Tuesday - May 23, 2017

Luis Suarez leaves England tottering on the brink as Colombia goes through to the next stage for the first time since 1990


Luis Suarez leaves England tottering on the brink as Colombia goes through to the next stage for the first time since 1990

Week Two of the 2014 FIFA World Cup got officially under way with Colombia becoming the third country to date to clinch their place in the last 16 place for the first time since 1990 after defeating Ivory Coast. The Colombian’s second win in as many games in Group C had already put them in a very strong position, which got even stronger later in the day when Japan and Greece succeeded only ending their match with a goalless draw.

The Colombians well in control throughout the game and took the lead when James Rodriguez rose to head a near post corner home, while Juan Quintero ran on to score after catching Serey Die in possession. Los Cafeteros’ 2-0 look to be enough until Gervinho took the game by the horns for the Ivory Coast, skipping past three Colombia defenders in the penalty box before pulling one back to give Ivory Coast a few moments of hope. As a final whistle approached the Africans piled on the pressure, although Colombia comfortably fended them off to win.

Ivory Coast still look the strongest team to join Colombia in the next round from the group, with all that they need is a victory against Greece, who have failed to make any impression on the tournament to date, in their final match in the group.

In the central match of day eight’s World Cup proceedings England were once again handed another bitter defeat losing 2-1 against Uruguay in Sao Paulo, to more or less seal their fate in the tournament for another four years.

As everyone in England feared the man who did the damage was other than Luis Suarez who returned after being out for more than a month after knee surgery to score two brilliant opportunist goals to send the England backroom team searching for their pocket calculators and a miracle to calculate if they have any chance of them remaining in the competition.

In what was a fairly well-balanced match, with England put the usual competent but uninspired performance, it was Suarez, who stood out throughout the match, despite obviously not being totally back to fitness. Despite that fact the Liverpool strikers Suarez mere presence had the English defense under pressure throughout the match.

The first half was very much a game of cat and mouse with Uruguay being the more ordered side and it was no great surprise when they took the lead just seven minutes before half-time, when the talented Edinson Cavani sent in an an inviting cross, which Suarez nipped in to head past Hart with his marker Phil Jagielka of Everton looking cumbersome. It was interesting to note that Suarez deferred celebrating with his teammates instead rushing to exchange hugs with the Uruguayan medical team who had done such a sterling job of nursing him back to fitness.

During the early stages of the second half England did all they could do to get back into the game, with their highly experienced manager Roy Hodgson, substituting the talented but lightweight Rajeem Sterling sending on the more powerful Ross Barkley in his place.

England, who at that stage had nothing to lose when all out for the equalizer which came with 15 minutes remaining on the clock, when Wayne Rooney was left with a simple tap in from close range after a well-placed Glen Johnson slipped through the Uruguayan defense. Rooney allowed himself just a moment to celebrate his first goal in three World Cup tournaments, possibly suspecting, wishing and hoping that he had another one up his sleeve to give England victory, with the momentum undoubtedly shifting towards his team.

That was until Suarez presented the crowd with another example of brilliant opportunism, latching onto a long and speculative pass from Muslera, which his Liverpool teammate Stephen Gerrard completely mistimed, allowing the wily Uruguyan, who has now scored 41 goals in 78 international appearances, enough time to steady himself before powering in a volley past the helpless Hart with less than five minutes remaining of normal time.

While, mathematically speaking at least, there are a number of scenarios were England could still go through to the knockout stages, but there is no arguing with history, which states that no team that has ever lost their opening two games at a World Cup have succeeded in progressing in the competition.

In the last game of the day Japan and Greece eked out a goalless draw, with the only advantage being that the result, at least theoretically, keeps both teams’ chances of progressing from Group C alive, as they now have one point each.

If the Greeks make it through in their final game against the Ivory Coast on Tuesday they will have to do so without their captain Konstantinos Katsouranis who was sent off after picking up two yellow cards.

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