8 World Cup 2014 head-scratchers we could never have predicted
There are two games left of 64 at World Cup 2014, and judging by some of the madness that has unfolded since mid-June, little is beyond the realms of possibility in Rio and Brasilia.
We fully admit that, on the odd occasion, we get it wrong. For example, none of us saw the eight eye-openers below coming…
Germany taking their best defender off at half-time in the semi-final, to rest him
Of all the oddities Brazil 1-7 Germany threw up, the sight of super-slow Per Mertesacker – who has looked dodgy alongside Jerome Boateng at centre-half – coming on for Die Mannschaft’s star defender (by some way) Mats Hummels, who’ll now be sprightly in Rio, rates the most shocking.
The leniency of officials
A record 345 yellow cards were flashed in Germany eight years ago, and while this dropped off considerably in 2010, with 241 at 3.77 a game on average, only 178 booking have been logged so far in Brazil.
That works out at just 2.87 per fixture, and there has been only 10 dismissals so far, compared to 28 in 2006.
Keylor Navas’ Costa Rica heroics were far from predictable, but the Levante man was tipped to enjoy a good tournament after ensuring the Valencian small-fries conceded fewer goals than any other La Liga team outside the top four in 2013/14.
Ochoa endured a somewhat different campaign in Ligue 1 with relegated Ajaccio, where he shipped more strikes than any other stopper.
By all accounts, the Mexican number one bravely put up with a shambles in front of him, but his performance in the Group A 0-0 against Brazil didn’t shape as that of a man who conceded 71 goals last term.
Al and Nige showed continental cousins Ivory Coast, who have now failed to traverse the group stage three times in a row having qualified for the first time in 2006, how it’s done by bursting unfancied through their mini-leagues.
Algeria in particular caught the eye when looking the better team for long periods in the last 16 against a Germany side who, it’s clear now, are actually rather good.
Any price you like on the Central Americans lifting the trophy pre-tournament nervously became around 50/1 by the time Jorge Luis Pinto’s men stood a penalty shoot-out win away from a semi-final with Argentina.
Expect the likes of Oscar Duarte, Junior Diaz and Christian Bolanos to land big moves this summer. Don’t expect them to work out.
Argentina as Greece
Yet to win a match by more than one goal, despite facing expected easy-pickings Iran, Nigeria and Switzerland, with two normal-time 0-0’s and the bare minimum or less bagged in four fixtures.
This ain’t no vintage Albiceleste.
Tim Krul’s extra-time entrance
Even Holland number one Jasper Cillessen wasn’t aware that he might be replaced by the Newcastle giant for the quarter-final penalty shoot-out against Los Ticos.
After that substitution paid off so handsomely, Louis van Gaal must rue not keeping another change back until extra-time in the semis, having tacitly implied that his team could not come through spot-kicks without Krul.
America finally seeing the ‘soccerball’ light
More viewers in the US caught the Stars and Stripes draw 2-2 with Portugal than watched the NBA finals, and President Barack Obama made a personal call of thanks to his honorary secretary of defence Tim Howard and skipper Clint Dempsey.
You da Toffeeman Tim!
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