Anyway, that's it for today
Time to send ourselves off into this football-free desert of an evening. Thanks for your company, emails and comments. 'Til next time...
Kenneth Craig has emailed, saying:
"As a Vancouver resident (and fan of our MLS Whitecaps FC), I thank you for referring to 'the centre of the universe' as the 'boondocks'."
I assume this refers to a skirmish from earlier. I like Vancouver very much.
It'll be a surprise if it does explode, because the goals have dried up a little. Only five in the four quarter-finals, although they were all gloriously tight and tense. 2006 and 2010 both saw more goals at that stage. It makes sense that teams tighten up at this stage, but it's probably also true that there's less possibility of error when near-equals meet.
Brazil v Germany will probably be pretty circumspect. But what if it bursts into life like this one did? (though if you're pining for Neymar, don't click...)
"I have a tough question," writes 'Nostromo 1910', who is in fact six years out with regard to the publication of Joseph Conrad's famous novel set in – topically enough – a fictionalised version of Colombia.
"If Toni Schumacher (the one with the Battiston foul in 82) had fouled Suarez Battiston-like.... who would have been considered to be the bad guy? I mean wouldn't it be like...a preventive strike?"
What do we think? I was always taught two wrongs don't make a right.
Long arms? Tall tale? Below The Line, johan1974 has some clarification – and lingering conjecture – on the Krul/Cillessen situation:
"Cillessen did in fact initially get upset when he was taken off, as he wasn't told about Van Gaal's plan beforehand. Van Gaal did tell Krul about it, and asked him to keep the information to himself. The Dutch goalkeeper coach apparently did a lot of work with Krul to prepare him. Krul was the penalty shoot-out choice because he 'has longer arms' than Cillessen, according to Van Gaal. I doubt the reason was that simple, myself."
There's nothing from Costa Rica yet, although you can bet the scenes in San Jose will be quite something when the Ticos touch back down. You wonder what the future is for a lot of those players – they'll surely have piqued the interest of scouts from the Premier League and elsewhere, and several of them should be pretty gettable from the likes of Rosenborg, Club Brugge, Saprissa and a slew of MLS sides. Will these guys be able to step up to better leagues, or are they simply the right horses for the perfectly-plotted course devised by the excellent Jorge Luis Pinto?
This is Bogota, though – not Seven Sisters
More Colombian homecoming action....
But now the Netherlands are through, where will you be watching their semi? There's always a clamour for 'authentic' World Cup-watching experiences among those who aren't actually there or in one of the competing countries. I headed to Seven Sisters market in north London to watch Brazil v Colombia on Friday night – it's a Colombian hotspot, and the atmosphere was incredible regardless of Brazil's win/hatchet job/efficient silencing of Jose Pekerman's mob. Hundreds of yellow shirts, and perhaps 10 or 20 curious interlopers from Islington. Any tips for the best Brazilian/German/Dutch/Argentinian gathering points this week?
Tim Krul's introduction to last night's fray has certainly got people talking. If Costa Rica had played keepball at the very end, how would Jasper Cillessen have reacted to seeing his replacement readied for the spot-kicks without having the opportunity to go on? Anyhow: sometimes these things don't matter too much. Taimour Lay and Jamie Cutteridge remind me that, in the 1996 Championship (then First Division) play-off final, Leicester sent giant Aussie 'keeper Zeljko Kalac on to replace Kevin Poole as penalties loomed. The story continues thus:
Probably little more than barefaced effrontery on Brazil's part, but here's more on that Thiago Silva story.
Brazil are appealing.
That's a statement you might wish to take issue with, but they are – they want Thiago Silva's yellow card from Friday overturned so that he can face the Germans. It's not hugely surprising, as he's having a superb tournament and was immense against Colombia, but surely Fifa are going to stand firm on this one...
