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World Cup, day nine

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The ninth day of the World Cup in Brazil continued the trend of upsets and surprises only by now we know better.

Costa Rica beat Italy 1-0, and there was no doubt about who was the better team on the day. Costa Rica was stronger, faster, more purposeful, and created the better chances. They were the just victors and should have won by two goals if not for the poor officiating that missed a clear penalty.

In that game, Italy looked lethargic and Costa Rica energized by comparison. Whether preplanned or not FIFA chose seven Costa Ricans and two Italians for a post-game drug usage test to rule out banned substances. The game chosen, which was played in high temperatures, and the relative difference in the reaction of the players, led to speculation that something other than random testing was afoot. By the end of playing time the issue had not been clarified.

France had a surprising offensive performance against Switzerland today, demolishing them by a score of 5-2. It should have been 6-2 but for another poor officiating call that allowed a play to begin but not end before the whistle was blown to end the game. Karim Benzema was robbed of a nice goal which would have put him two scores clear, as opposed to just one, at the top of the scorers’ table.

With the victory France, the most potent offense in the cup so far with eight goals in two games, has booked its passage to the next round. Who joins them will be decided in the last two Group E games. Both Switzerland and Ecuador need victories to avoid goal differential tie-breaks.

Ecuador convincingly beat Honduras despite a close score. At game’s end the 2-1 victory, with a brace from Enner Valencia, could just as easily have been 4-1 but for striker miscues and bad officiating calls. Ecuador seemed cognizant of having to raise its game and did so despite missing a few starting players from their last match.

The temperatures in some of the host cities reached into the 90s-F and the low 100s-F and we did not see the FIFA mandated water breaks that should have taken place. The Brazilian courts then ruled that FIFA must follow its own rules and institute the breaks as stipulated in their own regulations. A FIFA spokesperson countered that the court had simply ruled the organization had to do what it had intended to do all along. Why its intentions were not carried out was not addressed by the spokesperson.

Tomorrow, in the first game of the day, we get to see if Argentina can win without some Lionel Messi magic as the South Americans play minnows Iran. In the second game we get to see just how strong Germany is or weak Ghana is as the two meet in a Group G match. The final game of the day has Nigeria and Bosnia disputing what may be the second place of Argentina’s group.

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