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I’ve had quite an eventful week since I last left you. We were evacuated off of Hatteras Island because of Hurricane Arthur. I enjoyed the 4th of July by supporting my local club the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, who won their first home USL PRO match of the season. Going back to Tuesday, the United States unfortunately fell to Belgium in extra time, but Tim Howard set a record for saves and really inspired our nation. America has a knack for producing world class goalkeepers and Tim Howard might have just sealed his place as the greatest American player of all time. His performance earned him phone calls from President Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. I thought the majority of the reaction to the match was positive, with the exception of the assholes out there who used it as an opportunity to say “sawker sucks.”
Aside from these detractors, this truly has been the greatest World Cup of my lifetime. Teams have attacked and not held anything back. Dynamic performances from unexpected places have made this a truly special tournament, however the cream has risen to the top. We are left with our final four that consisting only of giants, the Netherlands will face Argentina and Brazil will see Germany. These teams all had to fight for their place in the semi-finals.
Brazil defeated Colombia in one of the dirtiest matches I’ve ever seen. It set a World Cup record for fouls and the referee never displayed even a semblance of control over the match. The captain Thiago Silva opened scoring from a corner kick, giving Brazil an early advantage. Brazil then proceeded to kick lumps out of Colombia, while they returned the favor. James Rodriguez was fouled 6 times, but was not only the receiving end of any true brutality. Unfortunately for Silva and Brazil he will miss the semi-final because he picked up a yellow card when he attempted to imitate George Best by poaching the keeper when he went to punt. The yellow card is being appealed by Brazil. In the 69th minute Brazil struck gold on a picture perfect free kick which didn’t make a single rotation as it knuckled into the net.
James Rodriguez then finally got his marker when he converted from the penalty spot. Following the match he was in tears as his nation was defeated. Dani Alves and David Luiz consoled the young superstar, he even swapped jerseys with David Luiz. It was a touching moment following a brutal match, which saw Neymar leave with a spinal fracture after Juan Zuniga delivered a flying knee to the back of Neymar. As a result he will miss the remainder of the World Cup. The medical team that stretchered him off displayed a horrible lack of professionalism by not immobilizing his spinal column. Neymar is reported as saying he couldn’t feel his legs, which should have been an immediate dead giveaway. So now Brazil will be forced to take on Germany without their captain or talisman, it looks like it’s up to the Geezer.
Germany earned their place in the semi-final thanks to a goal from Mats Hummels. Tony Kroos played a beautiful set piece ball that found the head of the German defender. That goal was the match’s lone moment of brilliance, it was enough to see Germany through. In truth, it wasn’t an ugly dirty match like we say with Brazil and Colombia, but rather a pretty boring match between the European giants. France did have an opportunity to equalize right at the death, but Karim Benzema was denied by the defiant fist of Manuel Neuer. Neuer was once again excellent and earned the praise of Hugo Lloris who declared the German to be the most complete goalkeeper in the world.
Argentina squeaked past Belgium thanks to an early goal from Gonzalo Higuain. He pounded on a giveaway and fired home on a beautiful side volley. It was an instinctive finish and a singular moment of brilliance in a match where both teams failed to perform up to expectation. Eden Hazard believes he did not perform up to his abilities in the tournament and I’ve got to agree because I really thought that Belgium had an advantage in the midfield. Axel Witsel was fantastic in this tournament and the emergence of 19 year old striker Divock Origi should have allowed them to achieve more than a quarterfinal appearance. However, they did not produce the result necessary, while Messi and Argentina fought through their opponents rightfully securing their place in the semis.
In our last quarterfinal match, the upstart Ticos from Costa Rica gave the Netherlands everything they could handle. They managed to hold out for 120 minutes and took the game to penalty kicks, just like their previous match, however this one had a much different outcome. Keylor Navas was fantastic over the 120 minutes, but he was upstaged at the end by Tim Krul. Krul was substituted on in the final moments of the match in order to face the Costa Rican penalty takers. He made it a point to intimidate them from the start. He claimed to know which way they were going to shoot, and he was right. He dove correctly on all five penalties, and managed to stop two in between banging the crossbar and shouting at opposing penalty takers. Meanwhile the Netherlands were perfect with their penalties and bucked the trend that the Dutch never win in penalties.
Well now that we’ve caught you up with how the semi-finalists earned their spots, we’ve got some news from over the weekend to catch you up with.
Ashley Cole has agreed to a deal that will see him move to AS Roma. He is still in my opinion one of the ten best left backs in the world and should be a great addition to that club. Roma has also signed Salih Ucan who will be loaned back to Fenerbahce. Roma was very busy over the weekend because they also are interested in signing USMNT talent Deandre Yedlin, who would remain at Seattle for the remainder of their MLS season.
Angel Di Maria has been ruled out of Argentina’s semi-final matchup with the Netherlands with a thigh injury. Argentina fans will be happy to hear that Sergio Aguero is expected to be fit for the semifinal.
Barcelona have completed a €12 million move for goalkeeper Claudio Bravo from Real Sociedad. He has signed a 4 year contract with a €40 million buyout clause after an impressive World Cup with Chile.
Galatasaray has signed former Italy manager Cesare Prandelli as their manager. He wasn’t unemployed for very long at all.
FC Basel has signed 24 year old Japanese international Yoichiro Kakitani from Cerezo Osaka to a 4 year deal.
In a truly bizarre rumor, Stoke City are rumored to be favorites to sign Ronaldinho, yes that Ronaldinho. I don’t think that is going to happen, but this has to be the pinnacle of silly season rumors.
Liverpool have agreed to a €12.5 fee for Belgian striker Divock Origi. They apparently have also set their sights on Lazar Markovic.