El World Cup Diario, Day 20: And then there were eight
The Big F**king German put it best. On the day the world's finest 16 teams were cut down to eight, Per Mertesacker pointed out a harsh truth when defending his nation's unconvincing win over Algeria. "Would you rather we played beautiful football but got knocked out?” railed the defender, live on German TV. “I don’t know what you want from me – do you think that just Mickey Mouse teams are involved in the last 16?"
The answer to that is of course no. The Mickey Mouse Select XI didn't reach the last 16 – England went out at the group stage, arf, oink, etc, etc. Last night though, the last 16 became the last eight, as Argentina bored Switzerland into submission and Belgium beat the USA in the game of the tournament.
Those results threw up an interesting statistic you can pass off as your own today, because for the first time since the introduction of the 32-team, eight-group World Cup, the top teams from all eight groups made it through to the final eight. That's Brazil, Holland, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Argentina and now Germany and Belgium. Never mind that at least half of those teams didn't deserve to go through, at this stage that doesn't matter. No. "All that matters," confirmed the BFG, "is we’re in the quarter-finals.”
To get to the quarter-finals, we had to first pass through Day 20, a day which contained the usual mix of narcissistic prima donnas, alleged match-fixers, shadowy Spaniards and a man with a really, really sh*t tattoo. Just another day in Brazil, then. So let's put a little meat on the bones...
Outgoing Greece coach Fernando Santos accused some of his players of being more interested in their own personal success than in following his instructions. "We had two or three players more interested in being remembered as the man to score a historic goal for Greece," he told Radio Noticias. "It concerned them more to score than the correct circulation of the ball, leading to many mistakes and us losing possession.” Footballers Possibly Selfish Shocker?! Is this news?
Jose Mourinho joined the Arjen Robben debate and called the Dutchman a filthy, swindling cheat, albeit using slightly different words. "My opinion on Robben? He was my player and I know better than many what a fantastic player he is,” Mourinho said of the time they spent together at Chelsea. "I also know that sometimes he tries to get an advantage and he tries to get a free-kick or he tries to get a penalty." Why the sly old dog! Again though, is this news?
Mr Fix-It didn't fix it
This most definitely is news though: the man at the centre of allegations of match-fixing of Cameroon's 4-0 defeat to Croatia today denied he did anything wrong at all. "At no time did I make reference to four goals being scored or to a red card being issued," said convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal. So that's that, then, case closed.
Proper Hot News here: Neymar is winning his race to be fit in time for Brazil's quarter-final with Colombia on Friday! It's not a real race you understand, just tabloidese for a man making good progress. "He will be evaluated again, but team doctor Jose Luiz Runco said fans don't have to worry," said a spokesman, "because he's not a concern for the match." Nigel de Jong is a bit of a concern for Holland's Costa Rica clash though, as he's been ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a groin injury so won't play again.
In some fresh transfer/apology news: Barcelona's sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta yesterday hailed disgraced World Cup striker Luis Suarez for being "humble" enough to say sorry for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup. "Suarez has shown he is humble enough to admit an error, which is very important," he said, despite it being none of his chuffing business. "Everyone knows that Luis is an excellent player, everyone knows last season he played in various positions in attack," he added, "but everyone also knows that he is a Liverpool player." Indeed we do and indeed he is, so why is he even talking about him? Pipe down, Señor.
And in one last news drop for the day, Chile striker Mauricio Pinilla had a new tattoo added to his already ink-riddled torso yesterday: an image depicting his shot that clanked the woodwork against Brazil last Saturday, entitled 'One Centimetre From Glory'. An ode to his epic fail and the misery it brought an entire nation, permanently etched into his skin? Strange boy.
Footnote Be aware that there is absolutely no football today, or tomorrow, or for the most part of Friday – until France face Germany at 5pm. Testing times indeed. Get back to work.