Afternoon (evening?). Nick One has headed off into the burning Kings Cross sunshine, so you're in these hands for the next hour and a half or so. I make this the fourth Day Without Football since the World Cup began. We know why they're doing this – a gradual reintroduction into society is for one's own good – but I for one can't wait for the semis to come around. We've a little under 53 hours until Brazil v Germany; in the meantime, let's see how else we can amuse ourselves.
Substitution: Miller off, Ames on.
And with that, it's time for a change of Nicks. Mr Ames will guide you through the rest of the day. Until then, be good to yourselves, and of course each other. But mostly yourself.
More bad news for Brazil. Looks like Willian has been injured in training. No word yet on how serious it is, but we'll keep you posted when we find out. If we find out. Probably. No rash promises, now.
(With apologies to The Man for posting a tweet by a journalist from Another Newspaper)
This, from either Conor Thompson or Jack Elm, depending on whether you go by the name of the email account or the name at the bottom of the email, is pretty funny if true:
"The Castrol index hates Messi because it's based on where a ball is kicked from, and since Messi takes long shots it assumes that it's the goalkeeper's fault for letting it in, and not Messi's fault for brilliant shooting."
From that one assumes the Castrol Index-o-meter would blow up if it was around in Gary Lineker's day and had to measure his performance.
This was from yesterday, but it's worth flagging once again. Marc Wilmots reacted to being binned out of the tournament by saying the team that binned them weren't very good. Which, as excuses go, can be filed under 'maverick'.
I told the boys they were one of the youngest teams in the competition and the future is bright for this Belgium side. But we were not impressed by the Argentinians. They are just an ordinary team. It’s not a missed opportunity. Do you think Argentina played a good match? People complained about our performances in our first three matches but this is what football is all about. I’m not saying Argentina can’t be world champions: they have Di María and Messi, two of the top five players in the world. But how many shots did they have?
“Seriously. If we’d played this way we’d have been destroyed by the Belgian press. We have a bit to learn. We lacked a little something, and sometimes we didn’t make the right choices.”
Surely if you've just been beaten, you don't say the other lot were pony, because if they're no good then what does that make you? Way to shine a light on your own indecisive team selection and under-performing stars, Marc.
Well, you can't fault their optimism.
Perhaps they went to Fifa and said 'Well, we changed our tax laws for you clowns, so the least you can do is change your disciplinary laws for us.
No dice, it seems.
Dry your eyes, James Rodriguez. Stop blubbing, Karim Benzema. Chin up, Raphael Varane. You may still have the bitter taste and the foul stench of failure wafting around your senses, but no matter - the latest Castrol Index is out, and it will sure cushion the blow of going home.
The Castrol Index, for the mercifully uninitiated, is of course the nonsense ranking scheme cooked up by some bods at Fifa's Castle Greyskull to give people even more of a reason to scoff at them, which is always grand.
The last edition had David Luiz sitting on top of the world, officially the best player at the tournament according to the numbers and that, with Jan Vertonghen ranked fifth and Lionel Messi not even in the top ten.
And the new one puts Benzema at the top, James second and Varane in third, while Luiz's improbable swerving, dipping, rasping 30-yard free kick has seen him drop down to seven. Still no Messi of course, with Stefan de Vrij rocketing up the charts, but Vertonghen is still clinging on in there in tenth spot.
Here's the top ten, with the mystery number rating in brackets. Enjoy, ponder, scoff - it's really your decision.
1) Karim Benzema, France (9.79)
2) James Rodriguez, Colombia (9.74)
3) Raphael Varane, France (9.7)
4) Thiago Silva, Brazil (9.66)
5) Mats Hummels, Germany (9.63)
6) Arjen Robben, Netherlands (9.59)
7) David Luiz, Brazil (9.56)
8) Neymar, Brazil (9.53)
9) Stefan de Vrij, Netherlands (9.51)
10) Jan Vertonghen, Belgium (9.48).
