56. Brazil’s Second Broken Heart…

We all know that Brazil had their hearts broken in the semi-final against Germany.

Well, more like they had their hearts swiftly removed, stomped on, kicked around and fired into the net seven times.

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Brazil’s worst nightmare…

It could even have been worse, with German defender Matt Hummels admitting in an interview that they decided at half-time to take it easy on the hosts after racing to a 5-0 lead.

How bad was the match? It was so shocking to the world that it became the most discussed sports match ever on Twitter, with 35.6 million tweets, and local newspaper Globo gave all of the Brazilian players, and the coach, 0/10 in their match ratings.

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Ouch…

This was the second time Brazilian football had found itself ripped to shreds, the first being the infamous loss to neighbours Uruguay in 1950. As the Guardian said of the Germany semi-final:

The Mineiraço, as it is already being called in an echo of the deep impact of the 1950 Maracanazo when Uruguay defeated Brazil in the final the last time the tournament was held here, was variously described as “the disgrace of all disgraces” and “a historic humiliation”. The sports paper Lance called it “the biggest shame in history”.

What most people don’t know, but I learned from Alex Bellos’s book: ‘Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life,’ is that the match in 1950 wasn’t actually the World Cup Final. The tournament in those days ended in a group phase, and it just so happened that Uruguay and Brazil were the only two teams left with a chance to top the group, and were playing each-other in the last game. That’s why even a draw would have handed the cup to Brazil, as they had won both of their games, (against Sweden and Spain), whereas Uruguay had only drawn with Spain.

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The lasting impression that match left on the Brazilian footballing mentality, (until being supplanted on 8th July 2014), has been beautifully  explained in cartoon format in this incredible New York Times feature.

Enjoy! And don’t forget to sign up for details of ‘Benfica to Brazil – the book’!

http://nyti.ms/1nSbuh8

43. World Cup Day 18: Luck and Skill…

Finally, a South American team in yellow playing exciting, passionate football with a killer instinct.

It just wasn’t Brazil.

Colombia sent home the 2014 Pantomime Villains, Uruguay, with a stunning display and yet another contender for goal of the tournament from current top scorer, James Rodriguez, taking a ball on the chest outside the area after a bout of headed ping-pong, controlling it onto his left foot and volleying stunningly off the keeper’s hand and down off the underside of the bar into the net.

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James…more or less…

Anyone who read yesterday’s blog can’t say they weren’t warned, and since Continue reading

42. World Cup Day 17: Ding Ding, Round 2…

After yesterday’s relaxing day off, we are back and ready to go with the meat of the competition: the knock-out phase.

The last sixteen as us boring English speakers call it; the ‘oitavos’ to the locals.

Today’s pair of matches is a strangely South American affair: due to an irony of the draw, (or a complete cock-up, depending on your view of FIFA), there are four South American teams all battling it out for a single semi-final spot.

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Two of those teams will take the Continue reading

39. World Cup Live Match Report pt.IV: Iran vs Bosnia vs Hercegovina…

Yes, it’s the one the world has been waiting for: Iran vs Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Not a fair fight, really, considering the Iran team has been under sanctions so long that they didn’t even have player photos up on the giant screens when they announced the teams before the match.

And they were playing against two countries.

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Bosnia on the left, Hercegovina on the right…

I began the tournament Continue reading

38. World Cup Day 14: insert your own ‘bite’ pun here…

Just when the games were threatening to get a little boring…

The last game of the day provided enough excitement for an entire week of blogging. Former World Champions Italy sent home? Check. Red card given to one team and not another? Check. Booming headed goal by booming headed goal maestro, Diego Godín? Check.

Oh, and then Luís Suarez bit another player.

Again.

For the third time.

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‘Gnasher’ Suarez…

And then rolled around on the floor, with the audacity to hold his teeth, pretending to have been elbowed or something.

Check.

Either he bit him or, Continue reading

34. World Cup Live Match Report pt.III: France vs Switzerland…

Seventeen goals.

That is how many have been scored in Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova stadium in the first three games of the 2014 World Cup, three of the best games I have seen in three decades of football-watching.

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Germany 5 (and a half), Switzerland 2…

After three games in Cape Town in 2010, I had seen two goals, and three of the worst games I had ever seen.

I hereby declare this World Cup the best ever. More or less.

The day began with Continue reading