Right, that'll probably do from me now. I absolutely insist you head over to join Paul Doyle for Argentina v Belgium now, and later Scott Murray is the man on duty for Holland v Costa Rica. Out.
A few minutes to kick-off in Brasilia, but if you'd like some relatively irrational and logic-free betting advice for the games, how about a tickle on a centre-back scoring a goal, since three of the four goals in the quarters thus far have come from such creatures? Have some prices.
Want to see a bitter small Mexican child sing an extremely angry song with a ukelele about their exit from the World Cup? With due warnings about some rather fruity language within, go right ahead. Thanks to Mark Lott for sending it in.
The World Cup is such a big deal that some shots from it have even found their way into the Guardian's 20 photographs of the week. Football has arrived.
Slightly interesting but vaguely pointless infographic? Well step this way sir or madam. If you click through, the second reply to that tweet is excellent.
More opprobrium from Colombia now, via Charles Antaki:
"That Colombian paper is scarcely less volcanic in the text below the headline: roughly, “With the blatant and crass favouritism of a petty criminal acting as a referee, the FIFA mafia were back to their old tricks again”. There’s a lot more, but that gives the general sentiments. How unlike our own dear Press."
Well indeed, Charles.
Deeeeeeee....meeeeeee......chaaaaaaaalis. Have you heard the news? Martin Demichelis starts for Argentina as they face Belgium. For that and some frankly less important details from the build-up to that quarter-final, join Paul Doyle who is on minute-by-minute duty. Given Martin has had a haircut, that ponytail won't be driving anyone wild, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy him and indeed this.
Have some details on that line Gregg brought you earlier about Fifa looking at the Zuniga Challenge. The C is capitalised because I suspect this is very much going to go down as An Event in Brazilian football, like Watergate or the Zupruder Film or something.
Alright. Like the late sub brought on by a sympathetic manager so he could get his appearance fee I, Nick Miller, am here for an hour. Bear with me while I giggle at 'son of a massive bitch' for a little bit, then I'll be back with you.
And that's all from me. Nick Miller will guide you through the final hour now. Bye.
Brazil's papers weren't happy with the Neymar injury. But they weren't as furious as this Colombian paper was with the referee. That 'massive' really gets across the deep sense of injustice …
Here it is in Spanish …
There's been a lot of surprised nonsense spouted about the lack of jogo bonito present in this current Brazil team. When was the last time a Brazil team really lit up the world with beautiful, flowing football? Certainly not between 2002 and 2014. They were exciting at the Confederations Cup, steamrollering teams, but still reliant on one player. Even in 2002, the team was given a solid foundation in Silva and Kleberson with Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho making things exciting in the final third. I suppose, like many teams, they've had to adapt to modern football, with its focus being on the control of games.
So Arsenal look to have replaced one France right-back with another. The Instagram account that said he was on his way to Arsenal was a fake. However, he still appears to be on his way to the Emirates …
Mathieu Debuchy has confirmed he is set to join Arsenal from Newcastle. The France defender will move to the Emirates this summer in a deal worth around £8m – rising to £12m with add-ons – and will provide a ready-made replacement for his national team-mate Bacary Sagna, who left to join Manchester City on a free transfer at the end of the season.
All right Pele, it's not about you …
Oh, hang on, he's tweeted again.
And again …
He could have edited that into one tweet.
If Belgium are to beat Argentina today one suspects their goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will need to be in good form. He's a had a fine season and thwarted Messi's attempts successfully for Atlético Madrid against Barcelona last season.
“If you have a very good centre-forward who scores, and a goalkeeper who makes a lot of saves, you have everything you need to win a match. He’s been doing wonderful things. He’s very young, very calm, and he works so hard. He does extra training after every match and has that good mindset. He works, studies opponents and fellow goalkeepers, and has a very good goalkeeping coach with whom he works very well. This is the key to good preparation, good work, and good management. He feels protected. I’m very happy Courtois is here for us, our defence, and for Belgium.”
