Liam Hoden’s World Cup Watch: Let’s not mourn what’s lost, just celebrate what’s to come
What away for late night football to bow out though with that thrilling USA-Portugal clash.
The Americans have provided a surprising amount of entertainment in their two games so far, despite the fact their brand of football is hardly entertaining.
It’s that never say die spirit and togetherness that has won hearts and minds. Like a Mighty Ducks film.
Picture the scene: Jurgen Klinsmann walking in for his first day’s training as USA boss and finds himself surrounded by a bunch of misfits who can’t stop arguing enough to string a few passes together.
Over time, he begrudgingly manages to bring the players on side and forms them into something resembling a cohesive unit. They even manage to win a couple of games, largely down to good fortune.
But by the time the big tournament comes around, coach Klinsmann has turned the rag tag group into a polished team, determined to upset the odds.
It’s the feel good story of the summer. Other than Costa Rica. Or Iran. Or Spain getting knocked out in the group stages.
Even though it has condemned England to that early flight home, it’s hard not to enjoy the story that is Costa Rica’s stroll to likely Group D winners.
Their unlikely victory over Italy was the swift, sharp killer wound that England really needed to put them out of their misery. And all of us watching back home.
Imagine going into tomorrow night needing to win only for Costa Rica to dash our hopes.
Now we can sit back and enjoy what is to come. Let’s face it, it’s much easier to watch an international tournament without the dark shadow of England looming over proceedings.
Euro 2008 wasn’t exactly the most enthralling tournament but it was fairly refreshing to be able to watch it without the tension, nerves, bloated expectation and bitter disappointment the national team bring.
It’s been one hell of a World Cup so far, and we’re only half way through. And England aren’t around to spoil it.
The attacking football has been thrilling to watch and brought plenty of surprises along the way.
England’s presence and performance can only be described as one of the lowlights of the last week and a half.
So condemn the lowlights to bitter past memory, move on and enjoy what is left to come.
The next four nights have four games each! Ok, unless you’ve got a pretty impressive home entertainment system you’ll only be able to flick between matches but it’s going to be great.
Only Group B is done and dusted and even the winner of that group is still to be decided.
Group B: Australia v Spain, Curitiba, 5pm kick off, ITV4; Holland v Chile, Sao Paulo, 5pm kick off, ITV
Holland and Chile have booked their places in the affectionately entitled Round of 16 so all that needs to be decided is who will top the group.
This has the potential to be a real thriller given the electric attacking abilities of both teams. It’s very fortunate there is something to play for in this match.
The Dutch disappointed somewhat against the Brave Australians but showed their ruthless edge with the manner in which they grabbed the victory.
Defence is likely to be key to winning the match and it is in this department where Holland have the slight edge.
Unbelievably, the Spanish are already out. Changes are expected to freshen up the side following their exit and these new additions are likely to be keen on impressing in their final match before boarding the plane home.
Australia caused plenty of problems for the two other sides in the group but the absence of talismanic Tim Cahill will probably be felt particularly heavily.
Both Holland and Chile are through. Chile need a win to top the group as Holland have superior goal difference.
Spain need to beat Australia to avoid finishing bottom of the group.
Australia v Spain: The Aussies are missing Tim Cahill who is suspended after picking up two yellow cards. Adam Taggart is in line to replace him. Spain boss Vincente Del Bosque is expected to ring in the changes with his team already out.
Holland v Chile: The Dutch will be without Robin van Persie who is serving a one match ban after picking up two bookings in the first two games. Bruno Martins Indi is a doubt after suffering a concussion against Australia. Arturo Vidal and Charles Aranguiz may be sacrificed by Chile with both one booking away from suspension and both nursing injuries.
Australia 7/1 Draw 4/1 Spain 4/9
Holland 13/8 Draw 7/4 Chile 5/2
Group A: Cameroon v Brazil, Brasilia, 9pm kick off, ITV; Croatia v Mexico, Recife, 9pm kick off, ITV4
The hosts still have plenty to do to make sure they advance in the tournament.
But standing in Brazil’s way is a disappointly poor Cameroon outfit who will likely provide little resistance.
Whether nerves come into it is another matter – given their poor start against Croatia in the opening game – such is the pressure on the side.
Everyone is hoping the best is yet to come from Brazil, having hardly set the World Cup alight so far.
It’s all to play for in the group’s other game with Croatia and Mexico both having their destiny in their hands.
This should prove to be an exciting clash between two unfancied sides who have both performed well so far.
This group is finely poised with three teams able to advance and only minor differences in goal difference.
A win for Croatia would see them join Brazil in the Round of 16 at the expense of Mexico.
Anything other than defeat would be enough to send Brazil through, though they could lose and advance as long as Croatia lose against Mexico, albeit finishing second in the group.
A two goal or more defeat for Brazil coupled with a draw for Croatia and Mexico would send the hosts out on goal difference.
Cameroon are out of the tournament already.
Cameroon v Brazil: Alex Song is suspended for Cameroon after his red card against Croatia while Benoit Assou-Ekotto is likely to be dropped after headbutting team mate Benjamin Moukandjo in that match. Hulk is fit for Brazil after a thigh issue. Four Brazilians face one match bans if they are booked in this game, including Neymar and Thiago Silva.
Croatia v Mexico: Mateo Kovacic is in line for a recall for Croatia in place of Sammir. Mexico are likely to remain unchanged from their previous two games.
Cameroon 20/1 Draw 7/1 Brazil 1/7
Croatia 7/4 Draw 9/4 Mexico 7/4