June 14, 2014

Ivory Coast 2, Japan 1: For sixty minutes, Japan was in cruise control, coasting to a well-deserved victory, only to have it all go so horribly wrong...Didier Drogba, playing the role of SuperSub, entered the game, then Les Elephants scored two headers in 100 seconds, and just like that we had our fourth game in eight in which the team that conceded the first goal came back and won (in 2010, there were only three such games the entire tournament).  As with the earlier game between Italy and England, the final fifteen minutes were seemingly played in slow motion.  And after consecutive World Cups where the Ivory Coast suffered the agony of having to compete in a Group of Death, playing in the competitive but eminently-winnable Group C has allowed Cote d'Ivoire of actually being able to dream of an elimination round game instead of an early exit.
Italy 2, England 1: Thrilling, end-to-end game for sixty minutes, before both teams wilted in the extreme humidity in the rain forest city of Manaus.  After their insipid effort against the Italians in Euro 2012, which they lost on penalty kicks after having been thoroughly dominated for 120 minutes, the Three Lions can draw succor from the close loss, with the end-to-end play, the offensive pressure placed on the Italian goal, and even a nifty pass by Wayne Rooney to assist on the only goal, by Liverpool standout Daniel Sturridge.  Both of Italy's goals came on defensive breakdowns, unfortunately, showing England's novice quality at the international stage, and Rooney later missed a tap-in in front of the goal, as well as uncorking perhaps the worst corner kick in the history of the World Cup: 

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Costa Rica 3, Uruguay 1: Biggest upset of the Cup so far.  The defending South American champs, and 2010 semifinalist, controlled the first half in their return to the country that hosted their last World Cup title, only to collapse in the final 45 minutes.  The Ticos scored two goals four minutes apart to shock Uruguay, and perhaps answer why the US was so dead-set on playing its qualifier last year in a snowstorm.  Uruguay, on the other hand, played without Premier League scoring leader Luis Suarez, and effectively answered in the affirmative all the questions about whether they had passed their sell-by date three years ago.
Columbia 3, Greece 0: So much for Columbia missing Radamel Falcao...they scored early, late and in-between, dominating from start to finish, and putting some distance from their tragic disaster in 1994.  The Greeks were shut out for the sixth time in seven World Cup games.
Chile 3, Australia 1: From a sporting website Down Under:
Australian striker Tim Cahill says Chile's 3-1 win in Cuiaba came down to respect: the Socceroos showed their opponents too much and their opponents showed soccer none. Cahill says his Chilean marker Gonzalo Jara admitted to cheating in a feisty fixture at the Arena Pantanal. The pair tangled behind play in a first half incident which led to the Australian copping a yellow card. "The left back kicked out at me when I was trying to run past him for a cross and I pushed him away - and I got the yellow card," Cahill told reporters. "I called him a cheat. And he said 'yes, I'm a cheat, so what'.

The Orange Wedding:

Holland 5, Spain 1:
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June 13, 2014

Mexico 1, Cameroon 0: Overcoming some dubious, goal-negating calls by FIFA-quality officials, the Tricolores finally got one to count in the second half and breezed to victory over an outclassed African squad in a torrential downpour.  Oribe Peralta, who carried the team through the play-in games with New Zealand, scored off a rebound in the 60th minute.  Samuel Et'o heroically carried the "Indomitable" Lions for 90 minutes, but ultimately you need a couple of other decent players at this stage; Cameroon has now lost its last five World Cup games.

June 12, 2014

Brazil 3, Croatia 1: And so it begins...the hosts fell behind early on a fluke own goal, then rallied behind two goals from debutant star Neymar, including a penalty off a terrible call, and clinching the game in injury time on a Mark Moseley-style toekick by Oscar.  Before anyone tries to draw any predictions based on this shaky start, please note that the last World Cup champs, Spain, lost their 2010 opener to Switzerland, and Brazil was itself unimpressive in its opener the last time it won, in 2002.  That game, a 2-1 victory over
Turkey, also featured an early deficit, an incredibly dodgy dive by a Brazilian player that led to the winning penalty kick, and an even sleazier bit of fakery that got a Turkish player sent off.  Good times....

World Cup 2014 is finally upon us, and as I have done here every four years  since 2002, here is the country-by-country comparison of this year's contestants and their NCAA hoops counterparts:

Algeria -- MEAC champion
Argentina -- Michigan State
Australia -- Play-in winner (16 seed)
Belgium -- Wichita State

Bosnia-Hrzg. -- Oregon
Brazil -- Kentucky
Cameroon -- Play-in loser (12 v. 12 game)
Chile -- San Diego State

Columbia -- Syracuse
Costa Rica -- Mercer
Croatia -- Stanford
Ecuador -- New Mexico

England -- UCLA
France -- Louisville
Germany -- Duke
Ghana -- Michigan

Greece -- Virginia
Honduras -- Big West champs
Iran -- OVC champs
Italy -- Kansas

Ivory Coast --Gonzaga
Japan-- PAC-12 Champion, when Arizona and UCLA are having off-seasons
Mexico -- Baylor
Netherlands -- Michigan

Nigeria -- New Mexico St.
Portugal -- Arizona
Russia -- Tennessee
South Korea -- Ivy League champion

Spain -- UConn
Switzerland -- Oklahoma St.
United States -- Virginia Commonwealth
Uruguay -- Creighton

Leave any criticisms, questions, challenges, etc. in the tip jar....