David Wall has come up with this maverick idea to boost World Cup hosts' hopes …
Considering the importance to the success of a tournament that the host does well, and thinking that there should be something of an advantage through being at home, something that Fifa could adopt for future tournaments might be to allow the host nation to call-up players to their squad throughout the tournament. It could be similar to the way in cricket the home team during a series can change squad throughout whereas the tourists generally have to manage with what they've got. Perhaps the hosts have enough advantage already through home support and familiarity with conditions, but it might provide additional help to hosts who aren't among the traditionally stronger teams (likely to happen more often if Fifa want to make the game more global). Fifa do like to tinker with the format and regulations anyway, and I expect it'd be a popular change in Brazil this morning.
I don't agree with that David, as innovative as it is. Surely hosts get a boost through the wave of emotion that carries them along as it is. I take your point about the weaker nations but surely 23 players is enough to pick suitable replacements. Surely Brazil's performances are being boosted by a good 20% with the atmosphere surrounding their games. The belief coursing through their team yesterday was something else.
What happened to this air bed? Anybody want to hazard a guess. I'm guessing it wasn't pleasant. Look how sheepish the other lads are in the background. I'm sure they had a good night though, up to a point, in anticipation of the match against Belgium today.
Fifa's has confirmed that it will look into the challenge from Colombia's Juan Zuniga that ended Neymar's World Cup.
We are awaiting the official match reports and we will gather, as well as analyse, all the necessary elements in order to evaluate the matter," a Fifa spokesperson told ESPN.
Neymar's Brazil team-mates give the stricken star much love in this video at the airport overnight. They also take it in turns to accidentally knock his NJr cap off his head.
Will this be Messi's last tango? Het Laatste Nieuws in Brussels seems to think so.
Michiel Jongsma has been in touch to alert me to Dutch reports that Memphis Depay will replace the injured Nigel De Jong in midfield for Holland tonight. Dirk Kuyt is still expected to be out there at left wing-back. I reckon if Costa Rica are going to worry Holland it will be down that side, with Cristian Gamboa and Bryan Ruiz combining to get behind Dedicated Dirk.
David Hytner has been this week's nominated Adrian Mole. Here's his diary of the third week of the World Cup.
Sunday … Belo Horizonte: Drama in the small hours. After the heart-stopper that was Brazil’s penalty shootout win over Chile the streets are strewn with spaced-out fans and debris. Suddenly, there is the sound of skidding tyres and a sickening crash. Two men have come off their motorcycle and people watch as it slides 100 yards from them. They had tried to squeeze through some cones that have sealed off a road only to come a cropper. Mercifully, they get up, stroll unhurt back towards the bike and get on. They take greater care when sneaking through the road-block at the top of the next street.
Well, that was nice. I was just talking to Paul Doyle about the Neymar injury. We both agreed that the medics weren't the most delicate when they carted him off to hospital. He seemed to be bundled on to the stretcher rather hastily – a bit like a Speedball 2 casualty – and then hurried off.
A brief musical interlude
"I won back to back European Cups with PSV using that formation. Dennis Rommedahl a force of nature down the right," tweets Tactics' Alex Bell. Maybe Jorge Luis Pinto had a good season on Champ Manager with it too, Alex.
Here's the Costa Rican newspaper La Nacion's take on how Los Ticos will line up tonight against Holland. They're going for a maverick 5-2-2-1 formation, steering clear of the centre circle, and expecting a lot of running from Cristian Gamboa and Junior Diaz, who also appear to have to make direct lateral runs from the corner flags into the area. It's very Championship Manager. I like it.
"The Belgian media has been amused by the footage of Kevin De Bruyne as an 11-year-old," writes Chris Downes. "See 2.52 for a foretaste of his vUS moment."
Kevin De Bruyne still looks 11 years old, doesn't he?
Jim Powell has put together a gallery of the most dramatic photographs from the challenge that dashed Neymar's World Cup dreams. You can use it to do your own JFK-style analysis as to whether Juan Zúñiga 'did him' or not.
