Official notice has been given to the rest of the 2015 Copa America field: Jamaica will not be pushed around or embarrassed this summer by any of the powers that be in South America. On Saturday, the Reggae Boyz kicked off their Group B campaign and gave the defending CONMEBOL (plus special invitees) tournament champions, Uruguay, all they could handle — and more.
Despite splitting possession nearly even (52 to 48 in favor of Uruguay) and matching La Celeste shot for shot (12 to 11 in favor of Jamaica), the Caribbean island’s national side couldn’t find the ever-elusive goal and fell, narrowly, to the likes of Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin and Maxi Pereira, 1-0.
Shortly before halftime, Darren Mattocks had the Reggae Boyz’ best chance of the game, as the Vancouver Whitecaps striker found himself behind the Uruguay defense and running onto a bouncing through ball. Mattocks reeled in the ball near the top of Uruguay’s penalty area with only the goalkeeper to beat, but his first-time shot was badly scuffed and blocked by the recovering defender.
Uruguay broke through not long after, cracking the code of Jamaica’s very organized defense, shortly after halftime, in the 52nd minute. Nicolas Lodeiro sent a free kick into the box from the left wing and Jose Gimenez headed the ball down toward the penalty sport, where his Atletico Madrid teammate Cristian Rodriguez was waiting. Rodriguez finished calmly with his left foot, beating Duwayne Kerr for the game’s only goal.
Uruguay currently sit atop Group B, with one of the tournament’s favorites, Argentina, still to play their opening group game later on Saturday. Jamaica, despite their more than respectable showing, have their tournament lives to play for in their next group game, versus Paraguay, on Tuesday.
Reports in the Daily Mirror are linking Southampton with an audacious move for Galatasaray playmaker Wesley Sneijder. The Saints are currently in fifth place in the Premier League but have lost four games on the spin as their squad continues to be hit with injuries and suspensions. Their Dutch manager Ronald Koeman knows Sneijder, 30, well and could tempt his countryman to the Premier League as the Saints aim to kick-start their campaign and finish in the top six.
Seems a little far-fetched that the UEFA Champions League winner who has played for Real Madrid and Inter Milan among others to be rolling up to St Mary’s… but stranger things have happened.
Peter Crouch’s future is up in the air as the Stoke City forward is out of contract at the Britannia Stadium at the end of the season. Crouch, 33, has scored five goals in 17 appearances for the Potters this season but his old boss at Southampton and Portsmouth, Harry Redknapp, is offering Crouch a chance to return to the club where he began his professional career: QPR. Redknapp’s side are hugely dependent on Charlie Austin and could pick up Crouch for a bargain in January if he fails to negotiate a new deal at Stoke.
QPR are also looking to Spain to bolster their attacking options as the Daily Mail believes a loan move for Ateltico Madrid star Cristian Rodriguez could be in the offing. The former Benfica and FC Porto attacker has mae just nine appearances this season and the Uruguayan has scored once. However, Redknapp needs all the help he can get to bolster his attacking options. Will Rodriguez arrive at Loftus Road this January?
In non-QPR news… Bayern Munich and Switzerland winger Xherdan Shaqiri looks set for a move to Wolfsburg. Liverpool, Manchester United and plenty of other Premier League teams have long been linked with the 25-year-old winger, but it seems like he is staying in the Bundesliga in a deal worth up to $25 million.
And finally, Birmingham City are under no pressure to sell prized asset Demarai Gray according to the Birmingham Mail. But that won’t stop the big boys sniffing around the talented attacker who scored a hat trick in last weeks 6-1 win over Reading in the English Championship. Newcastle, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are all keeping an eye on the talented teenager.
Colombia have reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first-time in their history after comfortably beating Uruguay 2-0 at the Maracana Stadium on Saturday.
The team of the tournament so far set up a mouth-watering tie with hosts Brazil in Fortaleza on Friday July 4 at 4 p.m. ET, after James Rodriguez stole the headlines once again for Jose Peckerman’s men.
