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The World Cup – Week Two Review

The group stages are now done and dusted and the definitive contenders and pretenders have now been separated. Falling unexpectedly at the first hurdle, the likes of Spain and Italy will be missed. As for England, maybe it’s time to put the horse down after promising so much down the years but always disappointing!
First impressions shouldn’t be lasting                

For all the criticism of Brazil – and most of it has been merited – this team will be far better for the probable inclusions of Fernandinho, Willian and Maicon. Aligned with the continued brilliance of Neymar and the inspirational home support, the Chile game is all set up for a defining performance by Luiz Felipe Scolari’s charges.

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The world according to Alex Song

I’ll elbow an opponent in the back in front of the referee during our make or break second game.

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The world according to Benoit Assou-Ekotto

I’ll headbutt my younger team-mate even though I’m an experienced professional who should be a leader of the squad.

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And yet the award for African nation to most disgrace the entire continent goes to….

Ghana. Take a bow lads that is some achievement!

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With a special guest appearance made by…

Kevin Prince Boateng. Doesn’t play international football for four years and two fixtures into his return from a self-imposed international exile, he leaves again in disgrace.

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Let’s all laugh at the ‘rotund’ gentleman

What is it about a man of a bigger size celebrating a victory? Mexico coach Miguel Herrera’s celebrations after each of Mexico’s goals against Croatia were hilariously funny in their own unique way. It might be about as sophisticated as an episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys but you gotta laugh!

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You cannot overestimate the role proximity plays in tournament football

Eight teams from the Americas have made the last 16 including five teams from South America. That may have something to do with a drop in the standard of European football with bankers such as Italy and Spain biting the dust early but all the South American teams have delivered to their potential in familiar surroundings urged on by uproarious home support.

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Time to embrace Spain’s legacy….

Vicente Del Bosque will probably put his hands up and admit regrets on how Spain’s World Cup campaign unfolded but in all reality, all glorious eras must come to an end.

A decade ago, Spain were the perennial underachievers who we all scoffed at as we’d tip them as dark horses only to see them invariably choke along the way. After achieving the near impossible of consecutive European Championships sandwiched by a World Cup playing a style of football to rival Holland’s “Total Football”, Spain’s legacy is secure. Let’s embrace an extraordinary team rather than grumble at the €10/€20 we lost on that outright winners bet!

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Australia put things in perspective

A tough group, a limited group of players, little/no expectations – the scenario facing Australia in this World Cup is a carbon copy of what Ireland faced at Euro 2012.

Given Australia’s stated goal before the tournament was to “win the toss and take it from there”, they played to win and without any fear of the quality of their opponent. They may have finished with zero points but they also left with their pride and footballing reputation enhanced for the experience….pity Ireland weren’t allowed to play the same way in Poland.

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A game that weirdly sums up just how great this World Cup has been

Costa Rica v Greece in the last 16 – we may miss the presence of Italy or England in the knock out stages and outright despise Greece for their negative football but you can’t beat the unexpected surprise packages.

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So you’re a disciplinary committee member of FIFA…

And you decide that the wise way to punish Luis Suarez for an offence committed while playing for Uruguay is to ban him from all football activity for 4 months. This ensures the following:

  1. A legal appeal by his employer Liverpool who can’t even allow the player on the training ground until mid-October
  2. A new debate on the role of the modern day player who is contracted by a club, loaned out to their country for FIFA’s commercial benefit and then comes back as damaged goods either injured or in this case suspended
  3. The eternal dragging out of a story that would have been a case closed if FIFA had just suspended him from international activity for nine games

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Honesty of effort

Nothing was expected of Ecuador before the tournament given their ability to only win games at home in extreme altitude and the further loss of star player Christian Benitez to a premature death. And yet the game versus a far technically superior French side illustrated what John Giles speaks of constantly in terms of “honesty of effort” with the Ecuadorian’s running themselves to a standstill even though their chances to qualify were slim at best.

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Sign Him Up, Sign Him Up!

The loss of Christian Benitez represented the opportunity of a lifetime for Enner Valencia who plies his club trade in Mexico. And boy how he grabbed it….European football and a significant pay rise await in the coming months.

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Iran put things into perspective

Please see: “Australia put things into perspective” for further details.

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The greatest underdog story since Rocky Balboa 

It’s not really but one can’t help but be affected by the USA’s infectious enthusiasm for this tournament.

Laugh at the overt displays of patriotism that border on cringeworthy but the honesty and application that the USA bring to the game is enormously admirable. Contrast this to other nations where certain players see the national shirt as a hindrance rather than a privilege to wear.

That they have qualified for the second round is just rewards for their efforts. Oh say can you see…..

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Anti-climax of the tournament 

So FIFA do everything they can to get Cristiano Ronaldo to the tournament and he repays them by being injured and/or pouting around the place with the air of a man who’d rather be out on the beach than trying to rescue a lost Portuguese cause.

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Asia’s finest remain lagging behind….

Asia has 60% of the world’s population and is football mad in large jurisdictions such as South Korea and Japan who represented the continent in this tournament. Yet the potential football breakthrough that was threatened in the 2002 World Cup when South Korea got to the semi-final and Japan to the second round has largely receded as once again Asia’s finest remain also-rans on the world stage.

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On a positive note…

Who’d have thought that Algeria would be one of the African team to qualify for the second round and doing so for the first time? A grudge match via Germany awaits….Google “German Match- Fixing 1982” for further details.

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Stephen Twomey, Pundit Arena.

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