Tuesday’s World Cup action sees the conclusion of Groups C and D. With two Latin American teams in prime position to clinch the top seeds, the rest of the pack jostle for position. Will Costa Rica continue their historic run? Can Luis Suarez lead Uruguay to victory, or will the wily Azzurri win out? Will Didier Drogba finally see knockout stage competition? Here are five things to watch for on Tuesday.
1. Italians Look to Maintain European Balance
No European team has ever won the World Cup in South America, and this World Cup is shaping up to be an unfortunate one for Europe. England and Spain have already crashed out, Portugal’s hopes hang by the thinnest of threads, and even the mighty Germans have yet to clinch qualification. Tied on three points in Group D with Uruguay, Italy might be the next European superpower to make an early exit from Brazil. Uruguay will fancy their chances after watching Costa Rica defeat the Azzurri, and are only one goal behind on goal difference. Both sides need to win, and should the two sides draw, qualification would come down to goal difference. The miserly Italian defense will try its best to contain Luis Suarez, while outscoring the Uruguayans on the other end. Brazil 2014 looks to be South America’s Cup. Italy can help keep Europe afloat.
2. Can Costa Rica secure first place?
With a 1-0 victory over Italy last Friday, Costa Rica secured their place in the last 16 for the first time in 24 years. The Central American team has been the biggest surprise of the tournament so far, trouncing Uruguay in their opening match and riding a solid defense to victory against the Italians. Drawn in the Group of Champions alongside Italy, Uruguay, and England, it was widely assumed Costa Rica would be the group’s whipping boys, but they have defied all expectations and left two former champions in their shadow. Should they avoid defeat against England on Tuesday, they would top the group and avoid an encounter with heavyweight Colombia, thereby increasing their chances of progressing even further in the tournament.
3. Will Côte d’Ivoire’s Golden Generation finally progress to the last 16?
It seems strange that the likes of Didier Drogba and Yaya Touré have never played in the knockout stages, but after going out early in 2006 and 2010, Côte d’Ivoire are on the brink of finally moving out of the group stages. With three points in the bag, they must defeat a Greek team that hasn’t yet managed to score a goal. While Drogba and Touré are the side’s established stars, Gervinho has emerged as one of the team’s stars, scoring a wonderful solo goal against Colombia and helping himself to another against Japan. They will need him firing on all cylinders on Tuesday if they are to clinch a date with the winner of Group D in the next round.
4. Luis Suarez Leads Uruguay’s Charge to the Knockout Stages
He was in a wheelchair a month ago, but Luis Suarez still managed to fire Uruguay into victory over England with two wonderful goals last week. If his country are to progress again this year, he will have to do the same against Italy’s more adept defense. He might be one of football’s most controversial players—racial slurs, cannibalistic tendencies, handballs, and all—but there’s no denying his effect when on the pitch. Upon his return to action, Uruguay looked a completely different team than the team without ideas that went down against Costa Rica. On Tuesday, all eyes will be on Suarez. Will he inspire his team to beat Italy and book a date with Colombia?
5. Can England restore some pride?
For the Three Lions, this World Cup has been a disaster. Drawn in the group of champions, England expected a bumpy ride to the last 16, but no one imagined that they would anchor the group with zero points. They have one last chance to restore some pride and bow out on a positive note when they take on Costa Rica on Tuesday. Having finally broken his England duck against Uruguay, Wayne Rooney will be looking to add to his tally; at 28, it could very well be his last World Cup appearance. Four years Rooney’s senior, captain Steven Gerrard will most certainly be determined to end his international career on a positive result, following his disastrous performance against Uruguay. The England defense will face a stern test in Joel Campbell and the Costa Ricans, who are riding on a wave of momentum, form, and emotion. Rooney has vowed that the team will “go out fighting and show our pride.” It remains to be seen whether that will be enough.