Friday, June 20, 2014

Free-Scoring France Pound Switzerland 5-2

After France's 3-0 demolition of Honduras, there were questions about whether this France team would be able to win as comfortably against a more experienced opponent. In an impressive display of attacking dominance, France have silenced critics with their 5-2 victory over Switzerland.

France coach Didier Deschamps has shown that not only does his side not require the talents of Franck Ribery to be victorious, but that they can do it in a variety of formations. While against Honduras Deschamps set his side up with Benzema as the lone striker supported by wingers Griezmann and Valbuena, against the Swiss France set up with Giroud and Benzema up front. Furthermore, Deschamps mixed up his midfield, replacing Pogba with Moussa Sissoko.

Olivier Giroud quickly repaid his coach for the starting selection, heading in the opening goal from a corner in the 17th minute. Straight from the kick off, Switzerland's back pass was intercepted by Benzema and the Real Madrid striker put through Matuidi who snuck his shot inside Benaglio's near post. The French were relentless, and just past the half hour mark earned a penalty. Karim Benzema had his effort parried by the Swiss keeper Benaglio, and Cabaye's followup shot bounced off of the crossbar.

But it wasn't over for the Swiss, as a lightning fast counter-attack from the French cut open the Swiss defence with Valbuena tapping in the third goal just five minutes before halftime. In the second half Deschamps replaced Giroud with Pogba, and it was Pogba's chip with the outside of the boot which freed Benzema to produce a spectacular volleyed finish through the legs of Benaglia. It wasn't long after that Benzema assisted Sissoko for his own goal, a tight diagonal finish into the bottom corner.

While the Swiss suffered for most of the game, a reaction came late on with Dzemaili's bullet free kick which zipped along the ground and into the bottom corner of the French net. Just minutes later, Switzerland found another goal, with Xhaka volleying just inside the near post to make it 5-2. In the dying seconds of the match, Karim Benzema curled another fantastic goal into the Swiss net, but the referee blew for full time just before the shot hit home. It was another strong performance from the French, while the Swiss will have to get a positive result in their next match against Honduras if they intend on qualifying for the knockout rounds of the competition.

Uruguay vs. England 2014 World Cup: Complete Match Report

Written by Ashwin Raja

Amongst the wide gamut of emotions Luis Suarez must have been going through as he watched his immaculate shot ripple the back of the net, relief would have been the most dominant. After being much maligned by the English press over the last few seasons, for his flagrant and off-the-handle play at times, Suarez could not have reinforced better, why taking away all his infractions, he is amongst the top three players in the world. It was a cathartic moment for the player, who just weeks ago looked to set to miss the World Cup due to injury.

"It was one of the best games I've played," he said. "It's an amazing moment for me. Maybe a few days ago I thought this wouldn't be possible. Before the game too many people in England laughed about my attitude over the last few years. This is a very good time for me. I want to see what they think now."

England and Suarez were a study in contrast. Where Suarez was precise, unrelenting and inspirational, England lacked clinicality, looked jaded and were devoid of any imagination. After a difficult opening game at Manaus where the Three Lions, despite the flattering scoreline, were beaten comprehensively by a clinical Italian side, calls were made to ring in the changes to get England’s World Cup campaign back on track.

You would think once bitten, twice shy. After the obvious failings of the English forward line in establishing some cogency in their play, Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley were serious contenders for a starting berth ahead of a lacklustre Wayne Rooney, and wasteful Danny Welbeck. As has been the case so often with Roy Hodgson, much to his discredit under the circumstances, he refused to be swayed, naming an unchanged starting lineup.

England started positively and unlike the top teams in the tournament failed to capitalize on their early dominance. This was repeatedly exploited by Uruguay with Suarez and Cavani coming close on a number of occasions, before the latter eventually found the net on 37 minutes, just moments after Rooney inexplicably failed to nod home a Steven Gerrard corner from a yard out. Questions mark will be raised about England’s shabby defending with both Glen Johnson failing to stop Cavani’s delicious ball from getting into the danger area and Phil Jagielka simply not doing enough to prevent the brilliant Luis Suarez from pouncing.

