The destruction of Ancient Greece
There's nothing hipsterish about hating Greece. Ever since they won Euro 2004 on the back of a series of 1-0 victories, almost everyone who's not Greek has despised the national team. They haven't evolved, they haven't adapted, they haven't done the decent thing and become fun.
What makes it worse is that Fernando Santos just threw in the towel, saying that he's tried to progress, but the team seems stuck in the patterns of 2004. You'd think the coach might realize that he could change the patterns by introducing youth, but instead he favors the old guard -- Kostas Katsouranis started the 2004 final and played the full 90 yesterday, while Giorgos Karagounis, who came on as a late sub, scored the first goal in Euro 2004.
The average age of Greece's "front" six? 30.3 years old. Their center forward is 34. No wonder they're stuck in their old ways.
But Colombia's goal in the fifth minute forced them to make their way forward -- and they didn't look half-bad doing it. Well, ok, they looked labored and worn out and they probably couldn't make it past a defense that was actually paying attention, but considering how many times their supposed tight back line found itself turned inside out, the alternative seemed preferable.
With Greece now dead last in Group C, they've really got no choice but to change their style. Two points from the remaining two matches leaves the Pirate Ship headed back across the seas. Santos might as well see just how much gas his old men have left in the tank. Maybe one of them still has the capacity to surprise.
England England, but in a not very England way
Quite how this loss to Italy is ultimately remembered will depend on the outcome of the next two games. Victories over Uruguay (who look rubbish) and Costa Rica (who look great fun) and it will go down as a narrow-but-promising defeat; slip up against either, and history will probably insist that it falls somewhere between an unheeded warning and an untaken chance.
Until then, though, a strange thought: England, particularly in the first half, were really quite fun. Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck were not perhaps at their very best, but their movement was good, their interchanging was pleasing, and at times they seemed to be genuinely discomfiting the Italian defence. Admittedly, the fourth member of the attack, Wayne Rooney, is still lumbeing around like a man attempting to play football through a severe toothache, no don't mention it, no it's fine, no really, but even he managed to pull out a pefect wrong-footed cross when required.
The sensation of an England team running into a team like Italy and coming off second best is a familiar one. But the great fear of the nation -- that Hodgson was going to take a fun, spritely squad, pull down his trousers, and take a massive steaming Hodgson all over it -- appears to have been unfounded. To everybody's great relief.
Didier Drogba saves the day
When the lineups for Japan vs. the Ivory Coast were announced, the big news was that a pair of aging stars had been dropped for their younger counterparts. 34-year-old Japan vice-captain Yasuhito Endō was left on the bench in favour of the Hotaru Yamaguchi-Makoto Hasebe midfield pairing, and Elephants icon Didier Drogba, now 36, lost out to Swansea City man Wilfried Bony.
Both veterans eventually made it onto the pitch in the second half, and while Endō failed to meaningfully affect Japan's fortunes, it was a completely different story for Drogba. Within minutes of his introduction, the Ivory Coast had scored twice, reversing a 1-0 deficit and ultimately claiming the win that could see them to the knockout round for the first time in their World Cup history.
Drogba's introduction and the resultant switch to 4-4-2 immediately gave the Elephants' other attacking options more space to operate in, but considering how wasteful they were before his arrival against how clinical they became after he took the field, there's something to be said about the confidence boost he brings this team. He wasn't involved in the goals, but Drogba turned this match -- and perhaps this group around.
Should he be starting? That's another question entirely. It might make sense for Sabri Lamouchi to use him as an impact substitute, conserving his strength in the punishing climate to ensure he's available when needed, as happened on Friday. Then again, it might be that had Drogba been playing the whole time, he'd never have had to worry about a deficit.
No matter what, though, Drogba's shown that he has what it takes to make a major impression at what will surely be his last World Cup.