Numbers! If the success or otherwise of a World Cup is measured on how many people show up to watch it, this one is right up there and no mistake. Allow Reuters to explain:
The average attendance at 2014 World Cup matches is now the second highest of all time with an average gate of 52,762 overtaking the 52,491 at the 2006 tournament in Germany, FIFA said on Sunday.
The record average attendance was set in the United States in 1994 at 68,991.
"We think that record will stay for quite some time due to the huge capacity of the stadiums in the U.S." FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer told the daily briefing.
The total attendance after 60 matches with four still to play stands at 3,165,693, meaning an average of 98.3 per cent capacity across the tournament.
When the World Cup was played in Brazil in 1950, the 22 matches produced a total of 1,045,246 spectators at an average of 47,511 per game, a record that stood until the 32-match World Cup in England in 1966.
Interesting question posed below the line by one 'thisisanicknamelol', about some of the fans at the World Cup:
"Amid the myriad random national flags that have appeared so far (many with nothing to do with the teams in play), has anyone noticed the particular appearance of the Israeli flag at almost every match so far? It's caught my eye because it appears in roughly the same place each time, about a third of the way across the stands from the left, as the camera faces. Would anyone know if there is any particular significance attached to that specific flag? It can't be just coincidence."
More vaguely World Cup-related transfer news for you now, and it's fair to say that Dejan Lovren fancies a move to Liverpool. We know this because he said so, in no uncertain terms, here.
In other, non-World Cup news, it seems Nick Frost in 20 years has taken over as Valenciennes manager:
A question posed by Ismo Karvinen:
"If the Brazilians feared Neymar was paralysed, then how come the first aid team practically threw him on the stretcher and took no care moving him? Just wondering..."
I think that's slightly unfair, Ismo. Watch this and you'll see that they took about as much care as they could getting him onto that weird tray/stretcher thing. Not entirely sure what else they could've done.
Hands of support reaching across sports.
Bit of feedback I've been getting on Twitter.
Here's the article that has vexed him so, and I'm not entirely convinced that yer man has read it properly. Still, if he thinks Ted Nugent is a pussy, we can only assume he has access to even bigger guns than Ted, so I'm not going to argue back. Incidentally, I didn't realise Ted Nugent lived in Waco. Symbolic, or something.
We're still waiting on confirmation about Ángel di María's injury and whether or not he is ruled out of the World Cup, but it doesn't look good.
Glorious failures? There's nothing especially glorious about sticking ten men behind the ball and hoping for the best, but Costa Rica were undoubtedly one of the stories of this World Cup so far, but they're heading home, sad but pretty satisfied, it seems.
“We wanted to surprise the world and Costa Rica too. We wanted to make history and I feel we’ve achieved that with everything we’ve done,” said centre-half Giancarlo Gonzalez.
“We’ve earned the support of the Brazilian fans, who ended up identifying with the way we play, and the backing of the fans who came all the way from home to watch us. They gave 100 per cent in the stands and we put in the same effort on the pitch.”
Ye gads. More on Neymar, and Luis Felipe Scolari reveals the worrying news that the stricken wünderkind couldn't feel his legs after being felled by Juan Zúñiga.
He said ‘I can’t feel my legs’,” Scolari told Marca, explaining the details of Neymar’s conversation with Marcelo on the pitch.
"Marcelo was scared and called the doctor on but the doctor couldn’t get on in the confusion.
"It was a big shock, the image of Neymar being stretchered off to the helicopter, in difficulty, crying."
No wonder Marcelo looked so looked quite so desperate.
Louis van Gaal has been hitting the books, reckons the splendidly-named George Ferzoco via email:
"The late, great journalist Joe McGinniss wrote a superb book on football, 'The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro', concerning a team from a small town (population 5,000) in the mountainous Italian region of Abruzzo. That team astonishingly had just been promoted to Italy’s second-highest division.
"McGinniss would never have spent a year of his life in Castel Di Sangro and written this book if, the previous year, that local team had not won a playoff game for promotion from the third division. That game was won by a penalty shootout in which the manager, in the final minute of extra time, replaced the goalkeeper with a substitute who was better at saving penalties.