Rodriguez, 22, scored a stunning volley just before the half mark to give Los Cafeteros the lead, then the AS Monaco striker bagged another just after the break to seal the win. Rodriguez is now the top scorer at the 2014 World Cup, with five goals in four games. He is also the leading World Cup scorer in Colombian history, as Rodriguez’s excellence dispatched a lackluster Uruguayan side who badly missed Luis Suarez.
La Celeste struggled to create chances throughout and with their star man banned for the rest of the tournament, Oscar Tabarez’s side looked disjointed and unable to break down a confident Colombia.
Cheered on by thousands of fans in Rio de Janeiro, Colombia now face the partisan home crowd in an all-South America tie vs. Brazil for a spot in the semifinals.
Plenty of tough tackles flew in early on as these two nations aimed to stamp their mark on proceedings. A long-range free kick from Cuadrado was deflected over the bar by his own player as Colombia began to get on the ball and pin Uruguay back.
Juan Zuniga made several pacey surges forward at the center of Uruguay’s defense and in the 11th minute he smashed a shot at goal which Muslera gathered at the second attempt. As the first half wore on, Colombia looked the more likely to go ahead as Uruguay sat back, soaked up the pressure and tried to play it into Edinson Cavani with hopeful long balls.
All of that early pressure finally paid off in the 28th minute as Abel Aguilar nodded the ball toward Rodriguez 25-yards out and the Colombian hot-shot chested the ball before volleying an unstoppable effort onto the underside of the crossbar and into the net. It was one of , if not the best, goals of the World Cup so far, as Colombia went into the break ahead.
Less than five minutes into the second half it was 2-0 to Los Cafeteros, and Rodriguez bagged his second of the game and fifth of the tournament after a wonderful team move. A cross from the left by Pablo Armero found Juan Cuadrado at the back post and he nodded the ball down for Rodriguez to sweep home and put Colombia firmly in the driving seat.
Uruguay then brought on attacker Christian Stuani and Gaston Ramirez to try and get back into the game, but Colombia looked comfortable in possession and eager to score more on the counter. Cristian Rodriguez did have a good effort for La Celeste as his well-struck effort from 20-yards out was palmed away by David Ospina as Uruguay piled forward. In the 70th minute Cavani whipped in a delicious ball to the back stick and substitute Stuani just missed the ball as he crashed towards the goal. Cavani then had an effort tipped wide in the 84th minute
To their credit Uruguay kept plugging away, but failed to break down a stubborn Colombian defense as Los Cafeteros made it to the last eight of the World Cup for the first-time in their nations history.
All the focus pre-match was on Luis Suarez, but it might be that Uruguay need a solid defender before they worry about their talisman up front.
On the bench to start thanks to knee surgery just two weeks ago, Suarez saw his side break down defensively on more than one occasion as Joel Campbell and Oscar Duarte both struck soon after halftime to earn Costa Rica a 3-1 win.
Both teams started brightly but cautiously, as Costa Rica looked to lock down Uruguay’s Suarez-less attack with a very physical style of play.
It came back to bite them early, and while Yeltsin Tejeda got away with a disgusting two-footed challenge on Cristian Rodriguez, the ensuing free kick in the 24th minute saw Diego Lugano tackled football-style by Junior Diaz, and Edinson Cavani buried the penalty for a 1-0 Uruguay lead.
Down early, Los Ticos didn’t seem like they knew how to build a sustained attack, keeping the South Africa semifinalists at bay going forward but not finding many opportunities themselves. Joel Campbell fired just wide of the corner after the Cavani goal, but there wasn’t much else to note in the half.
Halftime saw Uruguay lose their edge, and coming out of the break there was a slight shift in momentum.
