Bem Vindo a Day 8 of the 2014 World Cup as this great tournament enters its second week of play. It was a fantastic opening week of play with some incredible goals, big upsets, and exciting games nearly every time out, and there is no reason to expect that any of that will change.
Day 7 saw the surprising (well, not to everyone - HT, B) early exit of defending champion Spain while the Netherlands and Chile became the first two teams to clinch a spot in the knockout round of 16. Today, Colombia and Ivory Coast have a chance to seal a berth to the quarterfinals, and Greece, Japan, Uruguay, and England - yes, England - fight to avoid an early elimination of their own. The Netherlands (aka, the Dutch, or Holland - btw, why does one country get three names?) followed their impressive opener with a well played 3-2 win over the gutty little Australians, and Chile put the nail in the coffin of a lost and bewildered Spanish team with a steady 2-0 win. Both the Netherlands and Chile have 6 points in Group B and they will meet next Monday in a game that matters quite a bit as the loser will meet the Group A winner, presumably Brazil, in the quarterfinals. In the final game yesterday, Croatia put a 4-0 beatdown on Cameroon. They will face Mexico next and can advance from Group A with a win. A Mexico win or tie will send our friends to the south through.
We have a similar set of scenarios in today's games, as round 1 winners Colombia and Ivory Coast meet with a quarterfinal berth on the line, while Greece and Japan, and England and Uruguay all are looking for their first win and trying to avoid the same fate as Australia and Spain.
Here are the matchups, locations, times (UCLA local time) and the networks for today's games.
Colombia v Ivory Coast, Group C Brasilia, 9am PT ESPN
After their respective openers, both of these teams look to be the favorites to advance from Group C, but winning the group is still important to ensure a better quarterfinal matchup, so both teams have a lot to play for in this game. For Colombia, they have not advanced from group play since 1990, and despite an impressive opener against Greece, the team still faces tons of pressure and expectations back home. Ivory Coast meanwhile may be carrying the hopes of a entire continent as the teams from Africa have not fared well thus far, and Les Elephants may be the only selection from the region to get out of group play.
Uruguay v England, Group D, São Paolo, noon ESPN
England won the World Cup in 1966 and, despite having loads of talent for every tournament, the Three Lions have infuriated both its loyal and its hooligan fans in every major international tournament since. Hmmm, that sounds familiar… The inconsistent English star Wayne Rooney showed in their first game why fans distrust him on the big stage so much. After a tough loss to a methodical and precise Italy, England finds itself in a must win game against a good Uruguay team who must be similarly disappointed to find itself in this position, too. Uruguay's star striker (and Liverpool hero) Luis Suarez says his knee is finally recovered from surgery last month and he will be ready to start, and like El Cid, his presence alone will command fear amongst the English defense. A tie really doesn't help either team, so look for this to be one of the most desperate and exciting matches of the week.
Japan v Greece, Group C, Natal, 3pm ESPN
These two teams find themselves in nearly identical situations: both lost their opener and both face a tough matchup in their final group game. That makes this game critical for both Japan and Greece if they want to maintain any dreams of advancing out of group play. Greece will focus on a defensive game plan and will rely on their height advantage and set pieces to provide their offensive opportunities. Japan would probably prefer a more open and fluid game, so the team that wins the battle of styles in this one will have the advantage.
This is your World Cup open thread for Day 8. Fire away with your thoughts, analysis, and opinions as you tune in with 3 billion others to watch the biggest sporting event in the world.