"How much you want to bet that van Gaal knew of this?"
Alas, the World Cup only has a week left to run, so you'll start to see more of this being phased in. So with half-apologies, we bring you news that Louis van Gaal is hanging his nose over Chile and Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal, and could offer Nani as part of a package that will probably need to total around the £40million mark.
Oh dear. No, no this won't do at all...
This could be the start of something new, according to Robert Speed on the emails:
"How far are we going to be willing to let the shoot-out tactics go? Shoot-outs were intended to be a final tiebreaking skills competition when 120 mins couldn't separate teams. It was never contemplated that teams would actively seek to get to penalties originally. And now we're seeing the first stages of high strategy with penalties. Replacing a keeper with a specialist who then engages with the shooters, trying to intimidate them.
"So next time that happens, you can be sure countermeasures will be employed - you'll probably see appeals to the ref for him to intervene. This is going to get more and more strategic, possibly with some less than savoury behaviour. I think the game's administrators will need to decide if that's something they're happy with. Make no mistake - yesterday was the start of a different phase in penalties."
A little bit old now, but here's an update on Neymar...
Another email, taking issue with Paul, from David Wall:
"What, no Hugo Lloris? He played a similar, and similarly important, role for France as Neuer has done for Germany. As was highlighted in the second 1/4 final last night with Navas quickly leaving his line even in short spaces to close down the forwards, that ability has been shown to be increasingly important for a modern goalkeeper. Lloris has been second only to Neuer in that respect. And he's also had the responsibility of keeping organised a couple of less than secure centre-halves (whether Sakho, Koscielny, or Varane) as well as making a number of fine saves to keep them in the match against the Germans. Certainly should be top-10 if not top-5."
An email, from Claire McConnell:
"I know you didn’t write that phrase, and that the MLS is no example of quality football, but as a resident of Toronto, a great city, I have to take umbrage at the “boondocks” word."
I imagine he used the word in respect to the football club, rather than the city itself. I'm sure Paul has the utmost respect for Toronto, everyone who lives there, Jermain Defoe, the CN Tower, Rob Ford (OK, maybe not Rob Ford), Drake, Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista and the band Rush. Indeed, how can one not have respect for a city that 'is consistently rated as one of the world's most livable cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Mercer Quality of Living Survey'?
Want to watch some Dutch people celebrating wildly? Features lots of orange, some Olympic-level hubris and the inevitable pounding, pounding Europop.
Nothing makes people cross and inspires irrationality like a list, so here's Paul Doyle with the top ten goalkeepers at this World Cup. Julio Cesar isn't at number one, but here's what Paul had to say about him anyways.
Researchers and sports scientists spend lots of time and money trying to figure out how best to prepare for tournaments but none of them has ever submitted a thesis recommending a year on the Loftus Road bench followed by a sojourn in the boondocks of Toronto FC. But that was César’s prelude to this World Cup and the 34-year-old has so far justified the manager’s decision to keep faith with him.
He made sharp saves from Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic to prevent Brazil from suffering a shock defeat in the opening game and made an outstanding save in normal time against Chile to keep out a shot from Charles Aránguiz. Before the shootout he told his team-mates to “hit them with confidence and I’ll stop three” and then turned away efforts from Mauricio Pinilla and Alexis Sánchez before Gonzalo Jara tried too hard to put the ball out of the goalkeeper’s reach and hit a post.
Explain why Paul is a buffoon for having a different opinion to you by emailing me on Nick.Miller@theGuardian.com.
The sadness in Brazil continues, and it's over the boy Neymar with his broken back. Brazil's team doctor Jose Luis Runico says the kid is heartbroken, but he is able to walk, which is a good sign.
Still, this would all be slightly troubling if you were a Brazilian, given the air of sadness around the whole place. They are after all in the World Cup semi-final against a Germany team that haven't looked like world-beaters over the last couple of games, so the revelation that one of their players said it felt like they had lost the game isn't an ideal sign for their mentality, going into the semi.
