The FIFA lords have answered the public outcry.
Without publicly providing a reason (but who needed one?), FIFA announced that Jorge Larrionda and Roberto Rosetti would join Kouman Coulibaly as spectators of the World Cup going forward. Coulibaly is of course the ref who disallowed Maurice Edu’s goal against Slovenia (which didn’t end up mattering in the seeding, but still), Larrionda missed the ball bounce a yard or more inside of the German goal in their game against the Brits, and Rosetti gave Carlos Tevez the Argentinian goal when he was a yard or more offsides. At least for now, justice has been served.
On the pitch, Paraguay and Japan proved that neither team would flinch in regulation, in an extra period, or in a second extra period. With both teams facing the potential of a spot in the quarterfinals for the first time ever, Paraguayan coach Gerardo Martino cited that “God was on our side” for my first (acknowledged) heavenward shoutout of this year’s World Cup. While God probably had nothing to do with defender Yuichi Komano providing the only miss of the penalty kicks, it’s sufficient to say that the team from Paraguay felt blessed to escape with time left on their World Cup clock.
This afternoon, Spain and Portugal battled to see which team would get Paraguay and the lost spot in the next round, knowing they’ve spent more time shooting penalties, and presuming to have more shots in their arsenal than the team that only had six shots on goal… or not. Through two-thirds of the match, the teams ranked second and third in the world had taken a combined six shots, but no one had picked up a card yet either. That might’ve had something to do with the fourth referee sent home, Stephane Lannoy, who aggressively handed out a second yellow card to Kaka in the Ivory Coast game, removing him from play against Portugal. Do you think the refs talk? You know they’ve heard the reports, and now that FIFA has cracked down on others, they don’t want to find themselves on the list of disgrace.
It’s a shame that Spain and Portugal were bound to battle this early, as Uruguay, Paraguay, and Ghana aren’t nearly as skilled or exciting as either of these two neighboring countries, and the Netherlands haven’t looked like the fourth best team on the pitch lately either. But one of the top three teams in the world had to fall today, and David Villa struck for Spain in the sixty-third minute on basically a solo effort, beating one defender and the goal keeper to knock it in in a knockout game. Xabi finally got Spain’s first booking, a yellow card, for a horrible tackle from behind which looked red card-worthy (compared to early games I watched), but the outcome was locked up.