Five things to watch for Wednesday at the World Cup
SAO PAULO — We’re a week into the World Cup and all 32 teams have now played. We’ve seen 49 goals in 16 matches. We’ve seen comebacks denied and comeuppance delivered.
Here’s hoping the streak continues Wednesday.
1. AUSTRALIA vs. THE NETHERLANDS
You better run, you better take cover: Nope, not happening, say the Socceroos.
The Aussies have seen the way the Dutch pummeled Spain. The incredible precision with which the Flying Dutchman decimated the defending champs was a thing of beauty. (Ten shots on goal, five goals!).
You’d figure the Aussies would sit back Wednesday, defend with numbers and try to get a shock goal and win 1-0. But, they say, they’re not about to cower.
“We can’t just defend for 90 minutes,” Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said. “We just have to believe in what we do and we will get a chance to find out where we are at.”
2. SPAIN vs. CHILE
With a rebel yell: Ordinarily, Chile would be no match for Spain. After all, the Spaniards beat the Chileans on their way to World Cup victory four years ago.
But these aren’t ordinary times. Friday’s 5-1 Dutch thumping has left Spain questioning everything. Coach Vicente del Bosque says there’ll be changes made.
He also wants La Roja to be motivated by last week’s embarrassing defeat.
“I hope the players will rebel against a defeat that was hard to take and we can continue,” he said, according to the Guardian newspaper.
3. CAMEROON vs. CROATIA
I feel good: You have to be, if you’re a Croatia fan. Your opponent’s star striker is probably out, and yours is back.
Cameroon will likely miss its all-time goal leader Samuel Eto’o to a pesky knee injury. But Croatia gets Mario Mandzukic back from a red card suspension.
It sure could have used Mandzukic against its opener with Brazil. The Croats lost 3-1.
This is a must-get-points-to-advance-to-the-next-round game for them.
Ditto for Cameroon. It too lost its opening game — to Mexico 1-0.
The boys can’t lose again. They’re the Indomitable Lions, darnit.
4. THE SECOND STRINGERS
Substitute me for him: If the trend holds, keep an eye out for the substitutes. They’ve swooped in to save the day in several matches this World Cup.
Ten of the 49 goals so far have come from players deemed not good enough to make it to the main roster.
Subs accounted for both goals Tuesday in Russia’s 1-1 draw with South Korea.
5. GUILLERMO OCHOA
A hero lies in you: Half of Brazil was already celebrating Tuesday as Neymar’s cracking header zipped toward the goal line just inside the left post. But suddenly there was a flash of blue as Mexico’s goalie Guillermo Ochoa dove to his right and parried the ball away at the last second, maybe the last 10th of a second.
It was the kind of save perfect for a gif or a Vine video so you could just watch it over and over and over. It’s still hard to believe he got there.
Ochoa had six sizzling saves against the World Cup favorites. Not only did he come up big for his team, he came up huge while scouts from the top club teams are looking at the 28-year-old soon-to-be free agent. Cha-ching.