Indeed, here are a few other players saying how rubbish all this is. There is a theme in their words.
David Luiz: "We have to try to be mature in a moment like this. We are sad because we are missing an important player and someone who was trying to fulfill his dream of winning this title."
Fred: "It's sad because we know how hard he worked to be here with us. We know how important he was for us. But we have to look at our group and realize that it still has a lot of quality."
Maicon: "It's difficult to lose a player who is so crucial to our team."
Thiago Silva: "We don't know who is going to come in, but we know that we have a lot of quality players in our squad. We are sad for Neymar and because I'm not going to play, but we have to be prepared despite these absences."
Crikey. Strange times in Nigeria, where the fallout from their World Cup campaign, despite getting though to the second round, has extended as far as the football federation being voted out of office, which Fifa might not be too chuffed with, apparently. Details, details, details.
This is just the sort of leadership that Manchester United have been crying out for. A must-buy for Louis van Gaal.
With all that reading, you'll probably need something to listen to. As it happens I can recommend just the thing. Here's Pavement with the marvellous 'Cut Your Hair'.
Or perhaps I can interest you in the sadly defunct (I think) Fonda 500, who prove that lovely things can indeed emerge from Hull.
And here's yet another article for you, this time by your friend and mine Fernando Duarte, who writes about how Brazil have learned to win ugly. Real, real ugly.
Brazil have shocked purists. On 17 July it will be the 20th anniversary of the day they showed the world that winning ugly was possible: that was the date on which Brazil beat Italy 3-2 on penalties in the 1994 World Cup after a goalless draw over 120 minutes. Never had the title been decided in the supposed lottery and never in the history of Brazil’s participation had a team been met with such disdain – even by their own fans. In that competition, Brazil collected meagre results that included a 1-0 win over a then semi-professional USA team in the last 16 before tangling with the Italians in the decider.
The man in command was no less than Carlos Alberto Parreira, who is now technical director and sits on the bench with Big Phil Scolari. Vilified by Seleção legends and sections of the media, he stuck to a 4-4-2 plan in which a clogged midfield, anchored by Dunga and Mauro Silva, exploited the pace and skills of an attacking partnership formed by the slick Bebeto and the infernal Romario. Park the bus they did not, since Brazil scored 10 goals – five of them for Romario – but the pragmatism was evident as the lack of fantasistas.
Also, here are some talking points on both games from Saturday, written with the boy Dominic Fifield. Covering Lucky Louis, unlucky Marouane, should we go with the underdogs no matter what and more exciting stuff.
“Maybe Louis does have a golden willy,” said Arjen Robben after Louis van Gaal’s substitutions and tactical changes won Holland’s second round game against Mexico, of course referring to Van Gaal’s reputation as a lucky manager. Much of management is about good fortune, but the old adage about lucky generals doesn’t necessarily apply here.
Because of course, it isn’t about luck at all – not with Van Gaal. He has been right too often in this tournament for it to be down to random chance, to the whims of the gods and to be about anything but cold logic, a huge ego and a steely, steely nerve.
Morning all. Let me start with some shameless self-promotion. Here's a thing on whether Tim Krul went a bit far in his intimidation of the Costa Rica penalty takers last night. Thoughts welcome, as long as they don't include the phrase 'man up' at any stage.
What Krul basically did was to take advantage of the disparity in nerves present in every penalty shootout. As the old cliché goes, there is comparatively little pressure on the goalkeeper because they are not expected to save penalties, but the takers are very much expected to score them, even though in this scenario there was more pressure than usual on Krul, because of his status as a “specialist” penalty saver.
The almost crippling nerves were plain to see on the faces of every taker, even Robin van Persie, who is about as cold-blooded a striker as you could hope for, and in moments like that it does not take much for self-doubt to creep and spread. That is often all that is required for an error to occur, when the time-honoured advice of “pick a spot, don’t change your mind” starts to falter.
