Armchair Pundit

World Cup cheat sheet: Day 22

Alex Chick

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Netherlands versus Brazil ought to be a highlight of any World Cup, but finds itself on the quarter-final undercard behind Germany v Argentina.

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Friday's action

Netherlands v Brazil - Port Elizabeth - 15.00

These two countries are historically among the most attractive in international football, but both have added some steel to their usual style. Nonetheless, this should be a wonderful encounter. Arjen Robben made his first start of the World Cup against Slovakia and marked his return with a superb goal - he will keep Rafael van der Vaart restricted to the bench. Coach Bert van Marwijk will hope infamous Dutch disharmony does not set in, after Robin van Persie's angry reaction to being substituted in the last game. Dunga must make one enforced change from the side that beat Chile 3-0, with midfielder Ramires suspended. Fellow midfielder Elano is still out with an ankle injury and Felipe Melo is doubtful. The Nelson Mandela Bay's dodgy pitch, particularly in the penalty areas, will concern both goalkeepers and hopefully will not prevent the teams from attacking effectively - the six games played here have yielded just eight goals.

Uruguay v Ghana - Soccer City - 19.30

The the tournament gone to predictions, this game would have been France versus England, but it is a sign of the miserable tournament for European sides that two less-fancied but more deserving sides take centre stage at Soccer City. Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez took the unusual step of naming his starting line-up, with two changes from the side that beat South Korea in the last 16. A tactical switch sees Alvaro Fernandez replace Alvaro Pereira in midfield, while the South Americans are without defender Diego Godin, who has a thigh injury, meaning Mauricio Victorino continues to deputise. Ghana's star men Asamoah Gyan and Kevin Prince Boateng have both missed training sessions due to knocks picked up against the USA, but both players are expected to start. With midfielder Dede Ayew suspended, Inter Milan's Sulley Muntari could make his first start of the tournament. Centre-back Jonathan Mensah is also suspended.

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Water cooler chat: Fun and games with Argentina

It may only be a slight cold, but when Lionel Messi misses training the world pushes the panic button. The best player on the planet was absent from the public training session, attended by hordes of English hacks who had been hoping to follow the Three Lions to Cape Town.

The same fate befell Germany's Messi, Mesut Ozil, who stayed at the team hotel while the rest of the squad trained because he 'felt unwell'.

And it was a day of more verbal sparring as Philipp Lahm stuck the boot into Argentina, Pele stuck the boot into Maradona, and Maradona cajoled and encouraged his way through training with a paternal enthusiasm that jarred with England's rather joyless atmosphere.

Pele said of Maradona: "He is not a good coach, because he had a bizarre lifestyle."

What to remember:
The last time Pele feuded with a coach at the World Cup, it was Luiz Felipe Scolari and he won with Brazil in 2002. Scolari said afterwards: If you want to win a title, you have to listen to Pele and then do the opposite.

What not to remember:
Scolari isn't completely mad.

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Water cooler chat 2:
About two-thirds of people think video replays should be used to avert refereeing blunders like those that marred the England-Germany and Mexico-Argentina games.

The New York-based Nielsen Company surveyed 27,000 people in 55 countries on questions related to the World Cup, including whether referees should have video replays to help them make close calls.

Sixty-five percent of them backed the use of video replays at the World Cup. A quarter were undecided, while the remaining 10 per cent work were FIFA delegates.

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World Cup jargon: Awful realisation

At some point in a month-long jamboree like the World Cup, you're going to miss a good match. And it is quite a sinking feeling when you realise you'll be undergoing emergency bypass surgery or rescuing dogs from canals during Brazil v Holland.

I managed to clear out my diary for almost the whole tournament, thanks to a recently-arrived baby and, you know, the fact I am meant to be working.

The only blot on my otherwise cloudless horizon was a wedding on July 3. Now I usually love weddings, but on World Cup quarter-final day, not so much.

And then it dawned on me I would be throwing confetti and instantly forgetting people's names during - horror of horrors - Germany versus Argentina, only the game of the tournament so far.

Once I climbed out of a deep, deep pit of despair, I tried to formulate a plan to catch as much of the game as possible.

And basically the deal is this - surreptitious glances at this website's Matchcast during the first half, then the second half on the car radio while pretending to change the baby.

If it goes to extra time, I swear I'm going to drive to the nearest high street and watch it in Curry's window.

Any ideas for following the game while otherwise engaged? Leave them below or Tweet me: twitter.com/alex__chick

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