World Cup: Five things we learned from Group D
1. The Ticos are a genuine force
Costa Rica signalled to the world that their conquering of Uruguay was in fact not a surprise. Having now knocked off the two original favourites to progress, and not conceded in open play in the process, the Central Americans have shown their metal.
They cramped Italy’s style and foiled much of their build-up play by imposing a high pressure game and defending very high up the park. Jorge Luis Pinto’s men used the ball expertly, played with real panache and made the 2006 winners chase the ball and look ordinary.
The plucky Costa Ricans now have an opportunity to top the group with any result against England on Tuesday and avoid a date with Group C’s winner. An inconceivable thought only a week ago.
2. Italy have no plan B
Cesare Prandelli’s charges were devoid of creativity and ideas particularly when thrown off their game. The Ticos made no provision for the same approach taken against England and this completely unravelled Italy’s route to goal.
It was evident even against England in Italy’s first group match that their ball retention is subpar. Notwithstanding Andrea Pirlo’s presence, the Azzurri were sluggish and gifted possession away almost continuously and thus only had themselves to blame for their lack of goal scoring opportunities.
A similar defensive showing by Uruguay coupled with Italy’s ever changing defence could make for a disastrous ending if they cannot rectify and implement what they learned from this game.
3. Cheerio England
England’s elimination at the group stage for the first time since 1958 reads poorly, despite there being glimpses of optimism to savour.
Its defence though is another story.
England was found wanting in the crucial moments in this tournament and fell apart against an unforgiving Uruguay forward line. It at times lacked positioning and basic marking. No one traced the danger man Luis Suarez, who ultimately skewered England’s hopes of progressing from the group,
The Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka combination were undone, highlighting their inexperience at this level, while Leighton Baines and Glen Johnson were blunt going forward from the wings. An area that will need to be augmented in the future.
4. Suarez does all
One of the world’s prolific strikers stood up to haunt the country where he earns his living in the most ruthless manner.
His two goals were the difference in an otherwise even tussle and ensured that his country’s dream stays alive. His significance is undeniable and is further brought into light by the fact that La Celeste have only looked like scoring when he has been on the pitch.
He well and truly responded to comments by England boss Roy Hodgson in the lead up to the game that insinuated he was not a world class player until he stood up at a major tournament. Nice one, Roy.
Recent knee surgery has not quelled the Liverpool man, who will be looking to instil terror into another defence when he lines up against Italy on Tuesday.
5. All on the line in Natal
With Costa Rica having booked their place in the Round of 16 and England waving goodbye to Brazil, Uruguay and Italy will not fight it out for what will most likely be second place in the group. A draw or win will do the Italians – nothing less than a win will suffice for Uruguay. All is set for a monumental clash.