Liam Hoden’s World Cup Watch: Thank heavens that’s over

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The misery is over!

Take those stupid flags off your car, throw your supermarket St George Cross t-shirt in the charity bag, go back to your regular Facebook profile picture.

Not that you need to do any of that to forget England’s contribution to this World Cup.

Forgettable is about as apt a term as it gets, highlighted by the dull final game with Costa Rica.

A rollercoaster of low expectation followed by high expectation, dropping to sickening disappointment, lifting to minor excitement of what is to come and lurching to a halt with what can only be described as ‘meh.’

How daft do you feel for getting a bit excited after the performance against Italy?

Or thinking that if we could get through the first two games with a chance of going through that we’d stroll past Costa Rica?

The Central Americans were deserving surprise winners of what proved a poor group rather than a competitive one.

They lit up Group D against Uruguay and Italy to such an extent they didn’t even need to really try against England.

Let it sink in – England – albeit, a much changed side – couldn’t beat a Costa Rica side that clearly couldn’t wait to get the game out of the way. That is how poor a tournament it has been for English interest.

The nine changes Roy Hodgson made were the only real intriguing aspects of this clash.

And it would be wrong to paper over the bright moments these changes brought for England.

There is a fantastic amount of potential from the midfield heading forward. Young, exciting players still with plenty of developing room.

If only some top class defenders can be unearthed over the next four years and getting out of the group shouldn’t be too much of an issue at Russia 2018. Providing they get there in the first place.

The disappointment was that the team failed to step up and produce the performance that would have provided some salve to the wounds of the last week and a half for English supporters. With Costa Rican minds on the last 16, there was a chance to bring back the optimism, to show the English national team has a bright future.

Although, that would clearly be wrong. As I wrote a few days ago, it is time to accept England’s place in the international football landscape.

Don’t be drawn in by all the ‘BELIEVE’ rubbish or the 48 years of hurt. Accept a run to a quarter final is a very good achievement. We will be a more emotionally balanced nation if you do.

England fly home on Wednesday to the biggest lack of fanfare the players will have ever experienced. It’ll be like when you get off the last flight in of the night and the airport is eerily empty.

Any of the players or coaching staff worried about angry headlines should breathe easily.

Not only has everyone been pummelled into apathy by what we have seen over the last ten days, Luis Suarez has been at it again.

Officially the most frustrating man on the planet, just when you think Suarez can start to become a phenomenally gifted footballer with an unfortunate personality, he does something to ensure he’ll only be known as a proper wrong-un who happens to be a very gifted player.

I personally thought the furore over his goal-denying handball against Ghana four years ago was over the top. What he did helped Uruguay into the semi finals after all.

Obviously plenty has followed since to suggest there is no saving the soul of Suarez.

And then he goes and bites an opponent – again.

Oh Luis. You showed your class by taking apart England and then you bit Giorgio Chellini.

My favourite moment of this whole scene was Southampton’s Gastón Ramírez attempting to cover up Chellini’s shoulder as the Italian tried to show the referee the bite marks.

Expect plenty of anger to be shown at this incident until the FIFA sanctioned execution of the Uruguayan which the mob are now demanding.

Oh, Uruguay beat Italy by the way, putting them into the Round of 16 along with Costa Rica.

Whether they’ve bitten off more than they can chew remains to be seen.

TONIGHT’S GAMES

Group F: Bosnia-Hercegovina v Iran, Salvador, 5pm kick off, ITV4; Nigeria v Argentina, Porto Alegre, 5pm kick off, ITV

Well Brazil have woke up, can Argentina do the same?

The two South American giants were quiet in their first two games before Brazil erupted in sweeping aside Cameroon, largely thanks to the brilliance of Neymar.

Argentina have needed the brilliance of Lionel Messi to get them out of sticky situations and push them into the second round already. Messi could be rested this evening with qualification secured so an improvement will be needed from the Argentines.

Disappointing Nigeria could not break down the brick wall of Iran, but it also took Argentina more than 90 minutes to do it. The Super Eagles did well against Bosnia, starting strongly and getting the goal before defending stoutly.

