World Cup Review: Quarterfinals

It is hard for me to continually write intros for these things. But this round of games, wow. It is rare that games incorporate excitement; open discussions of the ethics of punishment, utilitarianism, and the greater good; and brutal emotions usually not laid bare by such matters. So here we are, 4 teams left, every one of them gets 2 more games, although 1 of those games might be less important than the others. So come on in, and enjoy it, won’t you?

Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

World Cup Bracket

Uruguay v. Ghana: The Black Stars were vying to become the first African nation to ever reach the semifinals of the World Cup and holding the hopes of many on the continent on their shoulders (although rolling all African nations into one as many commentators have done seems like a particular form of Northern Hemisphere, or at least non-African, chauvinism to me–Ghana is, after all, a separate nation all together, just saying). Uruguay was attempting to become relevant against for the first time in 60 years, utilizing the smallest nation left in the World Cup. What followed was the 118 minutes of mostly boredom followed by the 2 most exciting minutes in this tournament, then penalties, then the most excruciating loss I can remember in sports.

Let’s cut to the chase here. Mutari’s goal in injury time of the 1st was spectacular and Forlan’s free kick special was a beauty, but this one did not get too excited until the 118th in Extra Time. That’s when Ghana played the ball into the box, Muslera made a poor clearance, which was knicked by a Uruguayan defender and rolled toward the net and would have gone in, until it was saved, by Luis Suarez (1 save). Then, a corner later Uruguay makes another poor clearance and a shot ricochets off Suarez’s (2 saves) leg on the line to Adiyiah who hit a slow shot that Suarez slapped away (3 saves), earning a straight red and a penalty to take for Gyan. He steps up, Suarez is in tears, Ghana is surely through (95% of penalties are scored), and the stadium is buzzing. Then Gyan shoots, high, Muslera guesses right, the ball clangs the crossbar and goes behind, the whistle blows, we are going to the shootout. To recount: 2 minutes, 4 saves off the line, only one of which was made by Muslera, a straight red that saved the game, a missed penalty by a player who had made 2 previously in the tournament and then to penalty kicks to decide a place in the semifinals.

Now comes the case of Luis Suarez v. Sportswriters, Pundits, Ghana, and the Weeping Masses: So this seems like as good a place as any to say my peace about Suarez, the red, and the ethics of crime and punishment in sport. First, it must be said that in games, as in life, decisions are made that may be openly punished, some of them are made in order to “save” other things that are held dear to the guilty party. Suarez violated the rules of the game in order to prosper and was rightly punished according to the rules of the game. Made to miss the rest of the present game and the next as well, the referee made the correct decision, just in this case, his team prospered more than normal. Another aside, in sports, decisions should be made and addressed by the reasoning leading up to them, not wholly by their results, since there are so many ancillary factors present when they are acted upon (see Bill Belichick’s decision to go for the first down against the Colts during the last NFL season).

Therefore, Suarez made a conscious effort to “cheat” according to the rules of the game, was punished according to those rules, and his team was punished (Ghana given the penalty) for Suarez’s transgression. At this point, carrying out the “punishment” was up to Gyan, who had a 95% (ish) chance of scoring the penalty, ending the game, and sending his team through. Therefore, according to the rules of the game and our modern conception of crime and punishment (in sport and life), everything went as to plan. A crime, a punishment, time to be served, and life moves on. This is where it ends. The fact Gyan hit the ball too hard, held his shoulders too far back, mishit the ball, or even if Muslera guesses correctly and saves it, does not mean the World Cup or football itself is flawed, it means Gyan missed his chance, but that Suarez was rightly punished for his actions within the confines of our beautiful game (if you want to attack Suarez’s, and Uruguay’s subsequent celebration based on ill-gotten means, well then well known ethicist Peter Singer has your ideal column).

As sad as it is, people who commit crimes for selfish means sometimes profit from them (either internally as a psychological buffer or through other means such as money, respect, etc.), this is part of life. Many times they are punished by taking them away, but in soccer, the punishment is a 95%, iron clad, means of punishment that should have punished Uruguay, they failed because of Gyan, not because of the game, the rules, or something else. As sad as it is, Gyan missed, everything else worked the way it should. Suarez, Uruguay, and their fans benefitted, were punished, will be punished (Suarez missed the Netherlands matchup), but in the end come out the worse for wear (even though Ghana had another chance to end this).

