Well, that was unexpected. The 2014 FIFA World Cup is truly up and running now; yesterday saw three games played in Brazil and a total of 11 goals, the vast majority of which were scored in the latter two games. Mexico saw off Cameroon thanks to a goal from Olympic hero, Oribe Peralta, but the real excitement came in the day’s “prestige” match between Spain and Netherlands. In a rematch of the 2010 final, Spain took the lead through Xabi Alonso’s penalty, but capitulated in the second-half, eventually losing 5-1 as Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben inspired the Dutch to a memorable victory.
However, while the likes of Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Gerard Piqué experienced a tough night, Alexis Sánchez ensured that at least one Barcelona player would have a night to remember. Alexis grabbed Chile’s opener and grabbed a deserved Man of the Match award in their 3-1 win over Australia.
There might not be any Barça representation in today’s game, but with four games on the bill, it’s sure to be another great day of football.
Colombia vs Greece, Kickoff: 6pm CET
First up on the schedule is the opening game from Group C, as Colombia take on Greece in what’s shaping up to be an intriguing affair. The Colombians will be without star striker Falcao for this the tournament, and are sure to miss his presence against the disciplined Greeks, who conceded just four goals in their hugely successful qualifying campaign. Inspired by their Euro 2004 triumph, Greece coach Fernando Santos has created a “team” in every sense of the word. They defend as a unit, attack cohesively and are prepared to put their bodies on the line to get a result.
In Falcao’s absence, highly-rated Porto striker Jackson Martinez should lead the front line, but for me, Teofilo Gutierrez is the man to watch. His record in qualifying was impressive and with James Rodriguez providing support from midfield, Colombia could yet cause some trouble at this World Cup. Keep an eye out for Carlos Bacca and Carlos Sánchez for some La Liga representation.
Uruguay vs Costa Rica, Kickoff: 9pm CET
After a surprise fourth-place finish in the 2010 World Cup, Uruguay will be hoping for a similar performance at this year’s edition – and it would take a brave man to bet against Oscar Tabarez’ side. In the build-up to this Group D opener, Uruguay have all but ruled out Luis Suarez from making an appearance, but they still have star power in abundance. Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan in attack; Diego Godin and former Barcelona defender Martin Caceres at the back – they should certainly have enough to defeat underdogs Costa Rica.
The CONCAF representatives in Group D are widely expected to finish without a single point, but consequently, they will be able to play without fear, and without pressure. Alvaro Saborio might have missed out through injury, but in young star Joel Campbell, Costa Rica have some talented players at their disposal. Will it be enough to shock Uruguay?
England vs Italy, Kickoff: 0am CET
It’s undisputedly the “best” game on the schedule today – England vs Italy. I should really be excited, or at least interested, but what can you do? Italy are the favourites – and rightly so. The Italians don’t “do” friendlies, but they sure as hell “do” tournaments. And looking at their squad, they have the talent and the depth for a deep run into this competition. In fact, Spain aside, they arguably have the strongest midfield in the tournament and as they are Italian, their defense will be a tough nut to crack. For this match, Italy are likely to be without Mattia de Sciglio and Gianluigi Buffon – but will it make a difference?
England after all, are the polar opposite of Italy. In recent years, England have saved their best performances for friendlies: wins over Spain, Brazil, Italy and Belgium, evidently they have the talent, but just struggle to pull it together in a competitive atmosphere. How will England cope with the conditions in Manuas?
Ivory Coast vs Japan, Kickoff: 3am CET
I might be English, but there’s just something about Japan that I like – Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa, Shinji Okazaki; they’re just a fun team to watch. The work ethic is incredible, the team is disciplined and tactically speaking, they can be incredibly fascinating. Ivory Coast on the other hand typically underperforms at major competitions. Sure, they have great players, like former Barcelona star, Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba, but perhaps like England, something just doesn’t work in a tournament setting.
There you have it, the schedule for today and while there might not be any Barça stars to watch, there’s sure to be some great football on display!