A draw will do for the objectives of both teams so don’t be surprised to see them both taking their foot off the gas if the scores are level late in the game.

Who would have thought people would be sad at the prospect of Iran going out of the tournament? Particularly an Iranian side whose sole purpose is defending.

But the manner in which they have so superbly defended has won them plenty of fans, along with their hard luck story of poor resources and alleged snubbing by the Iranian government.

The Iranians are now being asked to go out and win a game if they are to advance. They showed against Argentina they have the ability to attack with real intent so could end up as surprise qualifiers out of the group.

It would be a shame if they were to get that win and exit through a bit of gamesmanship from the Nigeria-Argentina match.

Bosnia have been one of the biggest disappointments in this World Cup. Though their qualification after such a short history as a nation is a major feel good tale, there was genuine hopes for better from the group.

Permutations

Argentina are through already and they will top the group as long as they do not lose to Nigeria.

A draw will be enough for Nigeria to advance.

Should Iran beat Bosnia, they would need Argentina to beat Nigeria by enough of a margin to ensure a two goal swing for the Iranians to qualify.

Bosnia-Hercegovina are already out.

Team news

Bosnia-Hercegovina v Iran: After a disappointing World Cup, Bosnia may turn to striker Vedad Ibisevic in the hope of not heading home pointless. Iran are unlikely to make any changes following their impressive turn against Argentina.

Nigeria v Argentina: Godrey Oboabona has declared himself fit for Nigeria but could still miss out with Joseph Yobo tipped to hold onto his starting berth after the Super Eagles’ win over Bosnia. Argentina could be set to rest key players with their passage into the Round of 16 certain.

Betting

Bosnia 11/10 Draw 11/4 Iran 11/4

Nigeria 17/2 Draw 3/1 Argentina 1/2

Group E: Ecuador v France, Rio de Janeiro, 9pm kick off, BBC1; Honduras v Switzerland, Manaus, 9pm kick off, BBC3

France can genuinely lay claim to the title of most impressive team at this World Cup after doing the business in both their two group games so far.

Their group may not have been the strongest but the French have been closer to flawlessness than any other side in the competition. This has marked them out as genuine contenders to win the whole thing.

In a World Cup where defending seems to be at the back of the majority of teams’ minds – Iran and Greece apart – showing even a bit of defensive resolve is a major positive, particularly when looking ruthless in attack at the same time.

A third win looks like for France who are virtually through but won’t want any jitters in confirming that.

If France’s strength has been something of a surprise, so has Switzerland’s lack thereof.

The Swiss are still in a good position to advance but those backing them to go much further have gone quiet after a pair of lacklustre performances.

Their chances of advancing rely on the French and also their own ability to survive the barrage they will receive from the robust Hondurans.

If Ecuador bow out, it will be a shame to see them go. They’ve performed well in their two games with Enner Valencia in particular impressing. Beating the French will be a tough ask and it looks as though they will need to do that to advance.

Permutations

A draw or win will take France through but their goal difference should see them into the knock out stages anyway. It would take at least an eight goal swing for France to exit the tournament from their current position.

Switzerland need to better Ecuador’s result against France to qualify. Should both teams win, the Swiss would need to win by a margin of at least two goals more than Ecuador do to advance.

Should Honduras beat the Swiss, they would need France to beat Ecuador by enough of a margin to ensure a four goal swing for them to qualify.

Team news

Ecuador v France: Didier Deschamps is unlikely to risk Mamadou Sakho who limped off against Switzerland. Raphael Varane is ill with gastroenteritis while Yohan Cabaye is banned. Ecudaor have no injury concerns.

Honduras v Switzerland: Honduras can once again call upon Wilson Palacios after his ban and he is expected to replace Jorge Claros while Andy Najar is in line for a recall. Switzerland defender Steve von Bergen fractured his cheekbone against France so either Philippe Senderos or Fabian Schaer will come in.

Betting

Ecuador 9/2 Draw 10/3 France 4/6

Honduras 7/1 Draw 7/2 Switzerland 4/9