Therefore, the game did not fail. The referee got this right. The argument for ethics and whether Suarez SHOULD HAVE done this to benefit are questions for others to discuss. But as far as whether this ends the credibility of the game, it does not. Sometimes, this is how it turns out, as much as we may hate it. We cannot, as a matter of fact, assume that “soccer has failed” or that we are somehow teaching people that it is ok to cheat. In sports, where the analogy to the real world ends, the cheater is punished by the opposing team taking advantage of the opportunity given to them by the referee administering “justice” (a 15-yard penalty in American football, free throws in basketball, etc.). That’s just the way it is, I am sure you will have your opinions. Case Dismissed

The shootout begins. Forlan hits. Gyan, going first, shows some gigantic stones, and knocks his in, cooly. Victorino, good. Appiah, good. Scotti, good. Mensah, Ghana’s captain, takes an awful run up, and misses. But Pereira skies one, 20 feet over the bar. Then Adiyiah, who was stoned by Suarez in Extra Time, has his shot saved, leaving this to Abreu. Kingson, Ghana’s keeper, who had been bad all game and went the wrong way on every kick during the shootout, dives to his left, but Abreu throws out a perfect Panenka, and this one is all over.

Ghana experiences the worst loss I could ever think of. We get something to talk about for years to come. Uruguay 1, Ghana 1 (a.e.t.), 4-2 p.k.

MOTM: Suarez… sorry, I had to.

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images Europe
Netherlans v. Brazil: Contrary to some reports, Brazil never had a stranglehold on this game. Capitalizing on an early mistake by last-minute entry Ooijer, Robinho slotted home a ho-hum goal. After that, both sides had chances. Robinho abused van der Weil, which set up Kaka for an excellent bending shot saved by Stekelenburg (who has been incredible this tournament). Certainly the Samba boys had the Oranje on the back foot for a lot of the first half, but the chances began to come, and Holland gained a foothold on the possession battle, taking the advantage of it by the half.

In the second half, Sneijder came out like gangbusters, surprising absolutely no one. Brazil could not get anything going and Wesley knocked in a curling ball that slid off of Felipe Melo’s head, who kept Julio Cesar from getting there, tying the game. The goal was later given to Sniejder after originally being ruled an own goal, but even so, this did not end Melo’s bad day. Sneijder scored again in the 68th off a corner that was flicked on by Kuyt in the middle of Brazil’s vaunted defense. With Brazil able to mount very little in the way of counter and the Dutch controlling, Melo got heated, fouling Robben somewhat harshly, and then cleating Robben in the leg while he was down. Melo was subsequently given a red card and shown the exit. There were slight chances toward the end, but this one was over after the card. The favorites are out, Dani Alves has a decent, but not great tournament, and after a few beautiful moments, Brazil’s true colors are shown as they are unable to control against a very good team and crash out. The Oranje, well, they just keep going on and get a Suarez-less Uruguay. Netherlands 2, Brazil 1

MOTM: Sneijder. He was everything for Holland and produced the best chances of either side.

Germany v. Argentina: This one was not as bad as the final score made it out to be, but it was also everything wrong with Argentina, and Maradona as manager. Thomas Muller scored in the 3rd off an excellent free kick, running into the box unmarked, ending this one before it began. The Albiceleste had their moments from there on out, but they weren’t THAT close. In truth, the Argentine defense had no response for the moves of Ozil and Schweinsteiger and the runs of Klose and Muller, all of whom left Demichelis and Otamendi in the dust, and Heinze was of little help as well. As much as Messi and Tevez tried to keep runs and passing together, they could not do it alone this time with Higuain wasting possession and missing passes at every corner and Di Maria providing no width at all, and being utterly abused by Lahm. The game was a clinic in the fallacy of relying upon seemingly unstoppable attacking potential against a team with relatively few holes to speak of.

