Corner Kicks, June 24: Third group game is the most fun

By Nick Piotrowicz

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For The Novice: The third and final games within a group always are played concurrently to ensure fairness. Each team has a scenario it needs to make the next round, and because the other game in its group starts at the same time, these days are the most fun of the World Cup. Goals change everything, and tactics have to change with them as countries scramble to survive the group. Ivory Coast, for example is fine with a tie against Greece. However, if Japan were to shock everyone and quickly go up, 2-0, on Colombia, the dynamic changes for Ivory Coast; a tie wouldn’t be good enough anymore because the Japanese would overtake second place with a better goal differential. It’s like a baseball season, in which you watch the standings all summer, always keeping up with dvision rivals. Except this time, it’s all packed into 90 nervous, unpredictable minutes.
Game Of The Day: Uruguay vs. Italy, Noon. A goal should do it for the Italians. Even though it is tied on points with Uruguay, Italy needs only a point from this game because it has a better goal differential. A draw does Uruguay no good. The Uruguayans have to win, so they’ll be pressing from the outset. A goal on either side dramatically shifts the feel of this game. If Uruguay scores first, the desperation goes back to Italy, who would need to equalize to escape the group. If Italy scores first, Uruguay goes from desperate to panicky. The first 20 minutes will be imperative.
Around The World: Finally, the Mexico that won the 2011 Gold Cup came back. There hasn’t been much fault with El Tri so far in Brazil. The Cameroon win didn’t produce as many goals as it should have – in part because of a bad officiating decision – but it was a win nonetheless. Mexico played to a draw with Brazil, no minor feat, and embarrassed a solid Croatia side in the second half Monday. Its defending, led by excellent goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, has allowed one goal in 270 minutes. Good thing, too: The Dutch’s offensive machine is waiting in the round of 16.
Yanks Corner: I wrote before the tournament that any complaints about the humidity were overblown, but what is very real for the U.S. is a short turnaround after an exhausting game. The Portugal game was wide-open, a box-to-box sprint that saw counterattack after counterattack. Never mind the four goals scored, it was the way in which they were attained. If the Ghana game had been played that way, it likely wouldn’t have been a big deal for the U.S., but this time the Yanks have less than 72 hours to rest for the second-ranked team in the world. With a result the only way to be sure the U.S. goes through, coach Jurgen Klinsmann has to be considering a defensive gameplan against Germany. But an early goal would make life so much  easier.