Peru and Costa Rica’s World Cups ran in parallel, something Portland Timbers fans may have noticed more than most. Now, after the results of the last 48 hours, those fans are left to consider the close calls that left Timbers midfielders Andy Polo and David Guzmán with early flights home, their teams eliminated only two games into their tournaments.
Each team opened with a match destined to define their tournament, a game against their biggest challenge for their group’s second knockout round spot. But just as Peru began their World Cup with an agonizing 1-0 loss against Denmark, so did Costa Rica replicate the feat the next day, falling to Serbia. Each team could have easily taken a point from their Russia 2018 debut, but without those results, the games of the last two days were practically must wins, for both squads.
Those musts never happened. With a second 1-0 loss, to France yesterday, Peru’s knockout round hopes evaporated, just as Costa Rica’s disappeared, today, after late Philippe Coutinho and Neymar goals condemned los Ticos to a 2-0 loss. Just like Peru, they sat at the bottom of their group. Just like Peru, their tournament was over shortly after it’d begun.
It was only nine days ago that Russia and Saudi Arabia kicked off this year’s World Cup, two days before Peru would take the field. Costa Rica started their campaign the next day. Over the next week, four years’ worth of work would wilt beneath 180 minutes of pressure, with goalless performances against final 16-caliber opponents recasting each side’s pre-tournament hopes.
In time, Guzmán and Polo may come to view their Russina sojourns in a different light. Who knows, maybe both players are there, now. World Cups don’t have to be once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but for most players, they’re close to it. Maybe both appreciate how far they’ve come.
But both surely wanted more for their teams when each left Portland a month ago. Soon, they’ll be back in the Timbers’ fold. And all along, it felt like the World Cup had just started.
After starting its second phase yesterday with Croatia’s rout of Argentina, Group D was back in action today, producing one of the more entertaining matches of the tournament. That entertainment was largely supplied by Nigeria, who used a legendary goal from Ahmed Musa (to open his brace) en route to a 2-0 victory over Iceland.
Nigeria (1-1-0) now sits second in the group, with first-place Croatia (2-0-0) having already booked its place in the next round. Iceland and Argentina, both on one point, still have a chance to qualify for final 16, provided Argentina can beat the Super Eagles on Tuesday in Saint Petersburg.
Back in Costa Rica’s group, Switzerland (1-0-1) joined Brazil on thanks to a late Xherdan Shaqiri goal, one which handed Serbia (1-1-0) a 2-1 loss and cast the White Eagles into third in Group E. If both Brazil and Switzerland win their Wednesday matches (they’ll both be favored), tiebreakers will decide which team goes through with the group’s top spot.
Guzmán and Polo have not been the only part of the Timbers’ family representing Portland at the World Cup. We talked about FOX Sports’ John Strong, before, but beyond those we hear and see on our screens, there are the fans who’ve joined hundreds of thousands from around the world to take in the world’s biggest sporting event.
The hastag TimbersInRussia has been tracking fans’ travels throughout the tournament, be they at the actual venues …
… or in greater Russia itself.
For two of Portland’s players, the competitive part of the World Cup may be over. For other parts of the Timbers family, a month-long celebration has just started.
The story of the competition’s first round of games, Mexico, returns to action in Saturday's Jan Brady game, looking to build on their upset of Germany when they take on South Korea (8:00 a.m. PT, FOX). Via one person on the Mexico beat, don’t expect head coach Juan Carlos Osorio to make majors changes for El Tri’s second game. Three tweaks, according to ESPN’s Tom Marshall, is what fans should expect in Mexico’s XI.
Prior to that, Belgium, one of the tournament’s more impressive teams in the tournament’s first week, looks to build on their 3-0, opening game win over Panama when they face Tunisia in Moscow (5:00 a.m. PT, FOX).
And finally, the day concludes with Germany taking on Sweden (11:00 a.m. PT, FOX), with the defending champions potentially eliminated should try slip in Sochi.