Joern Pollex/Getty Images Europe

The second half saw a few more flashes by Argentina, but Messi was suffocated by Khedira, Mertesacker, and the combination of Ozil and Schweinsteiger. Tevez could not hold off everything up front and eventually the defense failed again and again to Bastian, finding Klose and showing why he’s up there with Xaviniesta in the world of holding and distributing mids. This was a clinic in passing, spacing, width, depth, defense, and overall play. Without someone to take the heat off of Messi in the midfield, Argentina had nothing, and even being the best player in the world, he could not do it alone (and before someone goes there, saying Messi is somehow lesser because he couldn’t win with a team with no other possession players, a bad coach, and him playing out of position; Run of Play has your rundown). A sad exit for Lionel that left him in tears and the World Cup without the best player in the world. But the best team won and are likely the favorites now. Germany 4, Argentina 0

MOTM: Sweinsteiger. Without him, this match is much closer. Easily the best player on the field.

Spain v. Paraguay: One thing we can say for the South Americans is that they know how to plan around a team and play some damn good defense. And if the Luis Suarez Affair wasn’t exciting enough, this game more than made up for it. The game was defense all the way, with the greater amount of the chances in the first half going to Paraguay. A goal was disallowed after being headed in because another Paraguayan player who was offside attempted to interfere with the ball coming into the box. A tough call, but the right one according to the laws of the game. Paraguay’s pace was frenetic and with Spain attempting to hold them down with possession, the game turned into a middle third affair for a while.

After the half, things got really interesting. Both sides had chances, but on a corner in the 59th, Cardozo was yanked down by Pique (who had a very poor game, by any standard) for a blatant penalty, and a yellow for Pique. But Casillas guessed rightly, saved the shot and kept the ball. Merely two minutes later, David Villa is in the box and about to shoot before Alcaraz knocked Villa off the ball, yanking him down. Some have called this a dive, but looking back on the play again, it seems to be a clear case of taking him down. For some reason Xabi Alonso steps up to take it, and easily slots it home. But what is this game without some excitement and a re-kick is called for as at least 3 Spanish players encroached in the box before the kick is taken. Of course, this gives Villar saves Alonso’s second effort (the first time 2 penalties have been saved in one game since 1930) and on the rebound Fabregas is thrown down in the box, with no foul called, and Ramos has a shot saved off the line by a Paraguayan defender. The game looked headed to Extra Time until, in the 83rd minute, Iniesta danced through 3 or 4 defenders to the box, passed to the right to Pedro who was open and hit an excellent shot that banged the left post, falling to Villa who shot, hit the right post, rolled across, hit the left, and then dinged in. Paraguay could not recover for all their trying, even though they played excellently. Spain 1, Paraguay 0

Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe

MOTM: Villa, Casillas, Iniesta. Take your pick from the goal scorer who gave depth and runs, the keeper who saved a penalty and stoned two other great chances, or Iniesta who help everything together throughout (Xavi wasn’t too bad either).

Semifinal Fixtures
Netherlands v. Uruguay: July 6, 2:30 pm EST
Spain v. Germany: July 7, 2:30 pm EST

FC Barcelona Players in the Semifinals
Spain: V. Valdes, Busquets, David Villa, Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro, Puyol, Pique
Uruguay: Martin Caceres

Golden Boot Leaders (still active):
David Villa: 5
Miroslav Klose: 4
Thomas Muller: 4
Wesley Sneijder: 4
Diego Forlan: 4
Luis Suarez: 3

Golden Ball Candidates (my guess):
David Villa – Spain
Mesut Oezil – Germany
Thomas Muller – Germany
Andres Iniesta – Spain
Diego Forlan – Uruguay
Wesley Sneijder – Netherlands
Bastian Sweinsteiger – Germany

First Update
Second Update
Third Update
Fourth Update
Fifth Update
Round of 16 Update

If you like this, feel free to follow me on Twitter, @lukeisamazing

By Luke

We calls 'em likes we sees 'em.