Debuchy has also told a TF1 reporter: "Yes, I will be joining Arsenal for next season." So, although it's not official, it does look like the Newcastle full-back will be filling the Bacary Sagna-shaped hole at the Emirates pretty soon.
Let's talk tactics! It's fair to assume that over the next few days Luiz Felipe Scolari will sigh wearily after shuffling magnetic spots around a football tactics board as if he's playing a doomed game of backgammon. You see, even our tactics guru, Michael Cox, reckons Scolari has two options to make up for Neymar's loss now. And neither of them are ideal.
In the proud history of the Brazilian national team, it is difficult to recall a time when they depended so much upon one individual. Usually Brazil boast multiple talented forwards, with Luiz Felipe Scolari’s 2002-winning triumvirate of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho the most pertinent example.
At this tournament Brazil have not been a one-man team, but they have been a one-man attack, so the news Neymar will miss the rest of the tournament with a broken vertebra is a colossal setback. Brazil simply do not have anything approaching an adequate replacement, and Scolari must now completely re-format his side in an attempt to win his second World Cup.
Here's another plug for our picture editor Jonny Weeks's gallery of his 25 best-ever World Cup images. If he had to pick a No1, he says it would probably be this one. A glorious shot of Daniel Passarella being carried aloft after winning the World Cup for Argentina on home soil in 1978.
The colour of the skyline is absolutely electric and it's wonderfully fortunate that it compliments so neatly the various shades of blue in his shirt and in the supporters' flags.
Hello. I'm back. Did you miss me? Didn't think so. Will you miss Alan Hansen and Mike Ingham when they retire? Barry Glendenning will. He's a fan of both, with Ingham described as 'soothing vocal balm' in this piece …
The great and the good of British football’s punditocracy will be reduced by two next week, when elder statesmen Mike Ingham and Alan Hansen take their leave of the BBC. For a combined period of more than six decades spent largely as measured BBC Radio 5 Live football correspondent and mischievously endearing Match of the Day curmudgeon respectively, the pair have been tasked with the job of watching football and talking knowledgeably about it. It is a brief in which the deceptive difficulty is regularly illustrated by the alarming number of practitioners who ought to be very good at it but clearly are not.
Having cut his teeth at BBC Radio Derby, Ingham has long been the contemplative voice of Radio 5 Live’s football coverage in his dual role as live match commentator and chief football correspondent. The station’s go-to guy for considered analysis of all issues great and small in his chosen field of expertise, his default setting is “soothing vocal balm” in a football world where almost everyone seems to be increasingly irate about almost everything.
Gregg's back from lunch now, so I'll be on my way. Thanks for having me. Ta-ra!
Here are the Observer's Paul Wilson's thoughts on the World Cup. Apparently it's been good.
The World Cup is turning out to be a memorable one, perhaps the most enjoyable ever, and it turns out the world is surprised. There is something different, distinctive and refreshing about this tournament: no one expected it to be quite so compelling. Football is not as old as the sun, it just happens to be almost as ubiquitous, and people have become conditioned to the idea that it too can never offer anything new. We have seen it all – good and bad – the cycles have played through many times before. We know the game too well, there are no corners left unexplored, no exciting discoveries still to be made.
Or so we thought. Agreeing with Sepp Blatter is uncharted territory for most of us, yet when Fifa’s panto villain public face pronounced himself impressed by the group stages, because for the first time he could remember every team had played to win, he summed up the situation quite succinctly. Fancy that in football – teams going out to win matches. Whatever next? Algeria tearing into Germany as if they had never heard of any divine right to reach the last eight, the USA coming back from the dead against Belgium to provide the undisputed emotional high of the last-16 games? The fact that in the end the eight group winners formed the eight quarter-finalists makes it sound like a regular procession, when in reality it was anything but. Costa Rica had already upset the Anglo-Italian applecart by finishing top of their group, and sides such as Chile, Mexico, USA and the incredible Algerians departed the competition only after giving more fancied opponents the fright of their lives.
Much more here.
