Neymar genius papers over Selecao cracks
There can be no greater disparity in this world than the gulf between Brazil's performances in the national anthems and their performances in the actual games of football.
When the music starts, you couldn't ask more of Luiz Felipe Scolari's team. They know the words, they belt them out, there are even a few tears, especially in the never-less-than-awesome a cappella second verse.
And then the referee blows his whistle and it all falls apart.
Brazil beat Cameroon 4-1 on Monday to clinch top spot in Group A and yet, if anything, this was a more dispiriting performance than the referee-aided 3-1 win over Croatia and the goalless draw with Mexico.
Cameroon -- and this blog doesn't wish to hurt anyone's feelings here -- are a dreadful football team, beset by internal divisions. They were thrashed by Croatia and they would have been thrashed by Mexico had the linesman been aware of the nuances of the offside rule. Good heavens, even Fred scored a goal against them. What does that tell us?
It tells us that this was a team that should have been ripped asunder in the time it took for most fans to find their seat in the stadium. Cameroon shouldn't have been allowed to draw level, let alone stay within one goal of their illustrious opponents for 50 minutes. Regardless of the scoreline, there were few moments here when Brazil ever looked like a team with a serious chance of winning this competition.
World Cups, of course, are not always won by the team that starts in style. Often it's the slow burners who hit top form just when it counts. With home support, with Scolari's experience and with Neymar's genius, there are still so many reasons to keep faith and believe that Brazil will find their groove.
But on the evidence of the group stage alone, it's very difficult to see how the host nation will find a way past a team as energetic, organised and inventive as Chile.
The Netherlands found a way past Chile, but then the Netherlands have started this World Cup like a dragster loaded with rocket fuel and pointed down the Cresta Run.
Even in a tightly contested, tactical near-stalemate, Louis van Gaal's team still managed to score twice, bringing their total for the group stage to 10. With Robin van Persie on the naughty step, Arjen Robben had the perfect opportunity to take the lead in their private top goalscorer race.
He couldn't take advantage, but he did create a goal for substitute Memphis Depay after yet another lung-busting run down the flank. Robben has never been the most popular player with supporters or colleagues alike, but if he carries on like this, he'll be on everyone's Christmas card list for years to come.
Congratulations to Mexico who made a mockery of the pre-tournament predictions, not to mention their pre-tournament form, by comfortably sealing their place in the last 16 with a 3-1 victory over Croatia.
But perhaps we should have known all along. After all, Mexico have qualified for the second round and then gone out in every World Cup from 1994 onwards. The only reason they didn't qualify for the second round and then go out in 1990 was that they had been banned for playing an overage player in a youth game.
Had they been allowed to play, they would certainly have qualified for the second round and then gone out. As a wise Scotsman once said, you cannae change the laws of physics. With all that in mind, don't expect good odds on a Dutch win next week.
Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish failures. Farewell and adieu to you, failures of Spain.
After just 10 days, the World Cup got closure as its soon-to-be former holders bowed out with a 3-0 victory over Australia.
Dressed in black and disinclined to celebrate any of their goals, at least the Spanish had sensed the tone. You can say what you like about their performances on the pitch, but throughout this shaming they have conducted themselves with dignity and class.
There has been no attempt to pin the blame elsewhere, nor any effort to duck responsibility. They will be missed, but they will be back. There is too much talent there for them to be away for long.
In Group C today, Japan will have to beat Colombia and then hope that Ivory Coast slip up against Greece if they're to sneak into the second round. Given that Greece are yet to score a single goal, this may be a rather uneventful evening.
Far more excitement will be on offer earlier in the day in Group D where Italy and Uruguay meet in what we might call a 'winner takes all' clash were it not for the rather inconvenient truth that Italy could happily draw the game and take all instead.
Elsewhere, Costa Rica can claim top spot if they avoid complacency and claim at least a point from demoralised group minnows England.