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A THORNY ISSUE: World Cup floweth over


Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE: World Cup floweth over

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A World?Cup with everything so far?
It surely has been.
The script writer is being lined up for a major literary award.
And for playing their part expertly in the story’s plot, it is rumoured that the players are assured of handsome bonuses.
There can be no argument that the Dutch set the tempo for the tournament as far as goalscoring is concerned.
Their 5-1 drubbing of dethroned champions Spain may have inadvertently given some of the underdogs the courage to bark and even bite with venom in the preliminary phase.
After all, nobody expected the Spanish armada to be attacked and sunk with such force and instant destruction.
The mental sting was out of their tails and their souls laid bare by the time they met Chile who added insult to injury with a comfortable victory.
The standard for goalkeeping heroics was set by Mexico’s Guilermo Ochoa, who came up with four do-or-die saves which kept Brazil’s hounds at bay in the first round.
The first one was a fierce point-blank header from Neymar and has drawn comparison with the Gordon Banks foiling of Pele in the 1970 World Cup – also a header which seemed destined for glory.
Julio Cesar made arguably the most timely and important save in Brazil’s Round of 16 match against Chile. Had he not stopped Charles Aranguiz from close range, it could have been the moment to kick the hosts out of contention.
Football’s spiritual home has been given a facelift with a feast of colourful goals. My top five include Robin Van Persie’s flying header against Spain, Tim Cahill’s cracking volley against Holland, Lionel Messi’s left-footed curler that beat stubborn Iran, James Rodriquez’s stunning chest control and volley against Uruguay rolled into one motion and the curling equaliser netted with clinical precision by Ahmed for Nigeria against the Argentines.
Much of the good has been overshadowed by some of the bad.
The Luis Suarez biting of Italy’s defender Giorgio Chiellini tops the charts by some distance.
It came out of the blue and when we felt the Uruguayan talisman had been cured of the ill, having previously stuck his teeth into Otman Bakkal in a Dutch league match and Branislav Ivanovic in the English Premier League. We never expected his road show to reach the game’s most prestigious stage but it did.  
As expected, and perhaps influenced in their decision-making by Suarez’s antecedents, FIFA had to punish him after video evidence confirmed that he bit Chiellini.  
I’m on board with the FIFA ruling because, as I see it, Suarez getting the psychological help he needs is the most important thing.
He’s been banned and fined before but has returned with the same flawed personality. There’s a strong case for more remedial work for him.
The irony in it all is that the victim believes FIFA’s sanctions are too harsh!
Scenes of Japanese supporters helping to clean a stadium were noble and iconic.
And finally, I have to agree with the creed of 200 million Brazilians that God is Brazilian.
How else could they turn in such a sub-par display against Chile and still advance to the quarter-finals?
Divine intervention could be the hand that delivers a sixth World Cup to them!
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist.

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