Round (Up) of 16

Round of 16 Day 1
Brazil 1-1 Chile (Brazil win 3-2 on pens)
Brazil, having wriggled their way to the Second Round when performances indicated that they should have been on the bus home after the First, had another chance to prove that they were more simply than a team of one star player. Though, to be perfectly honest, the tournament failed to identify exactly what the supposed big deal was about Neymar; the only remarkable thing to present itself to date was the ease with which he seemed to take part in civilized society unscathed, whilst sporting the kind of hair do that would be certain to get you your head kicked in on a Friday night in Halifax.

Up until now, there had seemed to have been a more-than-is-considered-reasonable rub of the green from the officials. Enter Rotherham’s own Howard Webb as the man in black (or whatever this year’s favoured hue is on the referees’ catwalk). Webb had been  referee of the last World Cup Final, one in which he booked every player on the pitch, several that weren’t even in the stadium, plus all the management staff, bench and a reasonable percentage of the crowd; surely he couldn’t be controlled remotely from Zurich? The answer came after after the match was but a few minutes old, as a now typically theatrical fall in the box for a promised… sorry claimed penalty was waved away

The first half was a storming affair and Brazil scored a legitimate goal through David Luiz. Fortunately for rationality, Chile equalised after half an hour through Sanchez; not sure of his first name, but for the sake of frivolity let’s spoonerise Don Quixote’s mate and call him Pancho. Late in the half, Hulk (more David Banner, surely…) used that old South American technique of confusing the codes and using his Germans to bundle the ball over the line. Mr Webb had evidently been somewhat remiss in keeping up to date with his FIFA memos and rightly disallowed the ‘goal’. David Banner himself was most vocal in his protestations, “What do you mean I can’t hands it into the net and use every trick in the book to cheat my way onto the scoreboard and onwards to the final sponsored by FIFA.” I imagine he might have said, if I had heard a word of it. As it is, I didn’t, but the crowd seemed to back up that sentiment.

So all square at half time at the end of what had been an entertaining passage of play and, infuriatingly for the home crowd, a reluctance by the ref to gift the match to Brazil out of pure sentiment. It is rumoured that Sepp barged his way out of the arena at this point, muttering something about ‘Plan B’. Fair play to him for his in-depth knowledge of modern hip hop/soul fusion artists, but the football comes first Sepp, surely?

The second half failed to continue with the same entertainment quotient and an inevitable period of extra time beckoned. No further goals in open play were to be recorded, but the introduction of Pinilla for Chile gave them a resurgence of impact on the game and late on it looked as though the ball was heading for the top corner when a loud ‘thunk!’ was heard from the hospitality area. As it turned out, a colossal electrical switch, reminiscent of one that might have been seen  in a Frankenstein movie, had been thrown, thus inducting FIFA’s patented ‘Magenetic Crossbar’ ® technology (ahh, Plan B, geddit now…). This piece of high tech gadgetry would also be used to good effect in the inevitable penalty shoot out. Though it wasn’t strictly necessary, as the Brazilian keeper was allowed to stand two yards off his line for every shot. Now that Zurich had wrenched back the balance of power, Brazil were assured progress to the quarters (where if FIFA had had their way, they would have faced Stockport County).

Columbia 2-0 Uruguay
Uruguay without Suaraez was a bit like Whitechapel without Jack the Ripper and Columbia eased past their hapless South American compadres to face Brazil in the quarters. Now in fairness to Columbia, they had looked the real deal in the finals and Uruguay were lost without their talisman. If only he could have bitten a Costa Rican in their opener! We natuarally assumed his absence to be fitness-based, rather than an unrequited taste for human flesh. That’s the kind of luck that passes England by…

Suarez serving his Wacky Races sentence

Suarez serving his Wacky Races sentence

Not to take anything away from Columbia, for whom Rodriquez with a goal in each half was the star performer.

Stattofacto of the Dayo: Can Brazil really be trusted with the World Cup? The Jules Rimet Trophy, the one that Bobby Moore held aloft and gleaming on a sunny July day in 1966, no longer exists. The Brazilios, rather foolishly entrusted with it in perpetuity after their third win, were careless enough to get it nicked and melted down by petty criminals. At least when we lost it, we assigned Pickles of the Yard to ensure its swift return…

Round of 16 Day 2
Holland 2-1 Mexico
Holland had looked to be the team to beat as they put the soon-to-be-deposed world champions to the sword, but in subsequent matches had struggled to achieve the same performance levels. Mexico had looked quite useful at times and this was not considered to be an easy match for our German-hating buddies from the low countries. As it was, and despite Mexico opening the scoring and super heroics from their keeper – who bore more than a passing resemblance to Art Garfunkel (or was it Mort from Family Guy?) – Holland sealed their place in the Quarters with a 2-1 win, but it took a penalty to avoid extra time.

Art Garfunkel yesterday

Art Garfunkel yesterday

Simon & Ochoa anyone?

Simon & Ochoa anyone?

or maybe?

or maybe?