  1. Great review Luke, but umm, OMGWHATTHEFUDGE?!


    1. Shaktar’s manager, Mircea Lucescu also confirmed the transfer.

      He said, “It is true, it is a great signing, and we wanted to have him back. We have not paid the 25 million that we charged, but he is the most expensive signing in the club’s history. He is happy because a professional always wants to play, but it’s not easy to leave a club like Barça… I think his ambition is to return one day.”

  2. Shaktar’s manager, Mircea Lucescu also confirmed the transfer.

    He said, “It is true, it is a great signing, and we wanted to have him back. We have not paid the 25 million that we charged, but he is the most expensive signing in the club’s history. He is happy because a professional always wants to play, but it’s not easy to leave a club like Barça… I think his ambition is to return one day.”


    1. WTF??? I know were all about charity and all but this is ridiculous. Why take such a huge loss on a player after only one season?

  3. what a way to start a new day(east side of the world).
    i am so glad that pep finally realizes that he made a huge mistake in signing chiggy. i think he realized that it was a mistake too signing ibra, but he found out about that already at the end of last season.

    1. Well, generally, Pep doesn’t give those he deems as “mistakes” second chances, so we would be selling Ibra right now if he thought he was a mistake. Henrique, Caceres, Hleb, Keirrison, Chyggy, all deemed as mistakes and look where they are now.

    2. to be fair, selling ibra is alot more difficult than selling the others.
      and everyone, including pep, say that ibra is “staying for the moment” or “for now, ibra is a barca player”

    3. pep do want to sell ibra but its just that nobody can afford his transfer fee and his salary.
      there was an interview with pep recently, pep didnt sound too convinced there.

    4. Disagree. After watching Villa work his magic from the left this tournament, I think he knows the possibilities with Ibra in the middle and Villa on the left.

    5. Well, we won’t have long now to wait to find out about Ibra although to be honest selling him would become almost impossible if he performs poorly as we’d never get close to our money back. Can’t disagreee about Chygrynskiy either. He was never going to make it given his limitations.

      Started me thinking though. What is the balance of good vs poor signings from Pep? Not hitting on him as I think he is a great manager and talks a lot of sense in general but his work in the transfer market hasn’t really been as good as his work with the team, Alves apart, and possibly Maxwell although not sure how much Pep wanted him and how much it was to make things balance.

    6. Well, Caceres, Chyggy, and Hleb haven’t lit it up, although I can’t blame him for wanting Hleb because I thought he would be a fantastic squad player. Henrique and Keirrison I’m putting on Txiki.

      You say Alves and possibly Maxwell, but what about Keita and Pique? About half of his signings have come good, so I don’t think that’s too bad.

  4. the situation at our club kinda worries me.
    look at our defence, we only have 3 quality CB’s in
    pique, puyol and milito.
    yaya is out, marquez on the way out, chiggy out and botia sold.

    now i think that laporta shouldve waited a bit longer with botia. perhaps that time we didnt have any buyers for chiggy yet so they thought that chiggy will be with us for another season.

    i am always hoping that pep will let the youngsters play some minutes but now it would be a rude awakening for them to suddenly play in the 1st team with hardly any minutes on the clock last season. pep didnt try to integrate them at all in matches.

    1. i meant pep giving some time to the defenders like muniesa,fontas etc.

      jds and thiago got their chances and shined but unfortunately it was only once. but i dont have any doubts on them. they are quality!

    2. We shall see in preseason. Fontas will definitely get his chance and I think he will take it.

    3. Knowing Pep he would squeeze out a couple of trophies even if we had 14 players in our first team. i.e. 11 players and 3 subs.
      In Pep We Trust!!!
      I am not concerned. I think the right thing is happening with the new president. First they have to get rid of the unwanted players. Then they can sign some players that meet the Barca profile.

  5. Just found out mancity paid only 24m punds for silva. They seem to betting players for fair prices, considering his age and resale value. What is villa resale value be in 5 years time? we will probably let him go for free like henry.

    How likely are the Mata rumours btw? I dont see the need since he would be a backup player, and for a backup I think Pedro is perfect.

    1. Mata rumors are dead. Valencia doesn’t want to sell him and there have been no negotiations between the clubs.

  6. Let’s not get carried away with the youngsters again. It has to be step by step with them. If those who got a chance last year had performed very well they would have got more chances Agreed the two you mention show a lot of promise but I remember times on the old Offside blog when Gio dos Santos and Bojan were being picked ahead of R10 because posters were eulogising about how we had two world class players in them.

