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World Cup, day twenty

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Tuesday, at the World Cup, Belgium eliminated the USA by 2-1 after extra time and Argentina did exactly the same, only by a 1-0 score, with Switzerland.

The USA played its best game and came close to upsetting Belgium only to fall because of a couple of defensive miscues, but most importantly a couple of attacking misses which were gifts for the taking.

Argentina was played tough by Switzerland who were unlucky to lose at the last possible moment to another moment of Lionel Messi magic, this time a perfect assist on the Angel di Maria winner.

We had our share of officiating favoritism with one curious incident standing out, and a series of interesting fan reactions attracting media attention. Both the incident and fan reactions occurred during the Argentina-Switzerland game. During the match, Lionel Messi pushed a Swiss player to the ground in order to better place the ball down, unimpeded, for a quick retake, after a foul in his benefit was called. The ref, but a few strides away, let the advantageous retake go uncontested and the outrageous push go unpunished.

In the stands, we had the fans reaction to Argentina’s play. The Argentine fans were chanting “Maradona is better than Pele,” as the cameras showed the greatest player of all time was present at the match. Then, as Argentina finally pulled ahead, the Argentine fans were chanting “How do you like that Brazuca?” and “Can you handle it, Brazil?” The Brazilians reacted by booing all sustained Argentine interventions on the field and chanting “Ole” whenever the Swiss strung a few successive passes together.

Univision’s commentators said: “What does any of this have to do with the match at hand? Boy, can you just imagine the fan reactions for an Argentina-Brazil final?” Commentators for ESPN Deportes reacting to the chants regarding Pele and Maradona said: “They just don’t give that topic a rest, do they?”

Other World Cup related news also filtered in below the cacophony of the day’s two big matches. 538 Sports had a great article on Lionel Messi’s true value in the sport, while ESPN-FC had a page on World Cup statistics that tells us the top assist men in the tournament are from Colombia and Holland. But as of this writing they had not updated their stats to indicate that there is a new World Cup record holder for most saves in a game by a single player--Tim Howard.

At Sports Illustrated’s Planet Futbol we learned that Cameroon’s team is suspected of match fixing at the Brazil World Cup, and that their Football Association is investigating the claims. BBC Sports followed up the match fixing story with additional info directly from the alleged source of the match fixing claims.

Finally, we now have the full quarterfinals set up: Brazil-Colombia and France-Germany with the winners meeting in one semifinal, and the Netherlands-Costa Rica and Argentina-Belgium with the winners meeting in the other. It would seem a Brazil-Germany and Argentina-Netherlands could be in the cards.

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