Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
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Sometimes at the World Cup, teams come back in their second group match of the tournament to erase the memory of a disappointing first game, to prove that they weren't the team that we all saw in the opening round. There were six games on Wednesday and Thursday, though - and not one team managed to turn things around. To wit:
* Croatia 4, Cameroon 0: Cameroon are still terrible, I mean really terrible, at soccer.
* Netherlands 3, Australia 2: The Dutch are still wildly entertaining, especially when they're endeavoring to fall behind 2-1 in the second half, then coming back with two goals in short order to win. And Australia is still wildly overmatched in Group B.
* Chile 2, Spain 0: It is hard to describe how bad Spain were. It's hard to describe how easy Chile made it look to out-work and out-play them. Spain, who famously love to keep the ball, could hardly string passes together. When they did manage to create a chance, they screwed it up themselves. For every Spain attacker, there were three Chilean defenders, somehow; the Spanish were swarmed wherever they went on the pitch. Spain deserve to lose. They were rotten in their first game and they were rotten in this one, and if there is any justice, Australia will beat them in their final group game, and they will go home winless.
* Japan 0, Greece 0: Greece haven't scored a goal in this tournament, and don't look like they have much of a chance to score one, or even look that interested in scoring one. Greece looks like they would be happy if nobody scored ever again and it was always raining and everyone watching got a paper cut. Their highlight was probably their captain, Konstantinos Katsouranis, getting sent off in the first half for a pair of challenges in which he missed taking the ball by roughly five feet. Japan, meanwhile, worked hard, but missed a couple of golden chances and now need to depend on an improbable set of circumstances to get through their group.
* Colombia 2, Ivory Coast 1: Never bet against South American teams at a World Cup in South America, we guess. All six may yet go through; Colombia was the second to officially qualify for the knockout round, after Chile, and they did it with a couple of quick-fire second-half goals in front of what sounded like 300,000 Colombian fans. Playing in Colombia must be terrifying. Playing against them in Brazil looks like it's hard enough.
* Uruguay 2, England 1: Oh, England. Two goals from Luis Suarez were enough to doom the English to their second 2-1 defeat of the tournament; they remain not terrible, but not good either. They'll need a minor miracle to make the knockout round now; a draw today between Italy and Costa Rica would be enough to confirm their demise. On the flip side, Suarez was wildly emotional after the game, tearfully speaking about how he dreamed scoring twice, to overcome all the criticism he has faced. Let me remind you that this criticism was for blatantly cheating in the last World Cup, for racist taunts against Patrice Evra, and for biting another player during a game, and use all of that to remember that Luis Suarez is still an enormous idiot.
We shall see if any other teams remain in form today. It begins with Italy and Costa Rica in half an hour, and if they match their stereotypes, Costa Rica will enjoy themselves and Italy will do everything in their power to make the game tough to watch.
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