The FIFA World Cup Halftime and Postgame Thread For 6/20/14: Day 9 Recap

Best XI of Day 9 

Honestly, it could have been the whole entire Costa Rican team that garnered the whole XI of the day, but Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud's great displays to lead France to a wonderful 5-2 lead could not be overlooked. 

Finally, Enner Valencia continues his remarkable 2014. Even with his clear miss in the first half, the Pachuca man was the difference again for his Ecuadorian nation as his two goal tally has them in second place in Group E for the moment. 

(Come back tomorrow for Day 10 of the World Cup, as Group F, G, and H take the weekend over to complete the second round of games. Peace for now).  

Best XI of Day 8: 

Because this didn't come yesterday, here is the Day 8 team of the day. 

The likes of Suarez, Rodriguez, Gervinho, and Cuadrado were undisputed choices. 

He probably should have had a hat trick and may have played his last meaningful game at the World Cup but Wayne Rooney still showed why he was worthy of always starting. He placed himself in clear scoring positions and almost scored a great free kick. Still, the bitter disappointment of being on an England team whose lost their first two games at a World Cup will further sting to an international tournament career lacking. 

A man playing a prime factor in disrupting Rooney in the midfield was Alvaro Rios, who flashed back to South Africa 2010 with a terrific harassing display for Oscar Tabarez. 

A huge unsung hero in the Suarez Show was Martin Caceras, who played a solid makeshift rightback for his team. Even though Leighton Baines was getting his moments as the match progressed (and deserved his inclusion in the Best XI), Caceras still performed to an amiable level that was key in his team's great win. 

But Caceras has nothing on how terrific his 19-year-old teammate Jose Gimenez was. The Atletico Madrid adolescent was just a prodigious talent in his first World Cup start with fine positioning that made him seem like the veteran and not Diego Godin, who should have been sent off in the first half. 

Sokratis Papastathopoulos's defending once again for Greece was as immense as his name is long. The Borussia Dortmund man was simply indispensable in keeping Greece alive in the tournament, as they somehow got a draw down 10-men against a potent (on paper) Japanese side.  

Orestis Karnezis certainly was thankful for that great effort from Sokratis, but the Granada goalkeeper also deserves plaudits for his stability in net for Fernando Santos' resilient side. 

FT: Switzerland 2-5 France 

What a difference a cycle makes. 

They were embarrassed four years at this time, losing meekly to Mexico. However, today, they were doing the embarrassing to a Switzerland side who most thought (including yours' truly) would give France a real firm test (and top the group in my mind). 

Well, that all ended the minute Valon Behrami had his terrible pass and Diego Benaglio was terribly beaten on the near post for the second goal. Olivier Giroud, who scored the first goal, exhibited the underrated quality that made him at least first choice striker for Arsene Wenger throughout the year with a great performance. Only a late switch off to concede two goals and then Yohann Cabaye being out of the Ecuador game were the sour notes for Didier Deschamps. 

Ottmar Hitzfeld needs to get his act together and those two goals late showed some heart from this Swiss side. But it is that late match revival that made their performance disappointing, as they have the players and the growing pedigree to compete with anyone. Instead, they flamed out today in spectacular fashion and are fortunate that they have one more game to save their Cup. 

FT: Italy 0-1 Costa Rica 

Photo from

Well, this further makes Roy Hodgson and his side look so bad. 

Excellent tactics from Jorge Luis Pinto, pressuring Pirlo and making sure that he not only got the ball less but had to get out of the middle of the field to receive it. 

Diaz, Umana, Gonzalez, Duarte, and Gamboa were terrific on the day, starting so organized with their high line and rarely getting caught out. And when they did get badly caught out, Balotelli couldn't produced like he needed to. 

And Bryan Ruiz, excellent in further adding to harassing Pirlo and De Rossi, showed a true captain's display even before the game winning goal. 

The greatest week ever in Costa Rican football. Meanwhile, Cesare Prandelli saw how his side were fortunate that England didn't use common sense. 

Halftime: Costa Rica 1, Italy 0 

Veratti has to come on for Italy, and maybe Insigne and Immobile as well to give Balotelli more define options up time.

Candreva and especially Marchisio have been made irrelevant as Costa Rica have rightly pressured Pirlo and De Rossi in the midfield. In short, Pinto has made Hodgson look bad.

Prandelli will take off Motta here for Cassano.

(Postgame version to come after this). 
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