Today’s set of matches saw the teams from Groups C and D play in their final group matches. After already guaranteeing a place in the last 16 of the World Cup, Colombia played a Japan side that have just one point from their opening two matches. In the other Group C game, Greece play the Ivory Coast with both teams still in the hunt for progression to the next round. The matches in group D saw an England side already out of the tournament for the first time since 1958 hope to restore some of the lost pride against a Costa Rica side who have already shocked both Uruguay and Italy in this World Cup. The latter two sides played with Uruguay needing a win, whilst Italy needed just a point to join Costa Rica in the last 16.
Colombia 4-1 Japan
Colombia finished top of Group C after an accomplished performance against Japan, who were knocked out of the World Cup by finishing bottom in the group. Despite Japan having a largely attacking formation, it was Colombia who opened the scoring when Adrian Ramos was needlessly tripped in the penalty area by Yasuyuki Konno, who received a yellow card, with Juan Cuadrado converting the penalty. Japan were getting into the match more though, and David Ospina had to make a good save low down to deny Shinji Kagawa before Jackson Martinez wasted a chance to double Colombia’s lead with the goal gaping. That miss would prove costly going into half-time when Keisuke Honda’s cross was met by Shinji Okazaki’s controlled header into the corner of the net to put Japan level.
Colombia came out slicker in the second half and it showed when they retook the lead ten minutes into the second half, with a series of passes ending when Martinez found a gap in the Japanese defence, and put the ball past Kawashima for their second goal. Japan were still not giving up and they had a golden opportunity to draw level again, but Yoshito Okubo couldn’t steer the ball in from Atstuto Uchida’s delicious cross. Again that missed chance would prove costly, as a swift counter attack resulted in a great through ball to Martinez, who checked back and put a placed finish into the back of the net. They still had time to inflict further misery on Japan when James Rodriguez was played in with the Japanese defence all over the place and he finished it with a sublime chip over Kawashima to end their World Cup dreams, whilst ensuring Colombia would finish top of the table where they would play Uruguay.
Greece 2-1 Ivory Coast
Greece progressed to the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time with a dramatic stoppage time penalty, in doing so they replaced the Ivory Coast in the next round. Greece were breaking quite quickly from the start and a fantastic shot from Jose Holebas bounced off the crossbar. A nightmarish mistake in defence from Cheick Tiote gave the ball to Andreas Samaris who, after playing a one two with Georgios Samaras, placed the ball past the Ivorian keeper Boubacar Barry to give Greece the advantage at half time.
Tiote then tried to atone for his earlier defensive blunder, but his shot from the edge of the area was straight at Panagiotis Glykos. The game then became rather open, and a powerful shot from Dimitris Salpingidis forced Barry to tip it over the crossbar as both teams went for the goal that would allow them to progress to the next round. Giorgios Karagounis then unleased a thunderous shot from well outside the penalty area that smashed against the crossbar with Barry beaten as Greece looked to put the game to bed. But as they looked for the second goal the Ivory Coast equalised out of nowhere; Gervinho laying the ball back for Swansea striker Wifried Bony, who calmly placed the ball in the goal. But just as it looked like the Ivory Coast would become the first African team in the last 16 of this World Cup, their hearts were broken in stoppage time. Samaras went to ground under pressure, and although replays showed minimal contact was made with the Ivorian player Sio, the referee awarded a penalty. Samaras dusted himself down and took the penalty himself, and calmly dispatched it past Barry to replace their opposition as the runners-up of the group behind Colombia.
Group C Final Standings
Country W D L GD Pts
1) COL 3 0 0 +7 9
2) GRE 1 1 1 -2 4
3) CIV 1 0 2 -1 3
4) JPN 0 1 2 -4 1
Italy 0-1 Uruguay
A controversial incident involving Luis Suarez appearing to bite another player tainted a match that saw Uruguay getting a late winner to progress to the last 16. Italy needed just a point to progress to the next round, and they were the better team in the first half. Andrea Pirlo’s swerving free kick from well outside the penalty area had to be pushed over the bar by Fernando Muslera, whilst the Italian defence and goalkeeper Buffon were doing well to stop talismatic striker Luis Suarez from having an impact.
But at the start of the second half, Italian hopes of being able to prevent Uruguay from getting the win they needed took a huge blow when Claudio Marchisio was shown a straight red card for an over the ball challenge. Buffon then dived to his right to prevent Suarez from putting Uruguay in front as the South American team began to have more chances. It was then that the notorious biting incident took place, as Suarez pushed his head onto Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder which led to both players falling to the floor, with Suarez holding his teeth. The referee chose not to punish Luis Suarez during the match, but FIFA retrospectively decided to ban Suarez from all “footballing related activity” for four months, which means that he will miss the first part of the season for his new club FC Barcelona, as well as several international matches. Uruguay continued to push on and, just a minute after the Suarez incident, they got a dramatic goal in the closing stages. Gaston Ramirez’s corner was met with a great header by their captain Diego Godin, who guided the ball past the diving Buffon. Italy went all out to get the draw they needed, including sending keeper Buffon up for a corner, but Uruguay remained solid at the back to progress where they will play Colombia.
Above: Luis Suarez has been banned for four months for appearing to bite Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder.
Costa Rica 0-0 England
England’s miserable World Cup finally came to an end after a quiet draw with surprise package Costa Rica ensured they finished bottom of the group. With England already out of the tournament following defeats to Italy and Uruguay in their opening two matches and Costa Rica already progressing, this match was effectively a dead rubber, and it showed with several changes made by Roy Hodgson, most notably Frank Lampard getting the captain’s armband in what is likely to be his last ever international match. They were nearly caught out when Joel Campbell’s shot deflected off Gary Cahill and spun just wide with keeper Ben Foster beaten. Daniel Sturridge then turned just outside the penalty area and sent a shot towards goal that went just wide. The game was an open affair despite being goalless, and Celso Borges’ free kick was met with a great save from Foster who pushed the ball onto the bar. Sturridge then had another opportunity to opening the scoring for England, but couldn’t get his header on target from six yards out following a corner.
The second half started with much of the same, as a poor first touch from Sturridge prevented him from shooting, with Keylor Navas sprinting off his line to clear. Both keepers were doing a good job to keep a clean sheet for their side; Ben Foster made a good save from Christian Bolanos as the open nature of the game continued. A great exchange between Jack Wilshere and Sturridge ended with the latter shooting wide when it was probably easier to get it on target, which summed up his performance in this match. A free kick from Steven Gerrard, in what may be his last ever international match also, nearly found Wayne Rooney but he couldn’t quite get his head to the ball, which summed up England’s performance in this match, and the tournament. Costa Rica on the other hand continued to surprise, and this result left them top of the group ahead of three heavyweight nations and would play in the last 16 against Greece.
Group D Final Standings
Country W D L GD Pts
1) CRC 2 1 0 +3 7
2) URU 2 0 1 0 6
3) ITA 1 0 2 -1 3
4) ENG 0 1 2 -2 1