The sixteenth day of the World Cup brought us some reality checks. The first was to expose Brazil for the non-contender it is whenever Neymar is not at 110%. It also showed us that Colombia, though not yet tested by major world powers, is for real so far.
We have seen that it is better to have experienced referees in major matches and not have assigned officials who do not regularly see the shenanigans that the modern game at the highest level provides. We have also seen just how much contact is allowed in the modern game where the grab, push, pull, and anticipatory tackle are judged by whether they impeded progress or advantage and not by whether they were legal to begin with.
It is also ironic to note that a red card was handed out to Claudio Marchisio, who inexplicably lost his senses and went studs first into Egidio Arevalo Rios’ calf in Italy’s game against Uruguay, when it is Rios who is the usual pitch bad guy and Marchisio the more gentlemanly player.
Similarly, of all the people to bite, Luis Suarez ends up chewing on, he chooses Giorgio Chiellini, the greatest offender in the current game, save Javier Mascherano. The Italian defender has been getting away with murder most of his career. If Suarez had but controlled his jaw Chiellini was on the verge of being caught out by the ref and a global audience. The real shame is that neither offender was actually caught or sanctioned by the ref during the game.
We have also seem another human side of sports, the one where the better team does not win or the one who creates the best chances does not score. We have seen the unsung James Rodriguez and David Ospina shine like few others with bigger name recognition have in this cup.
We got to see full stadiums where home fans booed the performance of their own team between bouts of supportive cheers, underlining the duality of Brazilians’ opinion about the choices Brazilian coach, Luis Felipe Scolari, made for his World Cup team. Those same fans, though, when time came for the shootout, suffered every goal, save, and miss, intensely.
Finally we have a great series of matches ahead to look forward to. From the mix of styles and firepower to the juxtaposition of cultures and language offered in the Mexico-Netherlands and Costa Rica-Greece matches. These should be historic encounters to savor.