El World Cup Diario, Day 12: Goal storm helps World Cup overcome s*** storm

And on the 12th day, a filthy great cloud appeared overhead and threatened to rain on Brazil’s parade. Nick Harper explains...

Waking up to another week with the World Cup for company, El Diario had a sprightly old spring in its step. The weekend had brought more goals than you could shake a stick at, if you were in the business of shaking sticks at goals, and we'd witnessed at least two contenders for game of the tournament in Germany-Ghana and, quite unexpectedly, Algeria-South Korea.

But better even than what had gone was the prospect of what might lie in wait, now the World Cup has reached the do-or-die stage, where every game matters. Even England's game matters, although not actually for England.

The prospect of 12 more days of this was almost too much; we had to sit down and breath deep. But then, quite unexpectedly, the whole mood changed.

We turned on The News and were stopped dead by some negative vibes, man. Suddenly, the World Cup was full of finger-pointing haters and the sunshine was replaced by shadow. Metaphorically speaking.

It's Disgusting

Those accusations by Harry Redknapp, about players begging not to play for England – they haven't gone away. In fact they've gathered pace, with Chief Inspector Steven Gerrard now joining the investigation. "I’d be interested to find out who those players are,” said the surely retiring England captain. "Should Harry not name them? If it’s the case, it’s disgusting."

Of course Harry Redknapp should name them, but sadly, as is his wont, Harry wound up his window and drove straight off.

Never mind though, because former England manager Graham Taylor stuck his beak in. "When I was England manager, our last game was against San Marino and we had already failed to qualify for the (1994) World Cup," he recalled. "The players who came with me (to that final game)... I will always respect them."

What does that mean, Graham? What on earth is he getting at?

El Diario really has no idea, but you can study the team-sheets yourself and draw your own conclusions. Legally, we're not even going there.

Besides, now is not the time for angry recriminations. Now is the time for mourning, apparently. "A period of grieving is necessary," said Roy Hodgson yesterday, losing all sense of reality and perspective. Has somebody actually died? What are we mourning, Roy? The Death of English Football? The Death of Hope? The Death of Any Number of England Internationals' Careers? RIP, whoever you are.

Possibly Corrupt

However, the darkest of all yesterday's storm clouds hung not over England, but over the Ghanaian camp, courtesy of claims that the President of Ghana's Football Association had been caught agreeing to fix games of football – for money! Football not entirely above board? Say wha'! Down with this kind of thing.

And down with the unruly spat that almost, very nearly overshadowed the final games of both Holland and Brazil. Trouble arrived ahead of Holland's victory over Chile in the shape of lumpy Dutchman Louis van Gaal, who had the brass neck to suggest that FIFA had been "playing tricks" for scheduling Brazil's game with Cameroon to kick off later in the evening.

Such scheduling gave Brazil prior knowledge of who, from Chile and Holland, they would face in the last 16, depending on where in the group they finished. "Why on earth are they [FIFA] doing that?" seethed the permanently seething Van Gaal. "That is the question."

But upon hearing this, Brazil coach 'Big' Phil Scolari bit back. "Those sorts of comments are either stupid or ill-intentioned, I repeat stupid or ill-intentioned," said Scolari, raising his finger to emphasise just how stupid or ill-intentioned they had been. "We have to play to qualify, not pick and choose our opponents. It was FIFA who chose the kick-off time."

That might be true, of course, but that's Van Gaal's point entirely – that shadowy influences from within FIFA HQ are pulling all the strings to ensure the hosts stay in.

The argument could have continued long into the night, but both managers had to go and prepare their teams for the final games of the group stage.

So finally, the talking, the bleating, the bitching, the whining and the wondering-out-loud of Day 12 stopped and the football resumed. Oh how it resumed.

Holland beat Chile to finish top of Group B and Brazil later avoided Holland by beating Cameroon to finish top of Group A.

And as the goals rained down once more, those metaphorical storm clouds lifted over the World Cup and normal service was resumed. And you have to say, amen to that.


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