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Marcotti: A tournament to remember

World Cup Jul 14, 2014
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 Posted by Iain Macintosh
Jun 26, 2014

Suarez ban, U.S. progress cap wild day

Luis Suarez will miss nine international matches, nine Premier League matches and three Champions League matches.

Despite their best efforts to pretend that it never happened, Uruguay paid a heavy price for Luis Suarez's illicit munching of Giorgio Chiellini. Their star striker is out of the World Cup, banned for nine international games and has been fined 100,000 Swiss Francs, a sum that makes Chiellini's flesh, pound for pound, considerably more expensive than any Wagyu tenderloin you'll find on the market.

Liverpool, however, have been hit even harder. FIFA have also handed Suarez a global ban of four months, wiping him out of the Merseysiders' lucrative pre-season tours and, for the second season in a row and for the same offence to boot, a considerable chunk of the domestic campaign.

As Liverpool flail in shock and stutter things like, "But ... but ... he wasn't even playing for us at the time!" bigger fish circle with interest. Barcelona and Real Madrid, dubious about paying 70 million pounds+ for a man who can't be trusted not to chew the furniture, believe that they can now snatch him for around 50 million. Suarez, for his part, is staying tight-lipped and for that, everyone within range of his mouth can be thankful. One thing's for sure though, this is going to be a long, long summer of transfer speculation.


But let's get back to the football. It was a close-run thing, but the United States confirmed their place in the second round while simultaneously proving the integrity of the game by selflessly losing to Germany. There was no Anschluss here, no old boy's club between Joachim Low and Jurgen Klinsmann. And now Belgium await the U.S. in the second round.

Omar Gonzalez and the U.S. were heroic vs. Germany. How far can they go in this World Cup?
Omar Gonzalez and the U.S. were heroic vs. Germany. How far can they go in this World Cup?

When the draw was made in December, England and the U.S. shared a mutual moment of solidarity, reflecting with no small amount of gallows humour upon the daunting challenge that awaited them in Brazil. The difference is that while the English shrank from that challenge and returned home apparently quite satisfied with a single point, America prevailed. They fended off Ghana, they very nearly eliminated Cristiano Ronaldo and the high school team that had won his services in a raffle and then, when they came up against Germany, they had done so much already that they could afford to lose.

U.S. INTO THE ROUND OF 16

- Doug McIntyre: Battered, bruised, through
- Jeff Carlisle: U.S. grades
- Chris Jones: U.S. ride their luck
- Klinsmann: "Now we really get started"
- Will the perception of U.S. soccer change?
- Tactics Board: Organized U.S. restrict Germany
- Social media: Reaction to U.S. progress

It's a proud day for the States, who have comfortably surpassed expectations, but it doesn't end here. Even with maximum points, Belgium look beatable on Tuesday. There may be a few pages left to go in this story.


Traditionally, performance-related bonuses are paid after good performances, a time-honoured incentivising scheme with which one should not meddle. Unfortunately, none of Ghana's players could trust their football federation to keep their word and telephoned promises of electronic bank transfers fell on deaf ears.

A reportedly violent confrontation between Sulley Muntari and a member of the national FA ended with Muntari's expulsion. But after the intervention of the President himself, armoured trucks full of cash rumbled through moonlit Brazilian city streets and peace was restored. Defender John Boye was even photographed before the game, kissing a large stack of money.

John Boye was hapless vs. Portugal but his Ghana teammates were sadly hapless all tournament long.
John Boye was hapless vs. Portugal but his Ghana teammates were sadly hapless all tournament long.

And then it all went wrong, particularly for Boye, who scored one own goal and only narrowly missed further embarrassment with two other sliced efforts. Ghana were duly beaten and eliminated; now, all parties, players and officials should really have a long think about how they've conducted themselves.


Speaking of which, Portugal should be ashamed of their own conduct after what happened yesterday. Towards the end of the game with the Portuguese defending a free-kick, referee Nawaf Shukralla tried to usher their players back ten yards and made his point by spraying a line behind them.

But instead of shuffling backwards like rational, civilised human beings, the nefarious Iberians held their ground. In full view of the world, they disrespected the authority of the shaving foam.

They have shamed soccer.


Algeria will finally have their chance to avenge the original "Anschluss" when they meet Germany in the second round next week. The Desert Foxes held a hugely disappointing Russia to a 1-1 draw and progressed from the group stages for the first time in their history. Manager Vahid Halihodzic, whose position was in jeopardy and was only maintained thanks to the support of the fans, has performed admirably.

Algeria deserve immense credit for reaching the round of 16 for the first time in their history.
Algeria deserve immense credit for reaching the round of 16 for the first time in their history.

Not only has Halihodzic proved that team spirit can take you further than individual reputations -- England, I'm looking in your direction -- but he did it with tactical versatility. Belgium were suffocated for much of the first game until they broke free and won. South Korea, on the other hand, were wiped out in a series of breathtaking sorties. And then, at the last, his men kept their nerve against Russia.


Elsewhere, Belgium continued to grind their way through the tournament, trudging grimly on with another understated, single goal victory. If they really are a dark horse, they are a dark shirehorse, solemnly dragging a cartload of topsoil through the village at dawn, thinking only of the next nosebag and never daring to dream of what it might be like to gallop somewhere. Anywhere. Just to feel the wind in their mane.


And that, for the moment, is that. The group stages are complete, the second round is set and this blog will now take 24 hours off and return on Saturday for Brazil's clash with Chile and Colombia's tussle with a de-Suarezed Uruguay.

Iain Macintosh

Iain Macintosh is a U.K. football correspondent for The New Paper in Singapore, writer for ESPN and co-author of "Football Manager Stole My Life" from @backpagepress. You can follow him on Twitter @iainmacintosh.

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