"During the Suárez hysteria we were constantly reminded that things like Zuniga's knee were part of the game, harrumph," harrumphs Joe Rega. "Of course, until they happen. The kid could have been paralysed and there wasn't even a card. And why should there have been? It's all a normal part of the game. Harrumph."
I think the performance of Carlos Carballo, the referee for the Brazil v Colombia game, was ludicrous and inexplicable, and that while Zúniga will get criticised, and not without reason, Carballo shares responsibility for Neymar's injury. If you want further criticism of the Spanish whistle-wielder, there's some here.
Hello! So while Gregg's away you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meanwhile, for a little balance given all the Brazilian front pages you've already seen, here's a few from Colombia:
I'm off to grab some lunch. Simon Burnton will look after things in the meantime. Ta ra.
A couple more additions to the World Cup winners at lowly-placed clubs list.
"Marcello Trobbiani was playing for Elche CF in 1986, finishing fourth in the Spanish second Division, when he was in Argentina's World-Cup winning squad," writes Steve Hewlett. "I quote from Wikipedia: "He was Jorge Valdano's room-mate, and was rewarded with exactly two minutes of play — the last two minutes of the final match against Germany. His only touch of the ball was a back-heel pass." But what a touch to have. I hope it was a completed one. A 100% pass completion record in a World Cup final is not to be sniffed at.
And then there's this from Steve Hewlett: "Ron Flowers was playing for Wolves who finished sixth in the Second Division in 1966, I figure he didn't play a game and in those days only players who played in the final received medals but by today's rules he'd have picked up a winners medal."
This wonderful animation from Tim Bradford brings a bit of beauty to Arjen Robben's diving. Well, kind of. We can expect Robben to dive into space and parachute down into the Costa Rica penalty area Felix Baumgartner-style tonight if this analysis is anything to go by. "It's like Total Football – except completely different," says Tim.
How pumped are you about Argentina v Belgium tonight? I'm pumped. Not to Clint Dempsey levels, but I've made arrangements to go to the pub so I must be pretty excited. Not as excited as John Chapman, though. He reckons it will be the "game of the World Cup". For that to happen both Belgium and Argentina need a number of underperforming players to finally find their mojo. Yes, I'm talking about you Gonzalo. And you Eden, don't look away, yes you need to come to the party too.
Last Tuesday evening, Jan Ceulemans was at the Ostend Hippodrome race track. He wasn’t having a punt on the 19.30; he was with 10,000 like-minded people watching Belgium defeat USA in faraway Salvador.
Ceulemans is Belgium’s most-capped player with 96 appearances and one of the main men when the Red Devils last reached the World Cup quarter-finals in Mexico back in 1986. His three goals led to his selection for the tournament’s All Star XI, along with Jean-Marie Pfaff, Michel Platini, Diego Maradona and Gary Lineker.
When asked for his standout memory from Mexico, Ceulemans says that most people would probably say the last 16 match against one of the tournament favourites, the USSR – a 4-3 win after extra time. But he selects the semi-final with Argentina, when the team had grown in confidence after reaching the last four.
Paddy Kennedy gives Zuniga a red card. Poor Zuniga.
I don't get the journalists jumping to his defence. 'Eyes on the ball', 'clumsy' etc. Zuniga is a professional footballer (obviously). He knows where his feet are. That's what he is paid for. He kneed him in the back on purpose, it's as clear as day. With eyes on the ball, footballers all have excellent peripheral vision. It's what allows them to dribble the ball and pass it properly. Look at most of the fouls. The player rarely has eyes on the leg he is kicking, he is looking at the ball or some point elsewhere, but the kicked leg is within his field of vision. I am not saying he is trying to break his back but he meant to hurt him enough to take him out of the breakaway, and probably intimidate him a little. The climate in the game created by the ref meant he knew he would not get sent off for what is a clear red card offense even if the ref saw it for what it was. The neymar shifted his weight and stopped argument might explain the severity as his body might not have been quite where Zuniga expected, but his movement was still that of someone trying to knee him in the back. It's dangerous and would be a red in a properly reffed game assuming it's seen. Even in rugby this is a red. Even separating the effect from the intent,the intent and action of kneeing in the back is a red, and I said it at the time on the blogs, before the extent of the injury became apparent."
