David Guzmán and Andy Polo making their countries' World Cup squads was a first, the first time the Portland Timbers would be represented at a men’s FIFA World Cup. On Sunday, that first reached another level. Guzmán was part of Costa Rica’s starting XI for los Ticos’ Russia 2018 debut, making him the first Timbers players to accrue minutes in the world’s biggest sporting competition.
Guzmán started in central midfield, completed 40 of his 45 passes, as was credited with once scoring opportunity created as Costa Rica lost a nail-biter to Serbia, 1-0. Unfortunately, Guzmán was responsible for the foul ahead of the game’s only goal, with Roma’s fullback Aleksandar Kolarov converting on this dead ball to produce the game’s only score.
The shots on the game were even, with each team getting 10 tries toward goal. The possession game favorited Costa Rica, slightly, 52-48, with each side only putting three of their shots on target. In so many ways, this game played out on level ground, so much so that one foul, in one moment, creating one chance for an elite left foot, provided the margin between sharing points and a strong Serbian start.
So many World Cup games play out this way. In this tournament, they already have. What was the true margin between Uruguay and Egypt, Iran and Morocco, or even France and Australia? On the scoresheet it was one goal, but in each game, it was, perhaps, more of a missed assignment, an errant header, or a fortunate piece of video review. We look up these results years later and don’t go beyond, “oh, Serbia beat Costa Rica,” but amid teams from across the globe, playing vastly different styles, all representing the best of their regions, the details are often the defining difference.
On Sunday, Guzmán and Co. were on the wrong side of that difference, something they may dwell on ahead of their matches against Brazil and Switzerland. Particularly with that Brazil match, ahead, they’ve left themselves an uphill battle. But leading up to those matches, Costa Rica got a subtle reminder that, despite some down results coming into the tournament, they could yet have something a say in Group E.
The story of the day came from our frenemies to the south, who pulled off the first big upset of the tournament, thus far. Thanks to this Hirving Lozano strike, Mexico defeated the reigning world champions, Germany, and temporarily thrust themselves to the top of Group F.
One of the biggest obstacles in El Tri’s quest for their Quinto Partido has been the nature of the World Cup, itself. They’re never a top seed in their group. Even if they advance, come the knockout round, they’re usually going up against one of the top eight teams in the draw.
With this win, Mexico has a route to claiming Group F’s top spot. They could take Germany’s place in that “top eight” part of the knockout round draw. And if they do, the path to a fifth game may be easier than it’s been since 2002.
Elsewhere, in Group E, Brazil and Switzerland played to a 1-1 draw, with Philippe Coutinho’s brilliance …
… offset by Switzerland’s controversial equalizer (watch for the push).
1. Mexico’s fans turned out for their anthem ...
... and are otherwise being reported as taking over the streets of Moscow in celebration, tonight. Blame level: zero.
2. And about Lozano’s goal? The reaction to it caused some “seismic activity” (read: earthquake!) in Mexico:
3. Finally, Neymar’s hair made its Russia 2018 debut today.
Look, after two days of preaching cultural tolerance for some of sports’ greatest evils (the wave, vuvuzelas), I’m not going to go in on a man’s choice of hairstyle. But I do want to remind parents that each day presents numerous chances to teach your children about good and evil, and while those conversations can often be nuanced and hard, there are moments where clarity exists, and examples of the righteous path are laid out.
4. And finally, all me to introduce you to Van Hong. I don’t actually know Ms. Hong. I just know her work, and throughout this World Cup, she seems intent on doing something pretty cool:
Guzmán and Polo
After today’s game in Samara, Guzmán and Costa Rica have a four-day layoff before their first trip of the tournament: to Saint Petersburg, to face Brazil on Thursday. Having incurred one loss, Costa Rica needs a result against the Seleçao to keep their knockout round dreams in hand.
Polo’s Peru find themselves in an almost identical situation. Having lost 1-0 in one of their group’s litmus test games (yesterday, against Denmark), Peru needs a result on Wednesday against France to start climbing out of their hole. That mission began on Sunday, with La Blanquirroja returning to the training ground:
Group F finishes its first round of games tomorrow when Sweden and South Korea hope to match Mexico’s victorious start. That game (5:00 a.m. PT, FOX Sports 1) is the opening act for Group G’s first day, the Panama-Belgium (8:00 a.m. PT, FS1) and Tunisia-England (11:00 a.m., FS1) capping our fourth day at the 2018 World Cup.