Saturday, June 21, 2014

World Cup 2014 : Italy vs Costa Rica 0-1

What a match for the Central American team.... that too against Italy, one of the formidable Champions of World Cup Football. After 24 years, Costa Rica has qualified for the knock out stage....& how. In their opening game, they prevailed over powerhouse Uruguay 3-1, after trailing one nil till half time, & today they outclassed Italy 1-0. Stupendous performance indeed in a giant killing performance. One of the major upsets of this World Cup till now. 
The match started with Italians favourite to pick up a win, but the Central American team had other ideas. They played to plan with five defenders & four midfielders choking the Italian supply line & attack. The lone forward Campbell, kept the pressure upfront along with the midfield support to keep the famed Italian defense busy. They looked sharp, & attacked the ball across the field, & when the Italians came up to attack, they came back in numbers to crowd the defense & smother away any add to that, the goalkeeper Navas was confident & assured under the bar. 
Italy had their chances too.... The crafty Pirlo had set up a superb pass to Balotelli with Navas at mercy, but the mercurial forward attempted lob was a poor finish....a minute later it was Balotelli again, unleashing a powerful drive following a Pirlo pass, but Navas gathered on rebound.... two gilt edged chances gone in a spate of two minutes. Meanwhile, the Costa Rican were gradually gaining control, & in the 43rd minute, they were denied a deserving penalty, when Campbell was brought down in the box by Cheillini....the referee thought otherwise. But justice was served a minute later, when Diaz swung in a cross from the left flank & skipper Bryan Ruiz headed the ball in past a stretching Buffon..... the ball hit the bar & bumped in...the new goaline technology confirming the goal. 
Second half was evenly matched, with Italians pressing for the equaliser & the Costa Ricans defending dourly & going for occasional counter attacks.... extra time of four minutes were on no use, as the game eventually wrapped up with a final scoreline of 1-0. 
With this win, Costa Rica becomes the third nation to qualify for the round of 16, after Netherlands & Chile. Interestingly, all these three teams have never won a World Cup !!! This also means that England are out of the tournament. For Italy it will be a do or die match against the resurgent Uruguay, though even a draw should see them through. I personally feel, its going to be tough for the Azzuri, as Suarez has come back for Uruguay & now they are looking menacing. A lot will depend on Pirlo's ability to convert from nowhere & Balotelli or De Rossi to find their scoring boots in a hurry. 

Though its yet early stages in the tournament, it looks like a resurgence of the Latin & Central American football. The Europeans are clearly struggling, barring Germany & Netherlands. Is is the heat & humidity that is sapping the energies or is it pure skills ?? England & Spain have been already eliminated & I dont see France or Italy going much further. Statistics point out that never ever has a European team won a World Cup in South America or Central America. 

This World Cup is surely turning out to be closely fought & interesting to keep awake till the wee hours of the morning....