Here's something to think about: how often do players get sent off for kneeing anyone? It's such an unnatural and clumsy action that it almost always looks like an accident. Unless a player knees someone in the back, ala Vinni Jones, when waiting for a ball to be lumped upfield, it's hard to prove intent, particularly when jumping for a ball, when your legs can do all manner of strange things below you as you lose control. It's difficult to police knees in football. Remember the debate about Stephen Hunt's knee when it collided with Petr Cech's head? Deliberate or not?
'We will go on without him'
It's another front page from Brazil. The aptly named O Dia newspaper. The subhead reads something along these lines: "Neymar is out of the tournament. The sad news shocked the parents while the crowd celebrated qualifying for the semifinals after a 2-1 victory over Colombia. It was a criminal knee from Zuniga that broke the vertebra of the Brazilian playmaker." Zuniga might have to head to the airport wearing a wig and a fake moustache. Oh, and maybe a pair of those sunglasses down there that are on special offer.
More World Cup winners at lowly-placed teams …
The Blizzard had a nice feature by Richard Jolly on this in their latest issue. A particularly good starting point might be the West German side of 1954 which drew on the finest talent of the pre-Bundesliga regional leagues featuring representatives of famous names such as Pirmassens and Hessen Kassel. More recently, I see that couple of members of the Brazil 1994 team were playing in Japan and I think Juninho was still part of a pretty decent Middlesbrough team when he won the world cup in 2002.
Thanks to Alan Sheppard for that. And if you want to buy that issue of The Blizzard, always a great read, here's the link.
An interesting and debatable addition to the lowest-placed World Cup winner teaser. "Weren't Buffon, Del Piero et al still technically part of a Juventus team in Serie B when Italy won the World Cup in 2006?" asks Neil Parmar. Well, they finished first in Serie A in 2005-06 and were thrown out of Serie A on 4 July 2006. The final was on 9 July. So I suppose they were, technically, Serie B players when they won the World Cup. But, when they were playing in the games the season prior, they were Serie A players until the shenanigans were uncovered. It's a good shout, mind.
More opinion on Zuniga and Neymar's knacked back.
His foul on Neymar deserved at least a yellow. Under the laws, reckless play is punished by a yellow card, and reckless is the most charitable description you can give it. I suspect a yellow would have been forthcoming had the referee not played advantage (as he should have done). But how often do you see a ref give a card for a foul from which he's played advantage? About as often as you see a yellow card for simulation (ie. never). But there's no reason they shouldn't."
I've often seen referees book players for fouls committed before advantage was played but I know where you're coming from. Play can often go on for so long that the foul is forgotten.
Here's a poser for you readers:
Watching Julio "QPR Reserves" Cesar in goal last night, and having seen quite a few players (from Costa Rica, etc) impress despite plying their trade in what some would call footballing backwaters, I was wondering - what's the 'worst' club that a World Cup winner has ever played for at the time?
Well Andrew, you could have given us a player to kickstart things.
* Logs on to Guardian site and trawls Knowledge archives. Nope. Scratches head. Checks who Stephane Guivarc'h played for in 1998. Auxerre. Finished seventh. Not that bad. Hmmm. What about England's 66 team? George Cohen finished one place above relegation with Fulham before the World Cup. There's got to be a worse club. A second tier one somewhere.
Nothing gets past Dave Espley. Nothing!
I've known for years that the Maradona photo showed a defensive wall breaking. It's obvious to anyone who knows football – defenders don't line up to tackle people one by one as thought they're in some kind of badly-dubbed kung-fu film."
It's still a nice photo though. No?
'A cry of joy. The deepest pain'
Here's the Correio's front page on Neymar's broken vertebra.
Matt Dony leaps in the way of the baying mob who are after Juan Zuniga's blood!
