El World Cup Diario, Day 18: Tempers, tickets and truffle shuffles
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you. That Catch-22 cliché was the big lesson we learnt on Day 18, a day when the temperature soared and the gloves came off. Big Phil Scolari's gloves, mainly.
"If you don't want us to be champions, OK. But it must be the same for everyone," said the Brazil coach and keen conspiracy theorist. "If it's a penalty, it's a penalty. If it's a foul, it's a foul. If it's a goal, it's a goal. Things are starting to get weird here."
Like the rest of us, he had just witnessed his team, Neymar, go through to the quarter-finals by beating Chile on penalties. He should have been ecstatic, but he wasn't. He started jabbing his finger in the air and shouting. "Everyone has been saying – coaches, players – that it's always Brazil that's wrong..."
He didn't name Howard Webb in all of this, but he didn't have to. Despite the English official having a quietly impressive game refereeing the biggest game of the tournament so far, Big Philipo was somewhat radged off that he'd dared to deny Brazil – the hosts! – a penalty and then dared to strike off a perfectly legitimate goal.
This was an outrage, even though both decisions were shown to be absolutely correct. "My players are a little tense with everything that is going on," said Big Philipo. And clearly they are not the only ones.
(It later transpired that FIFA are now investigating Brazil's head of communications amid accusations that he stuck one on the Chile player Mauricio Pinilla at half-time. He of course denied the claim, but forensics are dusting the scene and FIFA will announce their findings when they're good and ready.)
Dead man walking
Then came some very bad news for Brazil and Big Phil. Reports suggest that boy wonder Neymar is a very serious doubt to face Colombia in the quarter-final on Friday. "It was the most I have ever suffered," he said, while limping from the stadium on Saturday, nursing several split ends and a strained thigh. "I'm dead." He's not dead of course. But he's not very well.
The better news for Brazil and Big Phil is that while a very dangerous Colombia lie in wait next, their star man seems to have had his head turned by the fluttering eye lashes of Real Madrid. "It’d be a dream to play in Spain, one of the best leagues in the world," 'said' James Rodriguez yesterday.
The newly-anointed World's Greatest Player was speaking to the Spanish radio station Cadena Cope, and when they asked which team he would prefer, he replied: "I like Madrid more." It's important to point out that this exclusive story contained the phrase "is said to have said", meaning it's either not true or it's an interview conducted some time ago, back before he signed his recent five-year contract with Monaco, before he scored that goal and before he hit the form of his life.
Inevitably though, even if it is old or completely untrue, the fact it's being reported means the speculation has started. And as we know, when the speculation starts and involves the words Real and Madrid, it cannot be stopped and only ever ends one way.
Another thing that cannot be stopped? Team America and their irresistible march to the World Cup final on Sunday July 13 (kick-off 8pm). Clearly buoyed by surviving a group containing Germany, Portugal and Ghana, Jürgen Klinsmann has been piping some real positive vibes into Camp America. “Jürgen has been nothing but positive," confirmed defender Omar Gonzalez yesterday, ahead of this Tuesday's victory over Belgium. "He’s telling us, he’s telling our families to change our flights to July 14, 15, because we’re going to be here until the very end.”
One team who won't be here (or rather, there) until the very end are Mexico, who very carelessly lost to Holland yesterday. The worst part wasn't that they lost a game they should have won, or that they lost to another Robben dive, or that they've now lost at the second round stage for the last six World Cups. It was simply that we didn't get to see Miguel Herrera truffle shuffle up and down the touchline at the end. There really is no justice sometimes.
Hey look, we've somehow reached within touching distance of the end of this and not written a single word about... you know, that thing. Yes, Suarez. We could mention that they're now claiming his human rights have been breached, but we really can't be arsed any more and we expect you've had your fill. Why don't we leave it well alone and move onto a nice story about an old man and a golden ticket? Yes, let's do that.
It's the heart-warming news that 85-year-old Joedir Belmont, who had a ticket for the 1950 World Cup final in Brazil but couldn't attend, has been given a ticket for the final this year by those nice guys at FIFA. They swapped his tatty old relic for a ticket to this year's final for the old lad and two of his children. Which is great, unless the USA really do go and win the thing, beating his beloved Brazil in the final. That would be shit.
And finally, El Diario had planned to end this edition of your daily update by writing some stuff about whoever came through the late Costa Rica-Greece game, ensuring you were bang up to date on everything that happened yesterday. Sadly, because it was Greece, we lasted seven minutes before dropping off into a light coma. Did they win? No? Ah well.