Five things from….Colombia 2 Uruguay 0

So how do you follow that game?  Brazil v Chile was nearly three hours of pure football gold, as Partridge would have said.  Penalties are the cruelest way to settle such an enthralling tie but you had the feeling that neither side would have scored again if they had played for another hour, such was the tiredness of all the players.  But football is about winners and losers so whilst Chile would be heading back home across the Andes, Brazil would be able to go out on the piss until Friday night.  But who will they play?

It’s fair to say that most football fans across the world would be shouting for Colombia in this game.  Not just for the ridiculous stance taken by Uruguay over Suarez – and let’s not forget that if the average man in the street had done what he did, he could be charged with assault but because the Colombians style of play is nice on the eye, not to mention the frequent close ups of some of their more photogenic fans in the crowd.

1. Clever corner-kicks – So what was wrong with that Colombian corner-kick where he tapped it and then left it to his mate?  Not enough of this type of sneaky innovation in the game today so it should be applauded rather penalised.  There is always the danger that they will go wrong, as Thierry Henry and Robert Pires will testify.

2. Proper goal – Rodriquez’s opening goal – wow.  Wow. WOW.  Perfect control, outstanding shot and to make it even better it hit the underside of the bar.  Goals are always so much better when they hit the underside of the bar and bounce down. Not quite in the Johnny Metgod class but close…Uurguay’s response?  Keep their 5-4-1 shape…of course.

photo3. Empty seats – Where did everyone who was sitting on the halfway line go?  Ten minutes after half time and it was still a mass of empty yellow seats?  The Brazilian authorities must have been taking lessons from Club Wembley.

4. The flappy man – Remember the bird man of Colombia from Italia 1990 and France 1998? Well Gustav Llanos is back here in Rio, although he has been stuck in the corner behind the goal. But when his moment came, with a corner to Colombia, he sprung to life and flapped his big wings.  The TV cameras seem to have been told to just focus on the pretty females in the crowd in this tournament.

5. Bogie team – The last four games between Brazil and Colombia, outside of the Copa America, have all been drawn – with three goal less games.  Expect next Friday’s game to be a corker now.

Five things from….Brazil 1 Chile 1

Out of all of the weekend’s games, this one promised to be the most fiery.  Two teams who don’t appear to have a defensive bone in their bodies (I mean, David Luiz plays centre-back for Brazil!), some pre-match hype about the pressure on the referee and the fact it was on BBC, which meant we would not have any stupid advert breaks or Gordon Strachen’s bare legs.  Chile had surprised many in the tournament so far, easing past Spain to qualify alongside the Dutch.  Huge expectations from the millions of home fans would surely put pressure on the home side too.

1. A large block of empty seats – The hottest ticket in Belo Horizonte bar none, with locals lining the streets on the way up to the Estádio Mineirão pleading for any spare seats yet behind the goal (to the left of the TV cameras) there is a large block of completely empty seats. By half time a large number of stewards had appeared to take the seats.  I can just imagine a coach, broken down somewhere outside Belo Horizonte with 50 fuming Brazilians standing on the hard shoulder.

photo (2)2. Colour – Almost every game has been filled with fans wearing the (home) shirts of their nations – makes a fantastic spectacle on TV and one that I cannot remember seeing at any other tournament – well apart from the three largish chaps in the front row on half-way line who had whipped off their tops to reveal some impressive man-boobs.

3. Big decisions – In the run up to the game, the appointment of Howard Webb caused a media storm “We are going to talk about this only once,” Paiva, senior press officer for the Brazilian Football Federation, said. “This is immature at the moment in football and the world we are living in today. This is ridiculous.Talking about this is not just a lack of respect to Fifa and the Brazil Selecao, but the whole of Brazil and the Brazilian people. It is a lack of respect. Brazil does not need a referee to win a match. You are insulting Brazil and the Brazilian people.”  Just to show there was no home bias, Webb agreed with his English assistant to rule out Hulk’s second half goal for a dubious handball.  He also showed some real inconsistency by failing to book Fernandinho despite 5 or 6 bookable offences.

4. No Mexican Wave – See it is possible to have a game at this World Cup without the spectacle of a Mexican Wave. They aren’t “fun”; They don’t add to any atmosphere…or any sloooooow motion replays.

