Okay so Gameday 3 is simultaneously scheduled in each group. Given that no one can be at two places at once, the games in bold are the ones I watched. The ones I’ve forgone are in italics. Basically what I’m going to say under those headings is utter bullshit analysis. Your welcome, motherfuckers!
Netherlands 2-0 Chile
It may be that I now see in Netherlands a Portugal 2.0, a fuller, more complete edition, that I don’t find myself so sold on them just yet. These are three time runners-up who on each occasion has found a new way to lose. Today they’ve exhibited new ways of winning a game. Different ones. Three to be precise. Their drubbing of Spain was the quintessential table-turning comeback. In the second game, mentioned previously, they traded blows before winning a decision. And against Chile, they got the shutout in a war of attrition. They know how to play in front, from behind, and everything in between. They turned over a new leaf. Or have they?
Chile have found themselves in unfamiliar territory in the group decider. Their scoring touch deserted them when they’ve shown an ability to score early and late. But it was a failure to respond to falling behind for the first time in the tournament that had them at sixes and sevens. The timing didn’t help. The sting of having Netherlands’ subs score the goals likely exacerbated their confusion. Going 2-1-0 isn’t bad. They dispatched the Spanish in a game mutually felt important. Compared to the opener, Spain wasn’t bad in their second game. They were just disillusioned. Encumbered by the need to find a cure fast. A situation completely foreign to them for the first time in years. Chile’s third game was that equivalent in a much smaller timeframe, minus the urgency to get a result obviously. Now both Chile and Netherlands have undergone a crash course so intensive for such a short tournament. How they respond in the subsequent step is a volatile proposition.
Cameroon 1-4 Brazil
The hosts haven’t impressed yet. And by the lofty standards they and their faithful have always set, the search continues and the calls beckon for a convincing win. Forget the result. It was as much a formality as the staging of this match in the capital was supposed to be symbolic of the final sendoff before trekking to the real futebol Meccas in Brazil. In Brazil, like America, history and commerce have favored (necessitated?) the formation of metropolises obscuring the capital district in all but one area; diplomacy. Its generic name smacks of its artificial, hasty conception; Brasilia — the demonym squared. To stretch the analogy further, if the team were to return later it would not just constitute a gross deviation from the script. It would entail failure. The consolation game is scheduled in Brasilia.
Croatia 1-3 Mexico
To think that at one point Mexico would have been the stillborn child of the mainstays of every World Cup….
They would have also been the only team to qualify from their group scoring just one goal. But Croatia’s early prodding backfired in the second half. It left them exposed to Mexico slow march before their first goal, and daring darts on the counter for their second. I think tempo management is a concept they should teach and study. Looking back on the Portugal-US match up to the game tying goal, a lot can be learned from how the Americans handled the game.
Chicharito finally has the performance we expected from him. His assist to Andres Guardado was followed by a goal. Marquez proves one need not be washed-up nor a has-been to be past Barcelona standard (past not below). Ochoa conceded but still had a monster save to keep it 3-1 for Mexico. I think the offense has not arrived per se but goals should come. They won’t find themselves needing to score three goals again so soon. Of course scoring from a comfortable position is different from having to respond with plenty to stay alive. Only the French and the Dutch have shown that ability, and even then you have to question the true weight of their opponents. Had Brazil not ran with it in the other game, Mexico could have leapfrogged them with a 4-0 score, by virtue of goal differential. An exiting bunch. Who knew Mexico had grit(s)? Get it?
Italy 0-1 Uruguay
I don’t understand all that noise about Uruguay playing a dreadful game on Tuesday. When on his usual-self shit, Suarez would harass defenders into committing deep turnovers, but on a bum knee it’s that much down on the to-do list. Pattern has shown it’s either that or chewing chunks off them. Cavani has a similar knack of putting pressure early plus dropping back to help out. What a combination it would have been.
Perhaps this was one of the bigger shocks. For Italy to start strong, looking the genuine group contender, only to fizzle so dramatically certainly was so. But on a game-to-game basis, it was tactics that let them down. Very unfortunate for the occasion to bring caution’s worst out of Prandelli, a coach I saw a lot of good in. Whatevs. Chiellini is a klutz when he misses tackles. Seriously he moves like he’s bowlegged. Barzagli and Bonucci weren’t spectacular. What worked in Juventus didn’t transfer over. For club they’re the perfect complement. Cassano should have never been called up. Buffon. He’s good but is he still the best Italy has? I don’t know. Balotelli was a chump. A petulant crybaby. The writing’s all on the wall; he’s too mercurial to tactically make sense. And Marchisio’s red card? I mean how uncharacteristic but the ref help was always going to be a (non?)factor here. So leave it to Juve’s self-entitled strutting to be exposed on the grandest of stages.
Greece 2-1 Côte d’Ivoire
The other shock result of the round was here. Again, channeling Greek mythology wasn’t enough, they had to appropriate mythic creatures as well. The Phoenix. Egyptian or Phoenician, I think. Although the overarching theme here is opportunity. Carpe diem. Are they (Greece) deserving of the berth? Honestly? Given their profligacy Côte d’Ivoire deserved to go home. You can’t allow those chances to go to waste against a Greece team that hasn’t found its bearing after three frigging games, son! It’s that simple. The penalty was a trip. Although I doubt Samaras would have made much of an uncontested opportunity. Which compounds the cruelty of the twist. He still buried the penalty which for a split second took nerves of steel. They have Costa Rica next. But like I said, this is Carpe diem. That’s not long term enough to gameplan for anyone. But the party crasher status has enough intrigue and fuel for another good result. Only just.
Nigeria 2-3 Argentina
Marcos Rojo is my least favorite player on Argentina’s weak defense. To mitigate that Mascherano would have to slip into the back four and deprive Sabella of a stable midfield. This would in turn hurt the offense as four of the five attackers would be on the field at the same time. But Demischelis and Campagnaro are better options than Fernandez if experience was the issue. The problem is, pace. Because the alternative — youth — is big defenders, it’s a case of pick your poison. For their coach it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And to make matters worse there’s also this. Now, we don’t fully understand the context (the timing) of the moment during the game, i.e., what the score was, what was being said, etc.. But if there’s any possibility the earlier discontent with team selection is still persisting, then it’s this kind of petulant attitude that has wheels come off. Because, you always have to show a unified front. Always. Not that there’s anything wrong with drama. Only that nothing has gone wrong for this team to justify an implosion. If anything, the opportunity to win here of all places is once in a lifetime. The only takeaway is that Argentina can survive a scare, but only just. Meanwhile Nigeria doesn’t look like it scares easily. And Messi has officially arrived.
Sometimes rowdy, sometimes pouty.