World Cup’s longest day features marquee names, and some missing ones

Mario Balotelli
Italy forward Mario Balotelli is all smiles during a training session on Friday.
(Ettore Ferrari / EPA)

That was some star-laden cast in “The Longest Day,” the 1962 film about D-Day with John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton and Robert Mitchum.

The marquee for the longest day in the World Cup similarly shines with dazzling names, from Italy’s Mario Balotelli and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez to Japan’s Shinji Kagawa and the Ivory Coast’s Yaya Toure.

Four games, with no overlap, offers an expansive 11-hour window of soccer on Saturday. The main course is Italy vs. England, both of whom are lurking in the weeds as expectations for two proud programs have been tamped down by early ousters in the 2010 Cup and occasionally uninspiring performances in the lead-up to this one.

Both sides are banking on an infusion of youth. In Italy’s case, paired up front with Balotelli is the potent Ciro Immobile, who is anything but. England looks to lads such as Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling, especially if Wayne Rooney disappoints again on the global stage.


The marathon commences with two teams from the wide-open Group C. Colombia would rate as a hefty favorite with striker Radamel Falcao, but his omission from the roster with an anterior cruciate ligament injury leaves the possibility of a free-for-all. It’s a clash in styles, with Colombia on constant attack mode, while Greece battens down the hatches and looks to counter.

What Falcao means to Colombia, Suarez means to Uruguay. A knee injury will sideline him for the match with Costa Rica, but he has not been ruled out for the rest of the tournament. If the Uruguayans cannot manage without Suarez against this soft touch, their stay in Brazil will be brief.

The other Group C pairing, Japan vs. Ivory Coast, presents a contrast of robotic precision and athleticism. The Africans are aging, if gracefully, so it’s now or never for its collection of seniors.

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