5. Nicknames – “He has the nickname of the South American Xavi”.  Now I have to take exception to you here Mr. Mowbray.  Who calls him that?  It’s hardly a nickname, is it?  Nicknames are “Giggsy”, “Robbo”, “One size” (love that one for Fitz Hall”.  I can hardly imagine his team mates shouting across the pitch when he has the ball…”Oi! South American Xavi…over here”.

Beer World Cup

For a chance we’ve gone with a beer to celebrate the officials, which in this case were led by Howard Webb.  I have it on very good authority that his favourite tipple is a Timothy Taylor’s IPA so we put that up against his assistant Darren Cann’s possible favourite beer (he’s from Norwich), a Greene King Gold.

Five things from…Belgium 1 South Korea 0

The second set of games so far this week have produced little in the way of excitement bar the antics of the Mexican coach, with all of the drama taking place when I have been in meetings in the office. But that was surely going to change tonight?  Whilst Belgium were through, and only a miracle meaning that the South Korean’s could go through, it was a game full of promise.  Or was I just too excited by the prospect of 90 minutes drinking a variety of Belgium beers?

1. It must be a bad game – When the TV producer decides to cut to a slow-motion replay OF A MEXICAN BLOODY WAVE.  Not content with us having to view the game through the emotions of various young girls in the crowd, the recognisable cheer as the ridiculous wave passes around the stadium sends TV producers into raptures about how fanatical these fans are.  Bad enough at normal speed, but to see it in slow-motion is unbearable. Every minute or so the cameramen found a female in the crowd wearing face paint and pulling a silly face.

image2. There’s no need for that – I know they are in Rio and I know it is hot but who suggested it would make good television to put the ITV team in shorts??  Children up and down the country will now be having nightmares about seeing Gordon Strachen’s legs. Fortunately someone must have had a word during the first half because at the break they had put their strides back on.

3. The Red Devils – Once again, why are BOTH teams playing in their away kits?  The Red Devils versus the Red Tigers yet neither are wearing red.  What’s next?  A special Knockout round lime green number? Simple rule in future – one kit allowed – if there is a clash of shirts then one team plays in skins.

4. Taking it for granted – Two weeks of wall to wall football comes to an end tonight when the tournament takes a break for 24 hours.  Shocking scheduling – Who is this tournament for, after all?  The players or the TV audiences? In living rooms up and down the country, couples will be forced to have real conversations.  Or you could do what I am doing and going to the pub, as CMF automatically assumes the football is on every night.

5. Technically his foot is offside – No Andy, he was OFFSIDE.  Your foot is still part of your body. If you cannot say anything to add any value then please just shut up.

The Beer World Cup

Back after a brief period of abstinence, this was one we had been looking forward to all week.  A quick visit to the Belgium Beer company at half time saw a number of the countrymen make it into my squad for the evening (i.e, my carrier bag) to line up alongside OB, the South Korean challenge.

Floris Passion White 11 OB 1

The Kit World Cup – Day 14

Adidas – 40pts
Nike – 40
Puma – 28
Lotto – 10
Burrda – 6
Marathon – 4
Uhlsport – 1

Five things from….Germany 1 USA 0

Back for a third time, our resident Team USA expert, Andy Mack, tucks into the German beers in Manhattan and gauges the mood of the nation as they aim to reach the second round from the Group of Death.

1. Win or draw… or loss? – The US were in a solid position entering the day, knowing that any win or draw against a strong German side would be enough to advance.  There were also scenarios in which the US could lose a close match and still advance on goal differential.  Coming into the match, conservative analysis put the US’ chances of advancing at about 75%

2. German Possession – As expected, Germany controlled virtually all of the possession in the first few minutes. The meticulous probing by the German midfield had the back line of the US on their heels for the majority of the first half.  It felt as though it was only a matter of time before they would get their breakthrough goal, and Thomas Mueller provided it on a beautiful strike in the 55th minute from just outside the box.  The goal — and lead — was well-deserved.

14327452612_fda668a0aa_b3. Michael Bradley is not himself – Michael Bradley came into this tournament as one of three anchors of this US squad (Dempsey and Howard the others).  With successful spells in Europe and great form in qualifying, many expected Bradley to be a rock in the central midfield.  That has not been the case.  Bradley will need to show some signs of life early in the match against Belgium for Klinsmann to keep him in the match and not make a change.

