Armchair Pundit

World Cup cheat sheet: Day 23

Alex Chick

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Friday's action

Netherlands 2-1 Brazil - Port Elizabeth

The favourites are out after an inexplicable second-half meltdown against an appreciative Dutch side. On a sub-standard Port Elizabeth pitch, Dunga's Brazilian side were in control at half-time, albeit without playing their best stuff. Robinho had captialised on a parting Dutch back four, latching on to Felipe Melo's through ball and slotting a low shot past Maarten Stekelenburg from just outside the area. But it all went horribly wrong early in the second period. Michel Bastos was lucky not to see a second yellow card for a late challenge on Arjen Robben, but from the free-kick Holland were level; Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar missed Wesley Sneijder's free-kick and Melo glanced the ball into his own net. Sneijder was the man again on 68 minutes, as one of the smallest men on the pitch somehow headed in a corner from close range. Melo then compounded his error by getting sent off for a stamp on Robben, and Brazil's challenge was over. Dunga has confirmed he is leaving his job.

Uruguay 1-1 Ghana (aet, Uruguay 4-2 on penalties)
- Soccer City

Africa cruelly missed out on its first World Cup semi-finalist as Ghana lost one of the most astonishing games the competition has ever seen. Sulley Muntari's long-range strike in the first half was cancelled out after the break by a spectacular, dipping Diego Forlan free-kick. But the real drama came right at the end of extra-time, when Uruguay striker Luis Suarez used his arms to save a goalbound Dominic Adiyiah header. Referee Olegario Benquerenca awarded a penalty and sent off Suarez. Asamoah Gyan, with two penalties to his name already in the tournament, had the chance to win it with the last kick of the game... and hit the bar. It went straight to penalties, and astonishingly Gyan took Ghana's first kick, planting it nervelessly into the top-right corner. But misses by John Mensah and Adiyiah gave Sebastian Abreu an opportunity to win it, and he coolly chipped the ball down the middle to break a continent's heart. Just to rub it in, Suarez was carried shoulder-high by the Uruguay team.

Saturday preview

Germany v Argentina - Cape Town - 15.00

Saturday's games have much to live up to after the drama of the first two quarter-finals, but if one match in this tournament has 'CLASSIC' written all over it, it is this one. A fractious build-up has seen Diego Maradona trade barbs with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm, and there is no love lost between these teams. Both coaches hope to name an unchanged line-up from their last 16 games. Lionel Messi should start after missing training with a virus, while Germany talisman Mesut Ozil has also missed training with illness in the week but will also play.

Spain v Paraguay - Johannesburg - 19.30
Spain go into this as strong favourites but without hitting top gear yet - their first four games have brought just five goals. One reason for this is the worrying form of Fernando Torres, who has looked completely out of sorts. Nonetheless, coach Vicente Del Bosque plans to stick with Torres, whose strike partner David Villa has hit four goals. Spain are likely to line up unchanged, meaning Cesc Fabregas and Manchester City new boy David Silva both sit on the bench. Paraguay are also likely to line up unchanged, having beaten Japan on penalties in the last 16.

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Water cooler chat: Luis Suarez and Asamoah Gyan

The two key protagonists from last night's extraordinary Uruguay-Ghana match each deserve a bit of analysis.

Luis Suarez: The new Henry?
No sooner had Suarez handled than comparisons were being bandied about to Thierry Henry. But depending which way you look at it his handball was either shameful cheating or an admirable act of self-sacrifice. Was it cheating? Only in as much as he committed a deliberate foul in order to stop a goal. But it was clearly visible, and the referee duly punished it with a red card and a penalty. No different from a goal-saving professional foul. You might argue a rugby-style 'penalty-goal' should be awarded in situations like that, but everything was exactly in accordance with the rules as they stand. So it would be totally wrong to put this alongside Maradona's Hand of God or Henry's Hand of Frog. Theirs were acts of deception that went unpunished - Suarez merely did what he had to do and took his medicine. FIFA should resist calls to increase his ban.

Asamoah Gyan: Hero or villain?
Both. The bald fact is that Gyan, an accomplished penalty-taker, had the chance to put his team in the World Cup semi-finals, and he blew it, blasting the ball over via the top of the bar. But what he did next must rank among the greatest acts of courage in sporting history. He grabbed the ball and took responsibility for Ghana's first kick in the penalty shoot-out. And he didn't hold back, placing the ball perfectly into the top-right corner - an extraordinary moment. But Gyan was denied instant redemption as two woeful Ghanaian penalties allowed Sebastian Abreu to win it with an effort that was almost as ballsy as Gyan, chipping the ball down the middle. It was incredibly tough on Gyan, who worked tirelessly and was a constant threat to Uruguay, even if he is not a natural finisher.

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World Cup jargon: The Cap still fits
About half an hour before Brazil and Holland kicked off, the FA sneaked out a statement saying Fabio Capello would stay as England manager.

The timing of the announcement came as a surprise because a) The FA said it needed two weeks to make a decision, and b) Nobody works there anymore. Still, five days to choose to do nothing represents a veritable triumph of decisiveness for the FA.

However, we should have seen the decision coming, as a £10m payoff for Capello would have been far too embarrassing for Sir Dave Richards, who just weeks ago removed a clause allowing him to remove the Italian for no compensation.

Looking at the positives, at least it puts a stop to the biennial cycle of hope, despair and panic.

The players might not like him, but they now have no choice but to knuckle down again. And we were actually pretty good in qualifying.

Now if only Don Fabio can do something about his declining level of English...

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