Cristiano Ronaldo left the pitch spitting and spluttering, Paraguay put the brakes on Keisuke Honda and Japan’s bid for a quarter final berth, and that was all after a weekend of controversy in the World Cup that not even the wildest of commentators could have predicted.
We are now left with the ‘best’ eight teams in the world, and unsurprisingly four of them come from the continent that introduced us to the World Cup some 80 years previous.
Two teams who have courted their fair share of controversy at World Cups’ past and present, Germany and Argentina, face a battle to see who can get the referees to cheat on their behalf the most in South Africa. It currently stands at one apiece, following Saturday’s games, and as long as they don’t get the ever reliant Howard Webb officiating their game then we could be in for quite the spectacle.
Though one question that has bugged me since the start of this summer’s tournament has been why did Diego Maradona pick veteran striker Martin Palermo? Best known for missing three penalties in one game, has he been picked to break the seemingly unbreakable record of scoring a hat trick of penalty kicks in one game? I sure hope so!
If Argentina come through that clash on their way to winning it all, as our Calvin Ayre believes, then Iberia’s last representatives on the world stage will likely await them in the final four.
Refereeing decisions are not something alien to the reigning European champions either. Even if they don’t end up taking the cup back to Spain, the officiating, combined with the opportunity for their players to hit that plush South African turf with the obligatory thud, must give them a run at some kind of record for the amount of dismissals against a team at a finals tournament.
As far as the other side of the draw goes, Brazil are upsetting everyone back home with their playing style, but are on the road to winning ugly under the religiously effective Dunga. The South Americans have Holland up next, who haven’t really faced anything like this since Russia in 2008, or a Russian in 2006. Their last World Cup exit was to Portugal in a game dubbed ‘The Battle of Nuremberg’, after referee Valetin Ivanov issued a record four red and 16 yellow cards. The Nelson Mandela Bay stadium has already seen two red cards this time around, so here’s to hoping Spanish referee Alberto Undiano is in charge.
Africa’s final representative take on twice winners Uruguay for the right to face the Brazilians in the last four, and it seems the West Africans have the whole continent behind them. So what are the chances of a Roger Milla inspired celebration from talismanic striker Asamoah Gyan, should he score the winner to make them Africa’s most successful team ever?
On the other side of the coin Uruguay will be looking to achieve the unlikely feat of a third World Cup, but the likely loss to Brazil in the semi-finals will all but extinguish that hope. Although it should all pale into insignificance when Brazil and Argentina face off on July 11th in Soccer City in what will likely be a drab 2-0 victory for the yellow clad side.
One question still remains unanswered though: where are the obligatory streakers, which we all love to see at a tournament of this stature? Security is at breaking point, to the extent that an English fan got into the changing room following the poor showing with Algeria, so surely it’s been the best chance in some time for someone to show the world their worth!