Lost in the midst of all the talk about the end of Spain’s golden era atop world soccer was that their all-time leading scorer David Villa was playing his last game for his country. Apparently, his coach Vicente del Bosque did not even realize it, as he unceremoniously subbed Villa out early in the second half in the 3-0 victory over Australia. Villa had scored a terrific goal to give Spain the lead, and seemed to be in position to end his career in style. But things suddenly turned sour when he saw the fourth official put up his number in the 56th minute. His Spanish career was ending half an hour too soon. Villa sat down on the bench completely distraught, no longer able to hold back the tears.
Final goodbyes can be beautiful. But this one was not. Del Bosque needed to know this was Villa’s last game, as the striker had been a vital contributor to most of del Bosque’s successes. This irresponsible lack of awareness about his player shows why del Bosque needs to go. His relationship with senior players like Villa had to be strong if this transition from the old guard was going to go smoothly. But apparently, he has no relationship with his players at all right now, completely unaware of what playing for Spain means to them.
It was a shame that Villa wasn’t substituted in the final minutes like Xabi Alonso was. Had he gone out in the 85th minute, a win assured, the fans and Villa could have had a minute to stop and reflect as he left the field. It could have been the perfect way to go. But instead he left with the game still in doubt, when he couldn’t walk off the field to thunderous applause. The substitution was tactical, not ceremonial like it should have been. In a game that didn’t matter, del Bosque had no excuse for not celebrating his star. And frankly, even as a tactical substitution, it didn’t make much sense. While Villa left with a goal, del Bosque figuratively slapped him on the face on the way out, not showing him the respect he had earned. (If you are wondering why this is different from what I said about loyalty in regards to Spain before, it’s because this game didn’t matter at all. Feel free to debate that in the comments)
Now to my predictions.
Costa Rica 2 England 0
I’ve picked against Costa Rica twice and I won’t be stupid enough to do it again. If England decides not to show up, this game could get ugly. I hope Roy Hodgson plays a different side – one that will be happy to see the field as opposed to jaded about their elimination, but you never know what he’ll do. Maybe he’ll be gracious enough to give Frank Lampard a nice goodbye. But overall, I think England will lack the drive to go forward in this game. Costa Rica will seize their chances and capitalize on England’s carelessness. Bryan Ruiz will score one in the first half, and Joel Campbell will score the second. That duo will continue to be superb on all fronts. If Costa Rica finishes with all nine points, that would be something special.
Italy 1 Uruguay 1
I’ve been going back and forth about this one. On the one hand, I think Italy will be much sharper having gotten over the Manaus hangover. But on the other hand, Uruguay has Luis Suarez. If Italy comes out and attacks in the first half, not sitting back and hoping for a draw, I think they’ll get a goal, which I believe will come from Andrea Pirlo. He’s due. At that point, I think they’ll sit deeper, allowing Uruguay to attack. The defense will remain strong for a while, but towards the middle of the second half, Luis Suarez will pick up a goal from nothing. The momentum will be shifting, but Italy won’t fall victim to a second Suarez goal, and will be able to hold on for a draw. The finish to the match will be frantic, as Uruguay will have to send everyone forward for the all-important goal.
Ivory Coast 1 Greece 0
This game won’t be the prettiest one we’ll see at the World Cup, but Didier Drogba will have yet another impact substitution to send Ivory Coast into the knockout round. If Greece had a little more creativity in the midfield, they might be able to score a goal, but alas, they don’t. And Yaya Toure will make it even tougher on the Greek midfielders today. The Manchester City man should continue to improve as he becomes more fit the longer the tournament goes on. He’ll score the goal on a knockdown from Drogba. Wilfried Bony will also have a few chances in this game, but won’t find the net. But that won’t matter, as the Ivory Coast fans will be sent into a frenzy when the final whistle blows, their team finally into the round of 16.
Colombia 3 Japan 1
Colombia will continue their dominance of Group C with a thorough demolishing of Japan. The Japanese have been the most disappointing team in Brazil for me thus far, and will fail to inspire once again. They really miss having an in-form Shinji Kagawa on the field. Juan Cuadrado will score first for the Colombians. James Rodriguez will add another goal to his most impressive World Cup and Mario Yepes will score a dream goal from a corner for Colombia’s third. It will be a fairy tale for Colombia. Japan’s consolation will come from a Keisuke Honda free-kick, but it won’t mean anything to the Colombians, who will be just beginning a long night of celebrations.
Today’s challenge will most certainly be getting home without finding out the Italy-Uruguay score. It might be impossible, but I’m going to do my best. Have a great day, everyone. And thanks for reading.