Ochoa channels Paul the Octopus
They told you Paul the Octopus was dead. They lied. In a daring operation that defied the very laws of nature, FIFA operatives transplanted his brain stem into a new host, relatively unknown Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. The operation was a success. Now Miguel Herrera's team have a custodian who can stretch his limbs at impossible angles at breakneck speed and who also happens to be so good at predicting results that he's been banned by bookmakers all over Europe.
Ochoa's contract with French outfit Ajaccio expires at the end of the month, and it's fair to say that Tuesday's display represents quite the CV. The 28-year-old made a series of astonishing saves, including one from Neymar that was so extraordinary no one noticed him accidentally squirt out a jet of black ink in surprise. Despite this, he is unlikely to remain out of contract for very long.
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You can understand why the Brazilian public are a little perturbed at their team's slow start. Expectations are so high this summer that even a narrow defeat on penalties in the final will feel like a betrayal. With so many Brazilian mavericks left out of the squad, and so many big-bottomed workhorses retained, it might seem that Luiz Felipe Scolari has left himself rather open to criticism.
But sometimes you just have to accept that the other team has picked a half-human, half-octopus hybrid super-goalkeeper created by a team of scientists who were removed from CERN -- the European Organization for Nuclear Research -- several years ago because they did weird stuff with lightning and freaked everyone out in the staff canteen. It's really the only rational explanation.
- You have to feel a little sorry for Belgium. Their entire buildup to the World Cup has been like having a well-intentioned friend introduce you at a party with the words, "Here he is! This is the guy I've been telling you about! He's hilarious, an absolute riot. Quick! Tell everyone a joke!"
Naturally, Belgium blushed, stammered and then forgot the punch line, but by the end of the night, it all worked out. Marc Wilmots' side started slowly and somehow got slower and slower until it seemed that all of their players were wading through treacle.
Algeria's coach, the Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic, couldn't have been happier. Not only were Belgium apparently incapable of scoring, or even shooting, but they were generous enough to gift their opponents a penalty through the inconceivable clumsiness of Jan Vertonghen.
They were saved at the last by a tall, dark stranger who went by the name of Marouane Fellaini but shared little in common with his Manchester United namesake. This Fellaini, deployed up front and not at the base of midfield, quickly secured aerial superiority in the Algerian penalty box, smashed home the equaliser and could have added a third after Dries Mertens had secured the three points. If United's scouts were watching, they could do a lot worse than take a chance on this lad.
- What on earth does Fabio Capello do to his goalkeepers on the night before their first game in a World Cup? In 2010, England's Rob Green let Clint Dempsey's watery long shot squirm through his arms and into the back of the net. Four years later, Igor Akinfeev reacted to Lee Keun-Ho's effort as if it were a brown paper bag full of killer bees. Does Capello introduce them to his special home brew? Does he keep them up all night watching profoundly disturbing horror movies? Whatever is, Fabio, stop doing it.
- The World Cup isn't even a week old and yet, by the end of today, the holders could be out. Thanks to their spectacular collapse against the Netherlands, Spain find themselves fighting for survival against Chile for the second World Cup on the bounce. With a goal difference that looks like the last recorded bank balance of Lehman Brothers, a draw might not be enough to save Vicente del Bosque's side. So no pressure there, then.
- Elsewhere, the Dutch could become the first team to guarantee a place in the knockout round if they can turn over Ange Postecoglu's endearingly tenacious Australia, while the loser of Cameroon against Croatia will be booking their flights home with heavy hearts. This World Cup has been nothing but sunshine and strawberries thus far. Now it's time to bring the hurt.