The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Sports

June 21, 2014

Soccer action smiles on Americas

RIO DE JANEIRO — The World Cup of surprises is turning into a sweet samba party for teams from the Americas.

Having already stunned one former world champion, little Costa Rica shocked another Friday and sent a third one home. Then the French exploded with five goals against their Swiss neighbors. In the evening game, Ecuador downed Honduras 2-1.

The story so far: Two European powers — Spain and England — are out of contention after just two games. European teams have played eight teams from the Americas and won just twice. The nine teams from Africa and Asia have won just one game between them.

But for teams from the Americas, their record as of Friday against nations from other regions: played 12, lost just two. Ole! In short, the new world is embarrassing the old one.

None of the previous seven World Cups in the Americas was won by a team outside Latin America. On current evidence, this one looks increasingly unlikely to be the exception.

Although the score was just 1-0, Costa Rica was a convincing winner Friday over four-time champion Italy in the coastal city of Recife. Having also won its first match, 3-1, against two-time winner Uruguay, Costa Rica is now guaranteed a spot in the knockout stage.

Costa Rica's win also killed off England's faint hopes of advancing. Italy and Uruguay will play each other Tuesday to determine which of them joins Costa Rica in advancing from Group D and which will join 1966 champion England and 2010 winner Spain in phoning their travel agents.

Costa Rica, with just 5 million people, was seen as the easy opponent in the group — the first ever with three former world champions. Instead, the Ticos have looked like the hungriest team of the four, and are already preparing for a knockout game.

The only two European nations to have beaten Americas teams so far in Brazil are France and Switzerland, which overcame Honduras and Ecuador, respectively, in their first Group E matches. On Friday, France and Switzerland played each other in Salvador, also on the coast. The French were rampant winners, 5-2, all but guaranteeing they, too, will advance to the last 16 for only the second time since they won the title in 1998.

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