World Cup Day 9: Costa Rica slay another giant, France blitz Switerland

Costa Rica slay another giant

The day’s opening match saw Group D opponents Costa Rica and Italy meet in a top-of-the-table clash, having both won their first matches of the tournament.

Coming into this World Cup, everybody expected the Costa Ricans to be the whipping boys of Group D, but they made football fans sit up and take notice when they recorded a stunning 3-1 win over Uruguay.

A win for Italy would put them in complete control of the group, and they came into this game feeling confident that Costa Rica didn’t have another surprise up their sleeve.

They were oh so wrong.

Just moments after Costa Rica were denied a clear penalty, Bryan Ruiz sent shock waves through the footballing world when he headed in off the underside of the crossbar to give his country another surprising lead right before the half time whistle.

The underdogs were at it again – Costa Rica held a slim lead against former World Cup winners Italy at half.

The second half played out, and Italy fought hard to get an equalizer and a way back into the match, but the Costa Ricans held firm, denying the Italians and almost adding to their lead on multiple occasions.

The final whistle sounded: 1-0 to Costa Rica. Another shock at this summer’s World Cup.

In perhaps the storyline of the tournament, Costa Rica have now toppled two footballing giants. They were predicted to finish rock bottom of Group D, but instead go into their final match with guaranteed progression into the knockout rounds. Absolute insanity.

England are now out, and Uruguay play Italy in a winner-take-all match. Costa Rica have turned this group on it’s head.

France blitz Switzerland in goal-fest

In a highly-anticipated match, France met Switzerland in the battle for Group E supremacy – a win for either team, and first place in the group would be fully in their control.

The Swiss, who had an outstanding defensive record in the build-up to the World Cup, would be confident of keeping things pretty tight in this game – but they were in the unfamiliar position of trailing 1-0 when Olivier Giroud rose to head in a 17th-minute free kick.

Only 66 seconds later, France doubled their lead. Defensive midfielder Blaise Matuidi, the unlikeliest of goalscorers, burst into the box, getting on the end of a Karim Benzema through ball and beating the Swiss keeper at the near post.

Things threatened to go from bad to worse when Benzema was awarded a penalty, but Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio came up big for his country, saving the penalty and keeping the scoreline at 2-0.

But it only delayed the inevitable – a clinical French counter attack ended with Mathieu Valbenua tapping home to take a 3-0 lead into half time.

The Swiss seemed like they had shored things up after half, but it didn’t stop Benzema from scoring his third goal at this World Cup, making him joint-top scorer so far. Benzema then turned provider when he put Moussa Sissokho through on goal to make it 5-0.

Swiss substitute Blerim Dzemaili pulled one back for his country when he rifled a low free kick into the back of the French net, and Xhaka pulled back another with a nice finish shortly after, but they were only consolation goals for the men in red.

Another incredible World Cup game entertained the masses, and a Group E goal-fest ended France 5-2 Switzerland.

Hats off to Karim Benzema, who put in his second man of the match performance in a row. The striker is contributing at a staggering rate – scoring three and assisting three others in only two matches so far.

France have made a huge statement here – much like the Dutch, they have surpassed all expectations so far. Nobody was touting the French as potential World Cup winners, but with a rock-solid defence and a lightning-fast attack, they could continue to do some serious damage.

Ecuador battle for tight victory over Honduras

After Group E’s headlining game between France and Switzerland, many viewers assumed that the action of the day was done. Honduras and Ecuador are the two “weak” teams in their group, and after each starting with a loss, neither did themselves any favours.

But anybody who switched off missed a very entertaining game – both teams are incredibly direct in their approach, and with both needing a win it set the stage for an end-to-end battle.

Honduras opened the scoring when targetman Carlo Costly smashed a low strike past Ecuadorian keeper Alexander Dominguez to give his country their first goal at a World Cup since 1982 and send the Honduran fans into a state of ecstasy.

But the jubilation was short-lived, as Enner Valencia (who scored in Ecuador’s opener against Switzerland) capitalized on some poor defending to equalize only three minutes after Costly’s opener.

After half, Valencia was again the difference maker for Ecuador – he rose to head in his second of the match (and third of the tournament) to give his country the lead for the first time in the game.

His goal decided the match, and Ecuador ran out 2-1 winners. The result means that Honduras is all but out, and Ecuador and Switzerland will be fighting for second place on the group’s final day.

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