Whooomp, there it is.
After two damp squib matches marred by diving, awful officiating, and Brazil just not being particularly good, the hosts finally arrived last night despatching the feisty but not particularly impressive Cameroon to their third straight loss and propelling them into a knock-out match against Chile, (which should be a rip-snorter, given their South American neighbour’s form so far, despite a harsh 2-0 loss to Holland yesterday afternoon).
The first of Neymar’s two goals was the 100th of an already goal-filled World Cup, and he added a second the other side of a spirited Cameroon equaliser which momentarily silences the crowds at the pizzeria my local friends and I were drinking beer and cheering at, (the Fanfest proving again too popular with locals for us to be able to enter in time to see the game).
Two more goals killed things off in the second half, but the moment that really mattered for me came in the dying seconds of the first half, when Neymar’s cheeky flicks and sheer brilliance on the ball sparked a move that was a last-ditch tackle from being one of the greatest things I have ever seen on a football pitch. It immediately brought back memories of all the grainy 1970 footage of Pelé and co. which has been showing endlessly here, and made me think for the first time: this team can really play.
Earlier in the day, Spain had eked out a quantum of respect beating Australia 3-0, a game I still haven’t seen any of since the Fanfest was showing the more important Chile vs Holland game, a match which left me feeling physically queasy at the sheer amount of diving, rolling around and whining taking place from both teams. At least they weren’t constantly waving imaginary yellow cards at the referee…oh, wait…
No wonder so many people hate football, and footballers, when they are allowed to get up to such nonsense at what is supposed to be the greatest display of the sport in the world. The image of a player throwing himself to the ground whilst turning around to see if the ref is watching has been one of the ever-presents of this tournament.
Yet again, the referees, even when acknowledging the fact that there was no foul and often helping the mortally wounded players to their feet for a miraculous recovery, failed to give any yellow cards for ‘simulation,’ and I believe there hasn’t been a single one all competition. Good work FIFA, focusing on the important things as ever, (like not taking your shirt off after a goal. And money, of course).
Any chance that this will be the tournament where the rulers of our sport take the simple decision to start suspending players who dive and cheat after matches? Nope, thought not…
People begin returning from their inland holidays in the coming days, just in time to see the last few rounds of matches, and tomorrow’s clash of the titans, relegated Bosnia-Hercegovina vs plucky Iran, still in with a chance and in fact quite likely to still be here next week.
Today, I am off to a restaurant to eat some more fish-based stews and not even watch England vs Costa Rica, (don’t call me a traitor: it probably won’t even be on, since Uruguay vs Italy is the only match that really means anything in that group, Uruguay needing to beat Pirlo and co. in order to avoid the short trip home).
After that there will be a few hours to enjoy the beach before cheering on Japan against the impressive Colombians, in the hope against hope that they will finally start playing as they did last year at the Confederations Cup, (but, deep down, knowing they probably won’t).
This time tomorrow, we will know half of the teams in the knock-out stages: who is your money on? Who will win the whole thing? Join me, same time, same channel, for more of the same tomorrow…