2014 FIFA World Cup: Day Nine Recap

Bryan Ruiz celebrates his goal that defeated Italy
Bryan Ruiz celebrates his goal that defeated Italy

Costa Rica: World Cup Favourites?

Maybe it’s an overstatement, but certainly Costa Rica was expected to finish at the bottom of their group and, yet, there they are at the top after beating Uruguay and now Italy. They should have been gravely overmatched, but Costa Rica played like they had nothing to lose, taking the ball towards their opponents at every opportunity while Italy was content to do little with their possession. Mario Balotelli should be kicking himself having squandered his team’s two best chances—one an easy chip shot that drifted wide, the other a volley straight at the keeper. Just before halftime Italy looked to have been done a massive favour by the official, who refused to grant a penalty when Joel Campbell was knocked off his feet just as he was set to put a dangerous shot on goal. Costa Rica used the blown call to fuel another attack, getting their due in the 45th minute when Bryan Ruiz tapped a header off the bar that landed just inside the goal—an effort the official couldn’t take away. Costa Rica weren’t content to sit back, continuing to pressure the Italians and giving little space on their side of midfield. With the win Costa Rica punched their ticket to the second round and eliminated England, leaving Italy and Uruguay to fight over second place on Tuesday.

Swiss Defence Looks a Lot Like Their Cheese

The Swiss certainly aren’t thinking it right now, but their 5-2 loss to France could have been even worse.  Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio did everything he could, stopping eight shots—including a penalty, the first one to be stopped in this tournament—but his defense hung him out to dry, putting him on the hook for five goals. For much of the match France looked to have found a cheat code that put Swiss defenders to sleep as French players easily stole passes, made unstoppable runs and outnumbered and overwhelmed their red-shirted opponents at every turn. Starting in the 17th minute, Olivier Giroud pointed a lengthy header that Benaglio got a hand on but couldn’t keep out. Just 66 seconds later—hardly enough time to even properly celebrate a goal—Blaise Matuidi took advantage of a terrible pass by Valon Behrami and two touches later the ball was in the net again. The French kept pressing, earning a penalty that was heroically stopped by Benaglio while the rebound was kicked straight off the crossbar, but that became moot when Luis Valbuena took a pass from Giroud on a two-on-one and tapped in an easy third goal. After halftime it was more of the same, Karim Benzema and Moussa Sissoko added to the pile of French goals, but Blerim Dzemaili and Granit Xhaka more scored in the final 10 minutes to salvage some small bit of Swiss pride. France will advance to the knockout round while Switzerland could still move forward with a win over Honduras next Wednesday.

Ecuador Keeps Hope Alive Against Honduras

There wasn’t much to separate Honduras and Ecuador on Friday night—possession, passing and discipline were all nearly equal—but Honduras created more opportunities and got less for it. Honduras did manage to score their first goal of the tournament, Carlo Costly taking advantage of an Ecuadorian mistake and charging straight for goal, putting a sting into the ball that drove it deep into the goal. But that was all the offence Honduras could muster and their lead lasted just three minutes. In the 34th minute, Ecuador’s Juan Paredes launched a shot that deflected off a Honduran defender and rolled right to Enner Valencia, who got just enough of the ball to earn his second goal in as many games. Honduras thought they had a second goal just second before halftime, but the referee called offside after the linesman missed it, drawing the ire of Honduran Jerry Bengtson, who was given a yellow card for his protests. On the other side of halftime Valencia struck again, putting his head on a free kick and putting his team ahead for good. Ecuador has an opportunity to squeeze past Switzerland and into the second round, but will first have to beat France and then hope for some help from Honduras in their game against the Swiss.

Drew Berner

Drew Berner is a freelance writer born and raised in Toronto and specializing in entertainment, sports and politics. He occasionally collects vinyl records, enjoys hate-watching the Blue Jays, appreciates good beer and great scotch, and goes to sleep each night with 120 lbs. of Great Dane draped over him (it’s a lot more comfortable than it sounds). Follow him on Twitter @DrewBerner for photos of huge dogs, observational humour and assorted sports rage.

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