4. Ronaldo – All eyes were watching the score in Brasilia, as Ghana tied up the match with Portugal right as the US conceded.  This meant that, with another Ghana goal, the US could be eliminated from the tournament. After providing the cross that crushed the US in their previous match, Cristiano Ronaldo was able to put in the winning goal for Portugal with about 10 minutes left in the match. That goal gave the US a several-goal cushion to work with, and the US knew that they could be through with a 1-0 defeat. The pace of play slowed down between the US and Germany, both knowing that they would both be through.

5. Belgium on deck – The only negative about the 1-0 German victory for the US was that they would be facing the Group H winner instead of the runner-up.  Belgium is up next for the US, with Germany facing Algeria. The Belgians could be one of the more talented teams in the entire tournament, but have yet to put together a convincing win in this tournament. Expect an even match with potential for an upset.

The Beer World Cup

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier truly outclasses the cheaper imitation Blue Moon with a dominating performance of elegance and flavor.

Germany 3 US 0

Five things from….France 0 Ecuador 0

After a few days of work getting in the way of the World Cup, normal service can finally return to normal.  France, everyone’s not surprising surprise so far in the tournament versus Ecuador, a country that apparently only 1% of Americans can successfully locate on a map of the world.  Nobody gave the French a hope of a run into the latter stages of the World Cup based on their qualifying form that saw them 2-0 after the first leg of the play-off against Ukraine. But thanks to a kind draw and an attacking style they have almost secured a second round place before the referee took the ball off the plinth. Eight years ago Italy passed under the radar to win the World Cup – could France repeat the feat this year?

photo 3 (23)1. Why are France wearing away shirts again – So in the last game they played Switzerland (in red) and changed kit.  Tonight they are playing a team in yellow and again changed kit.  For those watching in black and white it must have been a difficult job.  I can only see one reason as to why they were playing in white – Nike told them too, or am I just being too cynical?

2.”You can’t get away with anything” – So says Gary Neville in seeing a replay of the Ecuadorian defender smashing an elbow into a forward’s face out of sight of the referee.  Sorry Gary but he has got away with it, and as Ecuador look like they are going out, any retrospective look at the incident and applying a ban seems pointless.

3. Illegal hair nets – Now that just looks bloody silly! Why did they think that putting a hair net on Noboa’s cut head would actually stop the bleeding.  All that happened is it made him look like Hilda Ogden.   Surely FIFA need to take action against these hair nets that aren’t in the same colours as the rest of the kit?

4. Valencia – What has happened to Antonio Valencia during the past few weeks?  He was awful in Miami against England and lost his cool against Sterling and in this tournament he has been a liability.  Lucky not to be sent off in the previous game and then an awful tackle tonight saw him rightly sent off.  Great example as a captain.

5. Cheating – Final seconds of the game, Ecuador need two goals to go through and they have a corner.  Did nobody else not see the ball was a foot or so outside the D?  Where is the video technology to stop this blatant cheating?

Five things from….USA 2 Portugal 2

So popular was his update from last week that Mr. Team USA is back for his view of the game last night, live from New York, New York.

1. Achilles Heel – What worried all US fans coming into this tournament became a reality as the typical slow start was capped off by Geoff Cameron’s 6th minute miscue, with Nani calmly slotting home the game’s first goal. The team looked shaky and appeared to be on the ropes before being able to right the ship a few minutes after the goal.

photo 2 (30)2. Settling in nicely – Once the initial shock wore off, it felt as though the US was controlling the pace of play. With each minute that went by, it felt as though Klinsmann’s side was destined to find the next goal. That goal came on a cracker from Jermaine Jones about 25 yards out. Clint Dempsey once again showed why he is the player the US can rely on with his clutch goal in the 81st minute which felt like it could be the one to propel the team out of the group.

3. Michael Bradley – His performance has certainly left something to be desired. The US’s most skilled and important midfielder had a dreadful opening match against Ghana, which most fans wrote off because of the victory. The spotlight is firmly on Bradley after giving away the ball rather easily in the midfield in the final seconds of stoppage time. Which brings us to…..