Costa Rica knew they were just a goal down despite the seeming Uruguay dominance, and they nearly pulled back level just five minutes after the break. Christian Bolanos took a free kick after a yellow card to Diego Lugano, and it sailed to Oscar Duarte at the post who headed on target, but right at Muslera who saved. Had he gone far post he may have drawn it 1-1.
However, it would come level just three minutes later, as Uruguay held possession but could not prove incisive, and Costa Rica struck on the counter.
Combination play down the right-hand side saw a cross come in which sailed over Celso Borges, but the ball fell to a trailing Joel Campbell completely unmarked at the far post, and he powerfully buried the chance for an even score.
It wouldn’t be level for long, because the Uruguayans again failed miserably to defend set pieces and soaring balls into the box. Walter Gargano earned a questionable yellow card, and it set up another Costa Rican free kick.
Bolanos took the free kick to the far post, and Bolanos beat Cristian Stuani to the ball for a diving header that went across the face and into the net for a 2-1 Costa Rican lead.
Following the goal, the Costa Ricans once again shut up shop, and as they had throughout much of the first half, Uruguay claimed solid possession but couldn’t find anything solid on goal.
Looking for a shocking win, Jorge Pinto’s Costa Rica sealed the deal as the manager picked out a great substitution for an instant and memorable impact. Removing Bryan Ruiz who had been a creative menace much of the match, Pinto brought on Marcos Urena with seven minutes to go in regulation, and just a minute later he would put the game away.
On a lovely thread from Campbell, Urena slotted home a slow-roller from a tight angle past a helpless Muslera off his line for a 3-1 lead and one of Costa Rica’s best-ever wins.
Things were made even worse for Uruguay as Maxi Pereira needlessly hacked down Campbell in extra time just seconds from the final whistle, producing a baffling kick to the Costa Rican’s shins which produced the tournament’s first red card from the referee.
The upset surely makes the incredibly deep Group D much more interesting, as it would seem that two results and only two results will now get Uruguay through, and those points must come against England and Italy. For Costa Rica, the win is a massive boost, and while there is still work to do to beat out a former World Cup champion to a knockout round berth, there is now serious hope that the previously unthinkable is possible.
24′ – On a free kick into the box, Diego Lugano was taken down in the box rugby-style by Junior Diaz, and the referee awarded a penalty which Cavani slotted neatly into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Other key moments:
15′ – The service from Cristian Rodriguez wasn’t really that good, but a few deflections led to a Diego Godin tap-in that was rightly called back for offside.
16′ – Godin’s goal called back sparked Uruguay, and they had another chance a minute later but Cavani whiffed badly and didn’t even come close on the big opportunity.
22′ – Yeltsin Tejeda went in two feet studs up on Rodriguez, but somehow got away with no card whatsoever. The Costa Ricans flirted with disaster on a number of occasions with their physical play, but somehow got out of the half with nary a card to their name. The ensuing free kick led directly to Uruguay’s penalty.
27′ – Costa Rica had their best chance yet when Joel Campbell, given plenty of space, took aim and fired from well outside the box, but he just barely missed a wonder strike past the top right corner.
43′ – A Costa Rican corner saw Uruguay’s goalkeeper Fernando Muslera sucked too far in, but the ball fell inches out of reach of Alvaro Gonzalez’s head at the back post.
44′ – Uruguay pushed down the other end, and Diego Forlan nearly picked himself out a spectacular chipped goal, but Keylor Navas tracked back and leaped to save the ball bound for the corner.
Will Costa Rica put together a sustained attack? Trailing by 1, they’re not out of this match by any means, but in order to have a serious chance at leveling they need to build a solid attack, which they’ve been unable to do. There have been a fair amount of bright moments, but nothing more.
Can Uruguay put the game away? Despite their dominance on the base level, they’ve held just 50% of possession and Costa Rica has held their fair share of half-chances. Can the South Americans double their lead? The longer this match stays at 1-0 the more the confidence of Los Ticos will rise.