I haven't seen the incident since last night, but my memory of it was that, not only were Zuniga's eyes on the ball, but Neymar just happened to stop and shift his weight backwards at the same time, adding to the force of impact. It's a shame for the whole tournament he's out, and the refereeing was hilariously awful, but there's no way Zuniga was anything other than clumsy.
Our picture editor, Jonny Weeks, has put together a lovely gallery of 25 of the greatest World Cup images, including the one you can see below, the iconic image from the 1982 World Cup in which Diego Maradona appears to be taking on the entire Belgium team. He's also written a very interesting blog on that image in which he uses YouTube stills to explode the mythological story being told on surface value.
Jake Lynch wades in on Neymar's injury and the lack of punishment for Juan Zuniga.
Looking again today at the recording of last night's game, Zuniga's assault on Neymar stands out as a shocking moment even in the context of a roughhouse (and under-refereed) contest.
The Brazilian star could very easily have been paralysed - it was a full-bodyweight lunge with both feet off the ground, no way could it be construed as an attempt to get the ball.
Much worse, in short, than Suárez's bite on Chiellini, which - though also shocking - carried no risk of inflicting serious harm.
I've just looked again at the replay and Zuniga's eyes appear to be on the ball, which makes it look clumsy rather than malicious. But his "defending the shirt" explanation suggests otherwiose. Readers? Do you think it was intentional?
What about that bug? It was like a scene from Starship Troopers. I actually feared that James Rodriguez was going to lose his right arm.
Can Brazil win the World Cup without their poster boy? Daniel Taylor answers the question on many lips this morning in today's talking points blog.
Leaving the Estádio Castelão, it was difficult not to feel that Brazil, after the initial burst of jubilation, may have lost their best chance of winning this tournament for the sixth time. The night before the match against Colombia, the main strip of Fortaleza’s beachfront was not a place where it was easy to get much sleep. Now, there was a strange lack of noise and celebration. A lot of the locals had headed to Clínica São Carlos instead, gathering outside the main gates to go through their repertoire of songs in support of Neymar, lying inside with a fractured vertebra and his face covered in a white blanket.
With a clearer head, the news is still a grievous blow for Brazil, but the damage does not necessarily have to be irreparable. Neymar has scored four times so far. He has had 18 shots at goal, created 13 other chances for his team-mates and had 241 touches in the opposition half. On each count, he is out alone as Brazil’s best attacker. So, yes, of course it is easy to understand why the immediate reaction was to suspect the worse for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team.
When I drew Costa Rica in the office sweepstake I sighed. I feel guilty now. Look at them! Swanning around in a World Cup quarter-final tonight in the first-ever meeting between Holland and Costa Rica. They have been far better than I ever imagined. They have a whiff of Scandinavia about them too, with many of their players using Norway, Sweden and Denmark as their first port of call if they make a move to Europe. Here's Tor-Kristian Karlsen, who brought Celso Borges to Fredrikstad in 2009, with the lowdown on Costa Rican football.
'It was him: the butcher who knocked our star out of WorldCup!'
Brazil's papers are hitting the streets and it look like Zuniga is going to get a kicking if Meia Hora's front page is anything to go by …
Did you know that Vincent Kompany owns a bar in Brussels called Good Kompany? I didn't. Until I read this piece about one of Europe's most divided nations coming together to get behind Vincent's boys. I can imagine him being a quietly authoritative landlord. He'd take no bother in his bar. Polite but menacing when he finally tells you to sling your hook after you slip off the bar stool for the third time in one night.
It is perhaps western Europe's most divided nation, a country so riven that it once took 541 days to form a government.
But for the past three weeks Belgium has had a very different feel. Three weeks of cheering their World Cup heroes, waving flags and chugging beers together have shown querulous French and Flemish speakers that perhaps they can live together after all. Years of sniping between the country's fractious communities seem forgotten in the euphoria of the football as Belgians reveal a character trait unseen for a generation: belief in themselves.