4. Last gasp – For the entire match, one could see that Cristiano Ronaldo was not fit. Opportunities that he would normally put in the back of the net went sailing high. Ronaldo’s trademarked explosiveness and ability to take on defenders were limited due to a knee injury. But there are few players in the world that can change everything in one instant (See: Messi) and Cristiano took full advantage by sending a beautiful ball onto the head of Silvestre Varela. Valera’s goal was the latest goal ever scored in regulation in World Cup history. To say it hurt would be an understatement.

5. What does it mean? – The draw means that all four teams in Group G still have the ability to advance. With Germany and the US both needing a tie or win to go through, many are wondering if Klinsmann will have a gentlemen’s agreement with his home country, bringing many people back to 1982. With the US at 4 points and goal differential on their side, many sites have their chances of advancing anywhere between 75-85%. Portugal has put itself in a -4 goal differential hole, and will need something special on Thursday to have any dreams of advancing.

The Beer World Cup

The Sagres at Nando’s stands up tall, but could not compete with the Goose Island IPA.

USA 3 Portugal 1

Five things from….Germany 2 Ghana 2

So 27 hours 23 minutes after I left Melbourne I finally arrived back at TBIR Towers.  The Fuller family were all there to welcome me home and on hindsight I might have appeared a tad rude when I ignored their smiles and embraces and inquired why nobody had the Germany v Ghana game on the TV. “Welcome home, Stu…We’ve missed you” was the response from The Current Mrs Fuller, which more than a sarcastic hint in her voice.  But she still has World Cup fever like the rest of us and any annoyance she held about my arrival was soon filed away, ready to be brought back out in 90 minutes time.

Before the tournament many would have expect this to be a game that Germany had to win to stay in the competition.  Heck, even a few German friends of mine suggested that a draw here could see them on the verge of leaving Brazil early, whilst Ghana would be riding into the Estadio Castelao with a comfortable win versus the US under their belt.  But football has a habit of always surprising us (such as Glen Johnson still being picked for England as a defender) and Germany’s routing of Portugal and Ghana’s defeat by the US had meant it was the Africans who needed the win from this encounter.

1. “Don’t close your eyes!” – I can still remember my first football coach chucking cold water over us if we closed our eyes when he went to head the ball, trying to instill Pavlovian fear into us so that we would literally keep our eye on the ball.  It was therefore amusing to see £30 million Bayern Munich midfielder Mario Götze close his eyes as he attempted to head in Thomas Muller’s cross, making some contact before the ball fell onto his knee and into the net.

14475483083_c8e403762c_b2. Stepping up – I think it is fair to say that few Sunderland fans will fondly remember Asamoah Gyan’s spell at The Stadium of Light.  Ten goals from a season’s effort for the £13 million player although he always seemed to be moaning (through his agent of course) about something.  Rumours last season that he would end up at Upton Park (“He’s my type of player” said Allardyce – a great endorsement) proved unfounded, thankfully.  But put him in the shirt of his home nation and he is a leader.  A very well taken goal and a little wiggle to boot.

3. Brothers – Can’t believe the TV didn’t pick up the whole Boateng brothers being on opposite sides thing?  Oh, they did?

4. Possession football – Germany had over 60% of the possession yet only managed 4 shots on goal to Ghana’s 6.  The new Spain?  You heard it first here.

5. Form is temporary, luck is permenant – Klose scored with his first touch of the ball to become the joint leading scorer in World Cup history with 15 goals.  Could he miss from a yard out?  Of course he couldn’t but it is always about the instinct, knowing where the ball may just go that makes some players “luckier” than others.  A great player, who has stayed at the top of his game for years.  I wouldn’t bet against him scoring again before the tournament ends to break the record.

The Beer World Cup

Despite a few free drinks at the bar on the A380 I had to get back into the swing of the Beer World Cup so it was a case of Guinness Export Strength v Paulaner. Probably not the best idea after a long day of travel but the World Cup is only with us every four years, right?

Germany 2 Ghana 1

The Kit World Cup – Day Ten

Adidas – 25
Nike – 24
Puma – 19
Lotto – 6
Marathon – 3
Burrda – 3
Uhlsport – 1