    I think we’ll see a gradual increase in time for the two you mention ( so long as we don’t sign a certain midfielder) and maybe more for one of the defensive youngsters – I like Muniesa – but this season will be make or break for Bojan and Pedro and their field time depends almost exclusively on Ibra’s performance.

  7. Rosell gave an interview with El Mon on Rac1 and he said some interesting stuff regarding the club’s financial situation:

    “This month we had difficulty in paying the salaries of the players. As of today, we could not pay the players. We are negotiating a syndicated loan of 150 million euros to pay for our immediate commitments.”

    Regarding the sale of Chygrnsky, he welcomed it and said it was a “necessary operation” to solve the problems of Barça.

    He also spoke about Ibra and Cesc saying there is no offers for Ibra and Pep will try to bring out the best Ibra next season. Also, he is going to try and meet with Wenger to negotiate the transfer of Cesc and he believes that the attitude Laporta and co had during negotiations with Arsenal complicated the move.


    The bit about being unable to pay the salaries of the players shocks me. That’s horrible. I guess when he says that the sale of Chygrynsky was a necessary operation, he means that we straight up needed the money. Forget the sporting aspects.

    1. Then again, like Pep (transfer blog) just told me, this is what the new board is always supposed to say.

    2. We cant pay salaries. We cant pay our immediate commitments. Sandro cant buy milk for his starving children, trying to save money to buy the players’ kits for next season.

      And, We will offer 40 M to Wenger next weekend, hoping to buy Cesc.

      “I see”…

  8. Barca officially confirm transfer of Chygrynskiy

  9. Dmytro Chygrynskyy has joined Shakhtar……Its Official..This has to be the worst thing i have even seen Barca get themselves in….

    Some are even starting to believe it was all a scam that Eastern Clubs sell players who agree not to perform and then return to their home clubs. I for one refuses to believe that scenario!!!!!

  10. I am beginning to wonder if Pep and Zubi know who they want.
    They obviously want Cesc but other than that it seems to be just the media making guesses like Robinho & Mata, neither of whom I actually see any chance of them signing.

  11. Chygy going is sad for a few reasons. The most obvious of which is a young player who cannot speak the language yet should not be sold after 1 season, at least not one with that potential.

    This almost certainly means we are going in looking for at least 2 full and center backs. Don’t believe the hype, we are not going after Mata or Robinho or Torres or any of them. We are probably done up front. They may make one more offer on Cesc but if that gets rebuffed, I can’t see Rosell going higher than $50M for him, even for golden god Cesc.

    Thus meaning we are going to be looking for some midfield depth at DM, some defensive help, and maybe a forward mid, that’s it. Ibra is not going anywhere for a number of reasons.

    Also, I would not put all your eggs in the youth players basket. JDS, Thiago, Muniesa, and Bartra are all very good players and may be great one day, but they are also unlikely to be ready for the big time right now. Bartra may be, but the rest, I doubt it.

  12. Im not even gonna mince words coz this is just outright disgraceful.Someone in our transfer department is hell bent on making us a laughing stock.

    I mean wat is the justification in such a move.
    Someone pls provide us with figures of our total expenditure on transfers these past two seasons.

  13. barca transfer policy just sucks. Its like we have absolutely no negotiation skills.
    It really makes me sad now we supposedly cant pay players.
    Where are the scouts? Now were chasing fabregas- a one eyed man in the land of the blind- for god knows how much.
    God help us.

  14. Well if Pep believed in Chyggy he would A) have played him and B) refused his sale. Pep agreeing to his sale is proof that he knows that it has been a mistake and he is owning up to it. That is growth for Pep. We must remember that this is his first real coaching job.
    We must now rely on Zubi and Pep to pick the players that will drive the club forward.

