At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Match of the Day: Hail the Global South!

As I am getting up early to go running tomorrow, followed by an hour or so of mowing the lawn, I'm doing a quick MOTD preview for Thursday tonight.

Many would figure that--on the heels of the "desperation" motif of the Spain-Chile game--I'd continue that.

By the way, how about Chile? First win ever vs. Spain. And the Iberians become the first defending champion to be eliminated after only two games into the next World Cup.

But many would figure I'd select Uruguay and England for Thursday's match of the day. Both are coming off gut-wrenching losses to Costa Rica and Italy, respectively, although I believe England threw more determination and resolve at Italy than Uruguay did in their collapse.

No, it's Colombia vs. Ivory Coast. Redemption vs. guts.

Colombia--ranked as high as third in the world last summer--has qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1998, and they haven't moved past the group stage since 1990 in Italy. Some fans who recall the 1994 World Cup here in America will have memories of Andres Escobar's own goal that gave the US team a dramatic 2-1 win over Colombia, a mistake which led to Escobar's shooting death in Medellin less than a month later (his error supposedly led to gambling losses by drug lords). Now Colombia's team is primed to move beyond this tragedy after long last, coming off a 3-0 whitewashing of Greece.

Ivory Coast poured its guts into a 2-1 comeback win over Japan. Impressive talent such as Manchester City's Yaya Toure and Swansea City's Wilifred Bony buttress the top ranked team from the African continent, but the soul of this team continues to be Didier Drogba, the former Chelsea star who willed the Blues to victory in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final. Don't make the mistake of overlooking Les Elephants; opponents who do, do so to their peril.

Colombia and Ivory Coast, both with a win in hand, play Thursday with an eye toward the inside track for advancement to the knockout round. Redemption or guts? The meter could well move either way. Ninety minutes can barely contain these two squads.

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