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Top Four WC Talking Points: England Bow Out, France Progress

1. England Betrayed Their Form Players And Paid The Price

How many times have we heard this one before, England crash out early at a major tournament. The game with Uruguay promised so much for England after their positive performance against Italy. England fell almost completely flat, as Luis Suarez made the Three Lions pay dearly for some defensive lapses. If England’s best center back “by a mile” as Eamon Dunphy put it , John Terry was present, Luis Suarez would have never have been gifted those opportunities.

In midfield, Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard were out of their depth as Alvaro Gonzalez and the fiery Arevalo Rios were too tenacious for both of them. If Henderson was poor then Danny Welbeck was completely ineffective and it was always hard to make a case for a man who never starts consistently for Manchester United to make the starting national team.

Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley are two players who were in imperious forms this season with their clubs but were sacrificed by Roy Hodgson for Welbeck’s workmanlike style.It was striking as well how Rooney improved once he had a creative player like Barkley on the field to link up with. England lacked the quality and the hunger to beat Uruguay and Italy but Roy Hodgson’s team selections in both games did not help their case.


2. Costa Rica Didn’t Come To Mess Around

Before the tournament, most people had Costa Rica down as Group D whipping boys. Their most well known player and captain Bryan Ruiz warned people to take his team seriously. Even after their sensational 3-1 win over Uruguay in Fortaleza in their opening game, few believed that they would be able to repeat the trick against the experienced Italians.

But repeat the trick they did, and with no little conviction and quality. Organised and dogged, Jorge Luis Pinto’s side were the superior side in the early stages and deservedly took the lead through the aforementioned ex-Fulham flop Ruiz. Italy sought to fight back thereafter but in truth never really looked like getting in behind the Costa Rica back five. The Tico’s will be no pushover in the second round – and people will b sure not to write them off again either.


3. Five Star France Signal Intent As World Cup Contenders

Didier Deschamps’ side continued their impressive start to the World Cup as another imperious display saw them blow away Switzerland in Salvador to qualify from Group E. The French came flying out of the blocks, scoring twice in a three-minute blitz before adding a third before the interval. The recalled Olivier Giroud opened the scoring with a well taken header before Blaise Matuidi slotted home another almost immediately after the restart.

Switzerland’s consolation goals were too little too late and they will have the pick themselves up now for their do-or-die game v Ecuador. As for France , the only worrying thing for them is that they haven’t faced any real opposition in the tournament yet but you can only beat what’s put in front of you.

4. Magical Messi moment undoes outstanding Iran :

Lionel Messi scored a marvellous stoppage time winner to spare Argentine blushes against a stubborn and organised Iran side. With time running out the Barcelona star picked up the ball on the edge of the box and found the bottom corner with a curling strike , clinching the points and a spot in the last 16 for Alejandro Sabella’s team. The Barcelona man has been somewhat quite from general play in Argentina’s opening two group games , but nonetheless he has scored two game winning goals when the chips were down with breathtaking aplomb.

Argentina as a team have been below-par so far and Messi has dragged them through. The feeling though at the end of Argentina’s win was one of utter relief and jubilation and who knows , Messi’s wonder goal may be the spark that all his teammates need heading into the last 16. If Argentina are to win the World Cup , they will look back at Messi’s watershed moment against Iran as the turning-point in their campaign.

Tadhg Creedon , Pundit Arena

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