Each player probably did know exactly where he wanted to put his kick, but after a 6ft 4in goalkeeper bears down on you shouting that he knows exactly what you are about to do, it creates doubt. Does he really know? Is this a bluff? Has he been studying? Is my body language too obvious? Am I telegraphing the kick? Is the best course of action to stick with the original plan or to change my mind?
Substitution: Doyle off, Miller on
Right, you have broken me. I'm hobbling to the treatment room. Here comes Nick Miller with fresh legs.
Why we miss Roy Keane
Roy Keane has been explaining his decision to pull out of ITV's coverage of the World Cup at the last minute, and it had nothing to do with the prospect of spending a month in the sun with Adrian Chiles.
“I felt a bit awkward doing one or two matches where there were Irish players, I think there was maybe a little bit of conflict there. Good luck to Gary Neville but we're all different. I just felt I didn't want to have any compromise regarding my role in football with punditry. I wouldn't have been tiptoeing around anybody but I felt it could have been awkward for one or two players I was maybe working with or commentating on, and I didn't want that issue."
And later in the interview, he shows why Fabio Cannavaro's smiley ramblings have been a poor replacements in the punditry stakes, explaining:
I said England would struggle but that's not football knowledge, that's just common sense.
So Costa Rica has certainly endeared itself to the its fellow Earthlings throughout this World Cup, speaking its people's reputation as a happy, dignified and talented bunch. Over at the Tico Times, they report on how folks back home gathered around giant screens to cheer their team on ...
Further west, in the city’s center, thousands of fans packed into the Plaza de la Democracia to watch the game on a big screen. A red, white and blue grim reaper stood with his scythe among the crowd, repeatedly shouting for the heads of the Dutch players. Another man in a pirate hat covered in voodoo dolls approached the screen, placing a live rooster on the stage as if offering it to the football gods.
And, crumbs, what's this?
Before the game headed into extra time, violence erupted near the front of the Plaza de la Democracia. Three men fell to the ground after being stabbed by unknown assailants as police in riot gear streamed into the crowd, pushing fans into a wide semi-circle around the injured men.
Most fans seemed unfazed by – or unaware of – the bloodied men laid out in the plaza, and continued cheering as the Ticos headed into a penalty shootout. Others, presumably close to the incident, left the plaza crying. Paramedics arrived on scene to carry out the injured fans on stretchers, and shortly after police retreated, the crowd rushed towards the stage to continue watching the game.
Well come on then, let's have your thoughts on the best psychological ploys in football history. For example, I always smile when I think of Ronnie Whelan's wheeze back at Euro 88. It was the first time Ireland had qualified for a major championship and there were some people who figured they'd be happy just to go along for the ride. On the eve of their first match, against England, Whelan rang his Liverpool team-mate Steve McMahon to say the Irish were having a whale of a time, drinking and larking about like billy-o. McMahon passed that on to his England team-mates, who figured they'd be lining out the next day against a band of bedraggled buffoons. But it didn't quite pan out like that.
And while we're on the subject ...
Can the people who complain about players appealing for opponents to be booked for committing fouls please stop it. Or else show similar disapproval for players who appeal for throw-ins, corner, freekicks and penalties, as well as anyone who calls the police and/or a posse when their house is broken into.
To those of you astride a high moral horse ...
There was a lot of hand-wringing and hoohaa from sanctimonious gits last night about Krul's attempt to psyche out the penalty-takers. What hogwash! That all adds to the drama and the challenge and it is most welcome, just as Bruce Grobbelaar's/Jerzy Dudek's spaghetti legs were. Deal with it!
When Louis Van Gaal was not the master
With all the Van Gaal love going on, I feel some balance is needed here. I also feel the need to watch this again, just for the hell of it. That was when the man currently being hailed as a coaching genius went to Dublin in search of a spot at the 2002 World Cup and with a squad featuring some of the best forwards in Europe - Kluivert, Van Nistelrooy, Hasselbaink, Overmars, Makaay, etc. And lost to 10-man Ireland, whose defence was marshalled by a 33-year-old Stan Staunton. Sweet, sweet memories!