The penalty was won by Huntelaar sent sprawling in the area- nah, just kidding, of course it was Robben who went down! Huntelaar was the man who calmly slotted it home not long after joining the fray, however. The Mexicans complained bitterly after the match finished about the number of times Robben dived in the box (sounds familiar) and he even admitted it, though added that the one for the winner really was a penalty! That’s ok then, what are they whingeing about?

Costa Rica 1-1 Greece (Costa Rica win 5-3 on pens)
Costa Rica, chief beneficiaries of England’s woefulness, faced Greece for a punt at Holland in the quarters. Greece had looked poor for most of the tournament, but seemed to step up a gear. Despite this, former Cottager – better rephrase that – former Fulham player Bryan Ruiz opened the scoring early in the second half and it looked, despite concerted Greek pressure and Costa Rica’s reduction to ten men, that they would seal the gig against Van Gaal’s men. Late in the game, however, surprise substitute Mr Papadopolous from the laundrette in Eastenders popped up to score a late, late equaliser and force extra time. You would perhaps have expected this to have tipped the balance away from ten man Costa Rica, but Greece failed to find the winning goal and penalties were decisive in favour of the Central Americans and their heroic keeper, Navas.

Stattofacto of the Dayo: In a long-running Eastenders joke (the only one, surely?), Dot Cotton can never pronounce the  surname of Mr Papadopolous, and instead refers to him as Mr. Oppodopolus, Oppydoppy, Olopolopous, Octopussius or various other knockabout mispronunciations.

Round of 16 Day 3
France 2-0 Nigeria
France took to the field in what closely resembled a Spurs strip, even down to the cockerel on the shirt. This was surely a portent of doom if ever there was one. France, however, managed to overcome this hex and, more importantly, overcome Nigeria to reach the final eight and a potential meeting with Brussels buddies Germany. Nigeria were game opponents and were particularly strong in the second half, but lost momentum after having a late decider ruled out for offside. France then seized the initiative and grabbed two late goals from Pogba and Yobo. Pogba’s strutting celebration was strangely reminiscent of a certain Italian player. I fully expected the guy to lift his shirt to reveal the slogan, ‘Pourquoi tojours moi’, but alas it was not to be…

Pourquoi tojours moi?

Pourquoi tojours moi?

Germany 2-1 Algeria AET
Now if Germany could only overcome Algeria, they could meet the resurgent France in the next round. It might have seemed like a bye to the quarters, but the Algerians are not the pushover they might once have been – they got substantially further than England for feck’s sake! It was an open encounter and the Germans looked strangely sluggish against the energised North Africans. Germany survived several scares as the tie headed into unexpected extra time. An early Schurrle goal fail to settle the Germans, looking to reach the quarters for the 17th time in 18 finals appearances. Even when Mesut Ozil doubled the lead with a minute to go, there was still drama as Algeria’s Djabou whacked in a late volley to see the Germans squirm over the finishing line. Germany v France in Rio it is then and with it went the last African interest in the tournament.

Stattofacto of the Day: Algeria were knocked out of the 1982 World Cup after West Germany’s somewhat dubious 1-0 win over fellow Prussians, Austria, saw the result that was conveniently needed for both to qualify. What raised the spectre of match fixing was the fact that the officials and all 22 players suspiciously left the field during most the second half, sharing a few games at a local ten pin bowling alley before a slap up feed at a nearby sauerkraut restaurant and a few foaming steins of aryan lager beer, before returning to the field of play to enjoy forty winks together in the centre circle prior to the match being declared an “efficient result”. All true…

Round of 16 Day 4
Argentina 1-0 Switzerland AET
Argentina and their maestro superstar players of apparently intergalactic proportions would surely blow away Switzerland as if a cobweb in a hurricane. You would’ve thought wouldn’t you? In reality, the Swiss – square flagged purveyors of neutrality – gave the Argentinios a bit of a scare. Although Argentina dominated possession, the Swiss stifling tactics almost worked until a through ball from Lionel Blair and a goal from Di Maria saw the winner. Even then this turgid match threatened to rise from the grave as a shot against the post and an effort narrowly wide almost saw Switzerland piss on Argentina’s chips.

Belgium 2-1 USA AET
Belgium were fancied by many, purely on the convenient basis that there are a few decent players in the Prem who, by some quirk of birth, happen to be Belgian. There are a few decent players in the Prem that are English and look how that turned out! The USA are nobody’s whipping boys though and they gave the Flemish/Walloon combo a bit of a fright. The Belgians were undoubtedly the more technically accomplished side, but the application and persistence of the Americans was worthy of high praise. Tim Howard is said to have made more saves in this match than have ever been made in every World Cup match ever played, errr, all put together, or something like that. The tie was all square and goalless at full time but a 2-1 victory for Belgium was the final result. The Boys from across the pond (and quite often the Premier League) done good, but it was the side that can’t decide whether it’s French or Dutch that were the final team to book their place in the last eight.

Stattofacto of the Dayo: USA and Everton keeper Tim Howard suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome, a disorder that causes the sufferer to utter involuntary words and phrases, yet despite this socially debilitating condition has forged a career at the highest club and international level. Fair play to him!

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