That is certainly the impression in Good Kompany, the bar on Brussels' Grand Place owned by the Belgian captain Vincent Kompany, which has been heaving with crowds on Belgium's match nights. "It has been incredible. It really has brought the country together," says Jesse de Peter, Good Kompany's general manager. "In here, the fans chant alternately in French and Flemish, which is almost unheard of."
My colleague in Australia, Tom Lutz, has just pointed out how thrilled I look in the video still above. It's an unfortunate freeze frame. I'm happy to be there. Really. I've even got my special Adidas Tango tribute t-shirt on.
On the subject of Neymar. Here's the poor lad being taken to hospital last night on oxygen. How lenient was the referee? It's been a recurring theme in many matches. An odd thing at a World Cup, when there is normally a directive to clamp down on a particular type of challenge. Was Fifa's directive this time round to let the games flow, it's a World Cup in Brazil, after all.
Morning. Gregg here. So. What are Brazil going to do without him? I'm talking about Thiago Silva of course. Whose absence, arguably, will be as damaging to Big Phil as Neymar's. How's Dante looked in training anyone?
Costa Rica have a big enough challenge to overcome the Netherlands in tonight’s later match without having to deal with the added threat of Arjen Robben’s game-changing theatrics. That's what their coach Jorge Luis Pinto reckons anyway. He's ‘really worried about Robben’s diving’, apparently.
Every child who shows any kind of interest in football dreams of playing at a World Cup. Fact. Inevitably though, the vast majority of us fail to emulate our heroes and achieve those dreams, leaving us instead to wonder what might have been. How would things have turned out? What kind of player would you have been? Luis Suarez or Andrea Pirlo? Well, wonder no longer - you can now find out with Gregg Bakowski’s brilliant ‘World Cup 2014: which player are you?’ quiz.
Here’s another Wilmots (kind of), Gary (just minus the 's'), singing Copacabana, which is rather topical. Yes, it's one of those days.
Belgium are still ‘dark horses’, it seems. But they’re also determined horses. Focused horses. Horses who have been urged by coach Marc Wilmots, who has cracked the whip, to stay the distance. Oh, enough already. Just read this.
Back to Neymar for a moment, and even Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has been affected by The Injury. She tweeted: ‘All our support to Neymar’. (With thanks to a popular online translation service.)
Are Brazil overly reliant on Neymar? We’ll soon find out, I guess. Much like the host nation, Argentina side are constantly having to answer a similar question, given they have Lionel Messi in their ranks. It must get a touch tiresome for Alejandro Sabella, who was a touch exasperated by those rehashed suggestions at the pre-Belgium match presser.
Before we get stuck into those two, why not have a listen to Jameses Richardson and Horncastle with John Ashdown on our World Cup Football Daily?
Two down, two to go. Today’s quarter-finals are as follows:
- Argentina v Belgium, Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, Brasilia, kick-off 1700 UK time
- Netherlands v Costa Rica, Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, kick-off 2100 UK time
Manuel Neuer is huge. He has immense presence – both physical and charismatic – which can be intimidating for any forward. He would be perfect material for a cartoonist creating some kind of footballing comic hero. The Super Sweeper Keeper.
Amy Lawrence was pretty impressed by the German goalie last night. Read her thoughts on the big man in full here.
So what happens now, when an emotional, wayward, thrilling mess of a team, minus their talisman, come up against an ultra-efficient, ice-cool machine? Not possessing the power of foresight, it’s impossible for me to speculate, even if on paper all signs point to the Germans. But it’ll be fun, for sure.
In stark contrast to that was Germany’s victory over France in last night’s other quarter-final. At the Maracana, “the narrative was shaped instead by more traditional German virtues such as control and discipline”, according to David Hytner. Read his full report from Rio
Lionel Messi to be rested by Argentina for summer Olympics 4 weeks ago
Euro 2016 draw – as it happened 1 month ago
Argentina 1-1 Brazil: World Cup 2018 qualifying – as it happened 2 months ago
Arjen Robben doubles up against Wales to get Holland’s rebuild off the ground 2 months ago
The Joy of Six: international football play-offs 2 months ago
Argentina • Belgium • Costa Rica • Netherlands