The Hills is alive with ...
... another top column. Here, check out his compilation of 25 people who demanded attention at this World Cup despite not playing.
"There's a lot of talk about the 'cruelty' of going out via the 'lottery' of penalties, but by my reckoning the vast majority of shoot-outs in recent 'Major Tournaments# have been won by the pre-match favourites to progress - Ukraine vs Switzerland in 2006 and arguably England vs Portugal the same year being the only exceptions that spring to mind," warbles Andrew Webster. "
Certainly, all the shoot-outs this time around have been won by the team that popular consensus/betting odds would suggest were most likely to progress." Several things wrong with that email, Andrew, such perhaps as the fact that Costa Rica beat Greece only a few days ago in a shootout and, more obviously, Chelsea won the Champions League on penalties. However, you are of course right that it is plain dumb to describe penalty shoot-outs as lotteries, since they are by definition loaded in favour of the team that has better penalty takers and savers. And how do you get to be a good penalty taker and saver? Well lots of practice has got to help. It is true, though, that shootouts are 'curel' in the sense that they tend to bring the focus for failure in a team sport on to an individual. But that's tough. They're great theatre and I always feel cheated when a dull game is decided by a late extra-time goal rather than a shootout.
We should not forget, of course, that Van Gaal was far from the first manager to switch keepers just before a shootout. Vincent Enyeama, who was excellent for Nigeria in this tournament, could confirm that. Back when he played for Enyimba, he used to score penalties regularly for the African champions - but would still be replaced before before shoot-outs by Dele Aiyenugba, who was deemed to be better at saving them. And how about Sligo Rovers legend Ciaran Kelly, who saved all four of the spotkicks he faced in the 2010 FAI Cup final - and was then sprung from the bench late in the 2011 final to save another two and win the trophy for his team again. If this was American football, Kelly would have been signed by a top team for his penalty-saving expertise alone.
"I have got a feeling this is going to be Robben's WC," announces MaxwellsDemon below the line.
"He screwed up against Chelsea and then a year came back an won BM the Champions League. He missed a 1v1 against Casillas against he's going for redemption again. Robben to score the winner in the Maracana." So what you are saying, if I have understood you correctly Maxwell, is that the World Cup will be lifted by a team playing Dirk Kuyt as a rampaging wingback? Like it. Like it a lot!
Substitution: Heinrich off, Doyle on
Morning. Paul Doyle here, trying hard to think of ways to mess with your heads as successfully as Louis Van Gaal messed with Costa Rica's last night. What a coup! What a bluff! Tim Krul wasn't a penalty-saving specialist before, but by sticking him on just before the shoot-out, Van Gaal planted the idea in Costa Rican minds that he was! And then Krul hammed up the role perfectly, eyeing the takers and intimating he had their number, their fate was sealed. A fiendish plan, fiendishly executed. Chapeau!
I have to admit I was rather upset when Neymar went down, never to return this World Cup, in Brazil's quarter-final.
I'm not surprised the man himself, along with what seems an entire nation, was reduced to tears. Gazza's breakdown in Italia90 seems less, erm, weak in hindsight.
The drama and exhaustion of Holland's penalty shootout win over Costa Rica has made it easy to forget there was another quarter-final that day: Argentina v Belgium.
Argentina continue to quietly go about their business, meaning the dream final between them and Brazil is still on - should those pesky Europeans politely bugger off, then we can start building the game up with such bloated hyperbole as 'The most anticipated football match ... EVER!'
If the Salvador shootout drama has left you hankering for some more ... here's something to keep you from getting the shakes:
Welcome to Sunday's coverage of the World Cup, featuring all the breaking news from Brazil and reaction to the latest results, injury news, squad stories and fan reaction.