What can I say about Luis Suarez that hasn’t already been said? I mean, this was the third time in the last four years that he’s bitten an opponent during a match. Not sure how much he can complain about the world labeling him as a sociopath. He’ll serve a suspension, and then he’ll play again, for Liverpool or some other big club, and for his country. He’ll score a bunch of fantastic goals, he’ll say and do all the right things for a while, and crowds will sing his name at Anfield (or at the Camp Nou, or the Bernabeu, depending on which transfer rumor you believe). We’ll read about how he’s turned a corner and sorted himself out and that he’s a complicated, tortured guy, but maybe he’s got a decent core undereath it all. And then he’ll do some other outrageous thing and we’ll start all over again.
In terms of this World Cup, though, we’ve almost certainly seen the last of him. From a purely sporting perspective, that’s a shame. He deserves whatever punishment he gets, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that soccer games are more fun to watch when Luis Suarez plays in them. Uruguay had a taste of life without Suarez in their opener against Costa Rica, and it wasn’t pretty. It’s hard to think much of their chances with0ut him.
Even aside from The Bite, Tuesday was a pretty eventful day in Groups C and D, so without further ado, let’s see how I fared with my picks:
Runner-Up: Ivory Coast
Colombia completely justified my faith in them, as they roared through this group with a perfect record while outscoring their opponents 9-2. The Ivory Coast, on the other hand, let me down, as they conceded a penalty in stoppage time that wound up sending them home. The manner of their exit may have seemed harsh, but the bottom line is that they just weren’t good enough here. They struggled against a frankly rotten Japanese side, and they gifted Greece both of their goals (the aforementioned penalty, and a wayward backpass that created a two-on-one situtation right in front of their goal). The penalty call looked correct, and the Ivorians have only themselves to blame for their early departure from Brazil.
Greece was the beneficiary of the Ivorians’ generosity, but they still really haven’t answered the question that I asked at the start – namely, where are these guys going to find goals? The two that the Ivory Coast presented to them on a silver platter are the only two they’ve scored so far. I appreciate that they spent a fair bit of the Japan game playing with ten men, and that 0-0 was a good result under those circumstances, but they’re going to need some offense if they want to keep going.
Winner: Costa Rica
This one took everyone by surprise, so at least I was in good company in getting it wrong. I’m guessing that even the guys on the Costa Rica team didn’t think that they would pull it off. In a year where underdogs have acquitted themselves pretty well, the Ticos took the cake. Maybe they were lucky to face Uruguay without Suarez, but they fully deserved the results that they got.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, England spent the tournament doing what England usually does – playing hard and looking pretty good at times, but never quite managing to convert their chances into goals. Throw in one or two defensive lapses, make sure that a ruthless finisher like Suarez is on hand to capitalize on those errors, and it all adds up to an early flight back to London. Somehow, this manages to be surprising/disappointing despite being utterly predictable from the start.
Italy are more difficult to evaluate. They looked quite good against England, but flat against Costa Rica and Uruguay. In that last match, they were a little unlucky to see Marchisio sent off. It was a bad challenge, but under the circumstances, I thought that maybe the referee could have let him off with a yellow card. But that’s the game. Between the red card and Suarez’s bite, which went unpunished, Italy may have felt wronged, but they simply didn’t do enough to get through.
ROUND OF 16 MATCH-UPS (PREDICTED WINNER IN BOLD)
Colombia vs. Uruguay
Costa Rica vs. Greece
Even with Suarez, Colombia looked like a tall order for Uruguay. Without him, this isn’t a hard pick to make. 3-1 to Colombia.
I’m always wary of Greece. They’ll keep it tight, and they can always nick a goal and steal it. I think Costa Rica will score here, but so will Greece. I’m thinking 1-1, and Costa Rica advances on penalties.