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World Cup Day 9: A Look Ahead

ClaudioMarchisioItaly3-England2014WorldCup (Getty)


Italy sits on the verge of qualifying for the knockout rounds after just two games, but faces another tough test in the heat of Recife on Friday (12 p.m. ESPN).

The Azzurri take on Costa Rica, which stunned the world when it took down a Luis Suarez-less Uruguay, 3-1, on Saturday. Interestingly, the Italians will see some of their national culture and identity at the Arena Pernambucano when they look across the field.

Under coach Jorge Luis Pinto, Costa Rica has transitioned into a defensively hardened team with a five-man back line that will make life difficult for opposing teams trying to move the ball through the middle. On the counter attack, Celso Borges and Yeltsin Tejada play key roles driving the ball forward, and of course we’ve all seen the kind of performances Joel Campbell can put forth if given time and space.

Italy on the other hand has taken advantage of an abundance of top-notch midfielders, moving to a more passing-oriented system. In the opener against England, Italy completed 606 passes with an 89 percent passing completion rate, with central midfielders Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo controlling the tempo.

With the way Colombia is playing right now, Italy will be extra motivated to beat Costa Rica so that the Azzurri finish at the top of Group D and face either Ivory Coast, Japan, or Greece.

Here are some more notes on Friday’s slate of games:


Two nations sharing a common border and common national team identities face off on Friday at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador (3 p.m. ESPN)

Both Switzerland and France are coming off opening match wins, though they came by different circumstances. Switzerland struggled to break down Ecuador’s defensive line and will have an even tougher time against Raphael Varane and Laurent Koscielny.

France on the other hand had no issues dealing with Honduras, completely dominating possession from the get go with the midfield trio of Yohan Cabaye, Paul Pogba, and Blaise Matuidi putting in terrific performances. Switzerland’s holding midfield duo of Valon Behrami and Gohkan Inler will need to put together a better performance to keep their nation in the game against France.

The two nations also feature a whole host of dual nationals who represent their multi-cultural societies. A win for either team puts them in pole position to finish at the top of the group, likely avoiding Argentina in the knockout round—assuming the Albiceleste finish first in Group F.


Both Honduras and Ecuador are looking to pick themselves off the floor after demoralizing defeats in their opening matches.

The positive for neutral spectators is that both of these teams need a win, and when they meet up at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba (6 p.m. ESPN), there should be some flowing attacking soccer on display. Ecuador’s wingers Antonio Valencia (right) and Jefferson Montero (left) will need to step up their performances. At their best, both can be world beaters.

Honduras will have to be on guard on the outside, with Marvin Chavez and Roger Espinoza tracking back to help right back Bryan Beckeles and left back Emilio Izaguirre. But the middle of the field is where Honduras could win the battles, especially if Oscar Boniek Garcia is ready to go.


What do you think of today’s slate of matches? Do you see Italy overcoming Costa Rica in Recife? Think that France can keep up their strong run of form? Who do you see winning the Ecuador versus Honduras match?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Guys, Portugal knows that if they beat USMNT and Ghana, they are through. So, they are gonna come out with a lot to play for. Pepe was the cause of their debacle against Germany, not that Germany wouldn’t have won. The USMNT must hold them to a draw; that is by all means a bad result. Go get a quick goal and DO NOT BUNKER DOWN again. Take note from Mexico’s performance against Brazil. The reason Brazil did not have more scoring opportunities is because Mexico held the ball and took it to them, without fear and with determination. That’s what I want from our boys.

    • brasil and portugal are not the same team. portugal thrives on counter-attacking. *especially* if we get an early goal (and maybe even if not), i would have no problem bunkering down against them.

    • Can Howard then have a match like Ochoa did? I’m not so sure how far you can really get, asking that much from your keeper. Ochoa’s performance was by far the best of this tournament.