England went into the game with the dubious distinction of having never recovered from a deficit to win a World Cup match, except on one occasion. That occasion being England’s proudest moment, it’s 1966 World Cup win over the mighty West Germans. This damning statistic set the doom and gloom tone for English fans who harbored no hopes that their team would change it. That is of course, unless England made changes immediately.

Unsurprisingly, that didn’t happen either. This is a another source of criticism aimed at Roy Hodgson. His inability to change his tactics and make substitutions quickly enough to markedly affect proceedings. England, started the second half as they ended the first. Decent enough possession, but nothing to show for it. Daniel Sturridge was the only bright spark on the night and came close to finding an equalizer. Suarez and Cavani continually caused problems at the other end of the pitch and England were lucky to have still been in the match.

Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana, much touted as the future of the English midfield eventually came on for Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck. Both offered some dynamism and verve that England lacked, but were not afforded any room whatsoever by a stern and well organized Uruguayan backline. England’s equalizer eventually came through some good work on the right hand side by Glen Johnson whose low cross was expertly finished by Rooney for his long overdue, maiden World Cup goal.

Reinvigorated, England came desperately close to grabbing the go-ahead goal through Daniel Sturridge who was foiled by an excellent Fernando Muslera save. Just as England were getting their hopes back up and dreaming of a famous comeback victory, they were brought back down to Earth. A long clearance by Muslera, misjudged by Steven Gerrard inadvertently laid it on a plate for his Liverpool teammate Suarez to win the game for La Celeste.

In a moment of touching symmetry, Suarez was seen consoling Gerrard after the final whistle akin to Gerrard doing the same after Liverpool had virtually lost the title at Crystal Palace. Though the collapse of England and Liverpool took place under vastly different circumstances, it will hurt all the same for Steven Gerrard, who is surely set to retire from England duty after the World Cup.

The ignominy of monumental failure looms large for England, and nothing short of a mini miracle will be suffice to see them through to the knock out stages. Suarez and co. will go into the final game knowing that they have their destiny in their own hands.

Suarez Double Lifts Uruguay Past England

Make sure to check out the Uruguay vs. England complete match report.

In what was hailed as the 2014 World Cup's "battle between the desperate", Uruguay managed to defeat England 2-1 thanks to their star striker Luis Suarez. While there were doubts whether Suarez would start due to the knee surgery he is recovering from, the Liverpool forward not only started but made the difference on the night. With this loss, England now sit at the bottom of Group D without any points, and qualification looks near impossible unless England beat Costa Rica by a high margin and Italy win their next two matches.

Just like against Italy, Roy Hodgson's England set up with the same starting lineup and began the match with the same attacking enthusiasm. Yet Uruguay was just as hungry, and both sides started the encounter looking shaky but energetic. The best early chance came from a free kick which Rooney curled just inches from the top corner. While England's nerves remained tense with plenty of misplaced passes and rushed clearances, Uruguay began to look comfortable as they put the three lions under more pressure.

In the 39th minute, England's defence crowded around Cavani at the top corner of their box, who deftly looped a cross just over the jumping Jagielka for Suarez to head in around Hart and open the scoring. Despite going down, England showed signs of life as they pushed back but never managed to link the final pass or shot. On the other side, Uruguay were continuously dangerous on the counter, with Cavani putting a great chance wide along with Rodriguez blasting a shot just barely over the bar.

England's response came midway into the second half, with Johnson cutting inside Uruguay's box and passing the ball across for Rooney to easily tap in. But the joy of Rooney's first goal in the World Cup finals wouldn't last for long, as Suarez punished England just ten minutes later. Uruguay keeper Muslera booted the ball into the England half, and it was Steven Gerrard whose header flicked through the England defence for Suarez to latch onto and power the ball home into the back of the net.

Suarez celebrated with his teammates, and then ran over to the Uruguayan team's kinesiologist Walter Ferreira to celebrate with him. Ferreira helped take care and rehabilitate Suarez's knee after surgery, even putting off his own cancer treatment in order to help the Liverpool striker be fit for the tournament and join the rest of the Uruguayan national team for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It was an emotional goal and victory for Uruguay, who will face Italy next in their race for qualification. Meanwhile, England will face Costa Rica as their dreams of qualification draw to a close.


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