Our World Cup blogger Shaun Moran picks over the entrails from the Uruguay v Costa Rica (1-3) and England v Italy (1-2) matches on Sunday (Australian time) and gives his Top 5 things we learned.
1. The Ticos have one solid defence
Defensively minded, oriented and strong, Costa Rica made it clear that it will take something special to pierce their goal in Brazil. Keylor Navas must come in for special praise as he kept his side in the game in two critical moments. With half-time fast approaching, Diego Forlan looked as if he would wrap the game up with a full-blooded lash. The Levante shot-stopper stood tall on that occasion and was counted on once again when Edinson Cavani’s goal-bound header was kept out. The Ticos back four were compact and unyielding, proving that their record in qualification of not conceding in 476 minutes was no fluke.
2. Uruguay’s insipid attack flops
La Celeste’s forward artillery was expected to run riot against their lowly-rated opponents. A quartet involving Cristian Rodriguez, Christian Stuani, Diego Forlan and Edinson Cavani would send shivers down the spines of many, yet they were uncharacteristically lifeless throughout. Both sides of the park were seldom utilised and as a result, the front men received very little to deal with in open play. Forlan was jeered by his own fans when departing the pitch in what summed up the sentiments of most. Except the Costa Ricans of course.
3. Pirlo can still match it
Age has yet to weary Italy’s creative maestro and go-to man, who pulled the strings for the majority of the match. His knack of keeping the ball when pressured and distributing it purposefully had many in awe of a player who is almost on the other side of 35 years of age. He was the architect of many of their plays and ensured that the game would be played at their pace, which was crucial in a climate that did not foster a high-octane style.
4. Wayne Rooney played out of position
Roy Hodgson’s decision to play Rooney on the left wing was bewildering. Picked by almost all to play the No 10 role at the tournament, the Red Devils star was forced out on the wing and into an area which prevented him from evincing his well-known potential. Instead, he was given an unfamiliar role and had his goal scoring threat subverted. At times drifting in at left back, it soon became clear that he will need to feature more centrally in England’s next fixture to enable him to make an impact in this group stage.
5. Italy shaky despite win
The Azzurri’s vulnerabilities at the back still exist and could be exposed against a pacier and more adventurous team. Their concession demonstrated their inability to deal with pace particularly down the flanks. Giorgio Chiellini was at times caught out of position and this could hurt them if players such as Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez are given the licence to run at them at speed. They conceded possession way too easily even in the final stages when they should have short-circuited any potential England fight back. Other teams will not be so forgiving.