    GKs: Valdes & Pinto – goalkeeper slots filled
    RBs: Alves – backup needed
    CBs: Pique, Marquez, Puyol & Milito – better replacement needed if Marquez is sold. Bruno Alves maybe?
    LBs: Abidal & Maxwell – nothing needed
    DMs: Busquets – backup/alternative needed
    CMs: Xavi, Iniesta & Keita – 4th player needed – one must assume Cesc eventually
    RWs: Messi & Pedro – nothing needed
    STs: Ibra & Bojan – nothing needed
    LWs: Villa – Bojan, Pedro and Iniesta can all fill in if needed

    So a rightback, centreback, defensive midfielder and attacking midfielder are needed.

    1. Good analysis, Ciaran. That’s why I’m doubtful about hurrying Marquez out the door. He can cover at CB or DM. In fact I’d like to see him there anyway one or two games preseason. Question is I suppose whether lack of playing time would get to him as well, given his age.

  15. Everyone needs to knock off all the talk of disgrace and laughing stock, etc. ALL clubs do business that way. When EE had the fire sale for the likes of Sneijder, they didn’t get anything close to what they paid. The same will be true of Kaka and Benzema. Lighten up.

    I’m getting the sense that Guardiola is feeling like his time at the club is growing short, so he doesn’t have time for projects such as Txigrinski. It happens.

    Luke is right about the Robinhos, etc of the world. We don’t need attackers. Were it left up to me, I’d take the 50m that we are going to use to tempt Arsenal, and lay in some defenders and midfield depth.

    By the by, let’s look at Guardiola’s transfers:

    Hleb: headcase, will be sold
    Caceres: talent, just odd man out
    Adriano: that’s on Txiki, will be sold
    Keirrison: see above
    Txigrinski: deserved more time
    Ibrahimovic:: “bad” first season (21 goals, 8 assists….man, he sucks)
    Alves: no discussion needed
    Keita: ditto
    Maxwell: excellent cover at left back
    Villa: still a question mark

    And if we are counting promotions as transfers, how much did the club save on the promotions of Pedro! and Busquets? I’d say our technical staff is doing just fine, buying where we have a need, and promoting when we don’t. Imagine what clubs that don’t have a La Masia have to do for talent.

  16. I’m sad Txigrinski has been sold. Not because it’s proof that our transfer policy sucks (it doesn’t) but because I had hope for him and thought he had a lot of potential as well as being an extremely classy guy.

    The truly pressing issue is that we are extremely light at the back all of a sudden. Yaya could’ve played centerback with the best of them and with Txigrinski gone could’ve had a lot more playing time – this to me says that Pep really did want him to stay (However he’s gone to be the best payed player in Premier League history, and earn Seluk a fat paycheck).

    As we’ve been speculating about what attacking players to buy, all of a sudden we need a centerback, a backup right back, and a backup defensive midfielder.

    The worst part is besides Pique, we have no proven young centerbacks. Marquez may not even make it to the start of the season, Puyol is getting old, and Milito is still in his prime, but not getting younger.

    Out most important transfers now are all defensive. I think Jan Vertonghen and Van der Wiel are both essential and between the two of the would be able to adequately cover all three of our trouble positions.

  17. Personally I find many handballs to be unintentional, even the “intentional” ones. Whether you talk about Suarez or Henry or Maradona, if you could read their thoughts in the moment, you’d get something like “oh snap, it hit my hand”, and they’d go with the flow. Reading Singer’s article, he made all these scenarios sound like preempted attempts to cheat, but that’s not how soccer works. Maradona, he jumped in the air, his hand was too high, and I would believe him if he said that he did not mean for the ball to hit his hand and was surprised when it did, and I think his behavior afterward says as much. Henry, the ball took an awkward bounce, nailed his arm, and he had a chance to cross, so he took it–don’t think he meant it, and I think the statement “I admit, it was a handball” says as much. Suarez, honestly, for all the mixed reviews of his actions, may be the most dirty–he was standing on the goal line with his arms out, and as any keeper knows, it takes a strong and resolute arm to keep a ball hit with power out. Still, I seriously doubt he got in front of the goal line with the conviction to cheat and play the keeper.

    1. Oh yes, I’m still alive, and disappointed about Txiggy’s (and Yaya’s…don’t even get me started…) transfer.

Comments are closed.