Seven Truths: More shocking concussion controversy, Villa man bosses Messi

The Rio Report

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Shameful and shocking: concussion warnings again not heeded

After Alvaro Perreira was knocked out but carried on in Uruguay's win over England earlier in the tournament, FIFA were urged to change their rules by FIFPro, the players' union. By definition, players who have just suffered a concussion are not the best people to judge whether they should play on, a view supported by Perreira's comments after his incident. "It was that moment with your adrenaline flowing in your body,” he said. “Maybe without thinking what I really wanted to do was to help get the result.”

Put simply, the players must have the decision taken out of their hands. And yet once more, a player was allowed to continue after suffering a head injury, with Javier Mascherano insisting he was fine to play on despite clearly looking dazed, following a clash of heads with Georginio Wijnaldum. One day someone will suffer a serious injury, and football cannot say it wasn't warned. It's another chilling reminder for the sport and we can't rely on luck any longer.

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How has it taken this long?

It seems remarkable that Argentina have taken this long to return to the World Cup final. This is the first time they have played in the showpiece of all showpieces since 1990, and they of course haven't won it since 1986. Indeed, this is the first time they have advanced beyond the quarter-final stage since that runners-up spot in Italy, 24 years ago, and the list of players that has passed through their team in the interim is extraordinary. Gabriel Batistuta, Claudio Cannigia, Javier Zanetti, Diego Simeone, Juan Sebastian Veron, Juan Riquelme – none of them got within spitting distance of the final, and now this Argentina are through. This will be their fifth final as they aim for their third World Cup victory, and even though that makes them one of the most successful teams in the history of the competition, it still feels odd to think that they have been so unsuccessful for a quarter of a century.

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Mascherano for the Golden Ball?

Of course it isn't playing in the remainder of the game that is the dangerous thing, but injuries in the future. If a bang on the head made it impossible to play the game to any sort of standard then Mascherano wouldn't have been able to put in the sort of display he did. The Barcelona man was once again superb at the base of the Argentina midfield, breaking up play and distributing with a quiet authority that belayed a man who had been unconscious at some point in the game. The question is, will his performances be good enough to gain wider recognition? Is Mascherano a genuine candidate for the Golden Ball, because while there have been many more eye-catching showings in Brazil, there can be few that have been quite so important to their teams as he has for Argentina.

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Siete! Siete! Siete!

There really is nothing like a little schadenfreude, even when it could so easily turn into hubris. The only thing worse for Brazil fans than being hammered 7-1 in their own semi-final would be their great and hated rivals making it through to the final they were supposed to not just be in, but to win. And the Argentina fans knew that, going about the task of taunting their hosts with some gusto, and presumably they won't exactly be shy in continuing this theme when they play the final in Rio.

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Big Ron keeps out Messi

As sentences go in football, “Ron Vlaar stops Lionel Messi with a perfectly-timed tackle” is up there with the strangest, but the Aston Villa centre-back was absolutely outstanding in Sao Paulo, shackling not just Messi (although that itself would be a pretty decent feat), but helped to neutralise Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequeil Lavezzi too. It was perhaps a little frustrating, the day after one of the most goal-filled and extraordinary games in World Cup history, to witness such a tight game in which none of the flair players were allowed any space, but there is an art to defending too, and while a fantastic central defensive performance might not be as aesthetically pleasing as one from an attacker, there is still some beauty in it. Vlaar is one of the most underrated defenders in the Premier League, but even so few would have expected him to keep perhaps the greatest player of all time quiet in a World Cup semi-final. It was just a shame he spoiled things slightly by missing his penalty.

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Back the doughty Argentina

This World Cup, while having some enormously entertaining games, has not seen a great team. Even Germany, even after taking Brazil apart, have looked suspect at times during the tournament, so whoever lifts the trophy on Sunday will perhaps not be remembered as a side for the ages. It will be a World Cup won on attrition, and since Argentina have never been behind in the tournament, it will be tough to bet against them in the final, even if they are playing a German side with an extra day's rest, and on the back of perhaps the greatest result in the history of the tournament.

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Hup Holland, hup?

So where does this put the Dutch in terms of their relationship with penalty shoot-outs? Before this tournament, they had won just one of the five shoot-outs they had competed in and the complex about penalties in the Netherlands is bigger than it is in England, which takes some doing. The victory over Costa Rica looked like it had lifted this hoodoo, the Tim Krul substitution the stroke of genius/luck that looked to have forced them out of their penalty funk. So what now? Does a defeat against a historic rival in the semi-final of a World Cup put them back where they were? Two out of seven isn't too much better than one from five, so one suspects the Dutch problems will last even longer.

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