    • Mexico frustrated the heck out of Brazil by playing very defensively, it was amazing to see them play that way instead of with that false bravado from the past imo. They ‘bunkered’ about as much as I’ve ever seen them do, all of the folks I was watching with were impressed and amazed as much as I was, which was a lot. Herrera is awesome for getting them to play so organized back there and commit to it, and they got some good fortune with Ochoa coming up big, and Brazil could not figure out how to get through time and time again. only when Mexico was drawn out did Brazil look dangerous seemed to me

  2. Bruno Alves might be out against US on Sunday. But, their backups are pretty good at cb. Costa and neto both play at big clubs and are very talented. I think people are looking a little too far into these injuries. They are still a strong team — better than Ghana.

    • I’d say that Portugal absolutely has better players than Ghana, but are they a better team? I’m not so sure. Guess we’ll find out pretty quick!

  3. I’d like for Costa Rica to beat Italy, so Italy and Uruguay would kill each other for that second spot. Or, at the very least a tie, so that Italy’s last game vs. Uruguay is meaningful. However, I understand, this is not Christmas season yet.

  4. Actually Italy can’t clinch no matter what they do in this game, due to the URU-ENG game yesterday. URU, ITA and CR can all end up with six points and then it goes to tiebreakers.

    But obviously they’d be pretty close to clinching.

    I love both these teams, sort of want a tie.

    • And if Italy win tonight then England is still alive. Of course they’d have to beat Costa Rica and possibly overcome some goal difference (and have Italy beat Uruguay), but it would help create a lively set of final group-stage matches.

  5. My predictions:

    Italy 2-0 or 2-1

    France 2-1

    Ecuador Honduras 0-0 or 1-1, if there has to be a winner then Ecuador by one goal.

    I would be surprised if I got this all wrong.

  6. As soon as I saw Honduras had started a 4-4-2 against France I knew they were going to get smoked and that’s exactly what happened. They were pretty much set up to fail and if they do it again against Ecuador I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see it happen all over again.

    • I think them getting smoked had much more to do with the red card than it did with the formation. Up until the red card, it was a stalemate.
      I definitely hope Boniek Garcia is starting today, he was the only one who brought life to their attack.

      • OK, so if players commit dangerous fouls or intentional handballs, should they be getting yellow or red cards, or should we strike that rule from the books? I think Honduras had made it a “stalemate” by constantly chopping down the French players.

        Also, and in no way defending England, Uruguay should’ve had a player sent off for second yellow, but was given a “break” and his team ended up winning. Yet, nobody is making that an issue, mainly because England is such a disappointment they don’t deserve any sympathy.

      • But there was a claim that it was a “stalemate” before the red card. I simply pointed the reason it was a stalemate and how the red card made the game a fair contest.

      • Calm down buddy it’s the internet.
        When did I say the red wasn’t deserved?
        All I’m saying is the red was what changed the game not the formation. Prior to the red it was 0-0 so it was a stalemate. I’m not sure how you don’t get that

      • yeah, i love andy najar from his time in dc, but he didn’t look very good, and they definitely looked better with boniek garcia in.

      • Yes, the red card hurt and the other reason they got smoked is that France has much better players.

      • That was kind of my point in a round-a-bout way. Playing a 4-4-2 when you’re up against a significantly better team is bold but absolutely playing with fire. Costa Rica and Mexico have done better than expected by sitting back in their 5-3-2 defensively then breaking quickly when they get the ball into a 3-5-2. Heck I think even the Netherlands did that against Spain, just WAY more effectively obviously.

  7. “Interestingly, the Italians will see some of their national culture and identity when they look across the field at the Arena Pernambucano.”

    Can anyone clairify?

    • Italian football is predicated on two ideas. One is a strong defense, and second is a wonderful ability to attack from a defensive posture, or counter attack. It’s part of Italy’s culture and identity.

      Some people might suggest that the Italian game is not one to emulate, because it can be not pretty for people who like lots of goal shots, however four stars might suggest otherwise.

      • I love Italian football, but two of those world cups were in joke tournaments in the 1930s so I don’t know how much those tell us about style and tactics.

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