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World Cup, day fourteen

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It was another day of surprises at the Brazilian World Cup. Out of four games today, we had two great games, one baffling one, and an entertaining one that was settled early and yet produced some good play. We also had a positive officiating highlight today with the performance of Noumandiez Doue in the Ecuador-France match.

Nigeria kept pace with Argentina in one of the most exciting 3-2 games of the tournament so far. We saw great and silly goals, early and late goals, goals by unexpected players and by the ones we have come to expect, and goals scored immediately in response to an opponent’s score. The sequence of goals in this game was: at the 3rd and 4th minutes, then at the 45th+, and in the second half at the 46th, and then at the 50th. Messi scored the opening and closing goals of the first half on a rebound and a free kick to bring his total to four. Both teams advanced, Argentina in first place and Nigeria in second place in Group F.

Bosnia let loose and wound up a 3-1 winner over Iran who scored their first goal of the tournament. Both teams were eliminated in group play.

In the second double header of the day, Ecuador crumbled at the feet of France submitting to a 0-0 draw that eliminated them, while Switzerland leapfrogged over Ecuador, again, to come in second to France and advance in Group E. The Swiss progressed thanks to a hat trick by Xherdan Shaqiri. The French will play the Nigerians and the Swiss will play the Argentines.

The baffling Ecuadorean performance, by their players on the pitch and their coach on the sidelines, will be a mystery worth pursuing. Perhaps an explanation will come out some time, but the meltdown that we witnessed must have made fans think the Ecuadorean players and coach, Reinaldo Rueda, might want to determine what football means to them before next World Cup comes around.

The performance of Noumandiez Doue, from the single red card event perspective, was inspirational and in stark contrast to what we have witnessed from most of the other referees at this cup.

Finally, we did not hear about worries over water breaks, or from FIFA about Luis Suarez’s biting incident, or of any further injuries or roster changes from anyone now into the next round. But additional information may be coming our way on all of these issues by the weekend.

Tomorrow brings us a great series of games—Portugal vs. Ghana, Germany vs. USA, Algeria vs. Russia and Belgium vs. South Korea—with all teams still somewhat in contention for a pass to the next round.

We have not yet heard if Cristiano Ronaldo and company are in shape for their game with Ghana but Ronaldo did say the following about his team’s chances tomorrow: “We have given our best, but it’s virtually impossible now [for us to qualify], but this is football.” Portugal would have to clobber Ghana, and hope one team does the same in the USA-Germany game, to have a chance to progress. If they did move on, they probably do not have enough healthy firepower to go much further.

Meanwhile Jurgen Klinsmann, excited to see his old staff when Germany and USA meet, is full of optimism: “We are very hungry, very ambitious. Both teams are not yet into the knockout stage. We are almost there. We have to do it now, with this game.” Speaking about the possibility of playing for a draw, which would see both teams through the coach said: “Their [Germany’s] spirit is always going [at it] to the last second of the game. It’s something we have as well in the U.S.”

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