THE DAY REPLAYED – Another day, another step towards edition 20 being the most exhilarating FIFA World Cup™ in history. It included another consequential upset, one of football’s funkiest all-time celebrations, some memorable flicks and feints from Juan Cuadrado, James Rodriguez, Andrea Pirlo and Raheem Sterling, and plenty more goals – a fan-thrilling 13 of them.
Colombia hit the first three in an unanswered defeat of Greece. Uruguay scored the next one, only for Costa Rica, inspired by rapid 21-year-old Joel Campbell, to explode into life and emerge 3-1 winners. Italy then edged England in an engrossing, end-to-end encounter. Finally, Côte d’Ivoire recorded the fourth come-from-behind victory in Brazil 2014’s eight contest.
Colombia 3-0 Greece [Budweiser Man of the Match: James Rodriguez] Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica [Budweiser Man of the Match: Joel Campbell] England 1-2 Italy [Budweiser Man of the Match: Mario Balotelli] Côte d’Ivoire 2-1 Japan [Budweiser Man of the Match: Yaya Toure]
Finidi George’s urinating dog, Roger Milla hip-gyrating around the corner flag, Bebeto and buddies baby-cradling, and a Julius Aghahowa somersault parade labelled “perfect” by no less than Olympic gymnastics goddess Nadia Comaneci will infinitely remain iconic images of the World Cup. A crop of Colombians added their own rendition to the celebration sanctuary in Belo Horizonte. After Pablo Armero fired Los Cafeteros ahead against Greece, he ran, followed by his team-mates, to the touchline. There, simultaneously, they bounced and flung their arms about in an enrapturing dance routine – much to the delight of the Mineirao crowd. Take a bow, boys!
Goalkeepers spend 90 minutes imprisoned in or around their box. And though Keylor Navas was near a box in the 84th minute in, it wasn’t his own. One could forgive the 27-year-old though. Marcos Urena had just put Costa Rica 3-1 up against Uruguay, all but securing a sizeable shock. Navas, overcome with emotion, instinctively and speedily sprinted over 100 metres to join his euphoric team-mates in celebration at the other end of the Castelao pitch – a celebration so grand it took play three minutes to resume! The fastest man in history was born just across the Caribbean Sea from Navas. Football-mad Usain Bolt will have no doubt been impressed with Costa Rica – and the pace of their No1.
Claudio Marchisio’s deadlock-snapper for Italy – a low bullet through a seemingly sheltered by an invisible tunnel into the bottom corner – was superb. The magic that preceded and enabled it was even better. Andrea Pirlo is renowned for his immaculate touch. After 35 minutes by the jungle he didn’t even need one. Following a short corner, the ball was played towards deep-lying playmaker, on the edge of the box. The 35-year-old faked a touch and let the ball run through his legs, sending Daniel Sturridge on a wild-goose chase and giving Marchisio the time and space to pick his spot. Genius.
Trailing to Keisuke Honda’s early goal, the Ivorian fans’ incessant pleas for 36-year-old Didier Drogba’s introduction were granted on 62 minutes. Within four minutes, Côte d’Ivoire had incredibly turned a deficit into a lead. It was not, nevertheless, the oldest man on the pitch to whom that revival was chiefly indebted, but the youngest. Right-back Serge Aurier, 21, produced two sublime crosses which Wilfried Bony and Gervinho headed home to emerge as the unlikely hero.
93.2 per cent was Italy’s passing accuracy against England – the highest in a FIFA World Cup game since 1966. Daniele De Rossi completed 104 of 110 attempted passes (94.6 per cent), with Pirlo just behind him on 103 from 112 (92.0 per cent). The victory ensured La Nazionale avoided equalling their longest-ever winless streak of eight matches, set in the late-1950s.
Switzerland-Ecuador, 13:00, Estadio Nacional, Brasilia
France-Honduras, 16:00, Estaio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Argentina-Bosnia and Herzegovina, 19:00, Maracana, Rio de Janeiro
Have your say
Neymar, Giovanni dos Santos, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie, Alexis Sanchez, Tim Cahill, James Rodriguez, Joel Campbell, Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo, Keisuke Honda, Serge Aurier and Gervinho all starred in their respective openers. Which player do you think has turned in the best individual performance so far at Brazil 2014?