lot to like about this England squad, and if they find a manager (almost certainly foreign) who isn’t terrified of the more flashier parts of the game, they could become something again. But this is the fourth straight manager England has had who gets far too conservative when it matters most. And they’ve once again been let down by the players they count on most.
As for Uruguay, they weren’t much better than they were against Costa Rica. They just had the one guy back who can make the difference. And their manager wasn’t afraid to ring the changes–unlike Spain’s Vicente Del Bosque. Still, la Celeste look pretty limited, as neither Italy or whoever may lie ahead in the knockout rounds is going to leave a half-fit Suarez as much space as the English did.
Japan 0 – Greece 0
The less said about this the better. We’ll all be happier when Greece is gone.
Awkward Analysts Today
I think we have to give it to Michael Ballack, who really had to tip toe around talking about Japan’s size at forward without wanting to sound like a racist. It’s ok Michael, Japanese people tend to be short. This isn’t a secret.
Meme of the Day
OTF Player Of The Day
Undoubtedly, it’s gotta be…