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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Japanese Cinema Spotlight

Now that the World Cup is over, the backlog of the various film spotlights can start. The Japanese spotlight is first with the following assorted titles on tap:

The Only Son (1936, Yasujirô Ozu)
There was a Father (1942, Yasujirô Ozu)
Tales of Ugetsu (1953, Kenji Mizoguchi)
Bakumatsu Taiyoden (1957, Yuzo Kawashima)
Good Morning (1959, Yasujirô Ozu)
Tokyo Olympiad (1965, Kon Ichikawa)
Patriotism (1966, Yukio Mishima)
Samurai Rebellion (1967, Masaki Kobayashi)
Cure (1997, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Fish Story (2009, Yoshihiro Nakamura)

The original intent was to find titles spread across a few decades but somehow the selection is more tilted towards the 1950's - late 1960's, with 3 titles from each decade. Also, Ozu has three titles but I had my eye on these three films for a while. Cure is the only 90's title and Fish Story is the only new selection which screened last week at Fantasia in Montreal.

The one big unknown is Bakumatsu Taiyoden, a title helmed by a director I have never read about. So I am quite excited to see if this is a rare discovery.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Soccer DNA

Form is temporary, class is permanent.

This time, Thierry Henry provided another working example of the old cricket proverb.

On Thursday, July 22, Henry made his debut for the New York Red Bulls against Arsenal's bitter rivals Spurs and as expected, Henry duly scored a goal. No matter where Henry goes, he will always have Arsenal DNA in his blood. The same can't be said about Arsenal's current captain.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Inception

Dream within a dream within a dream

Inception (2010, USA/UK, Christopher Nolan)

Alejandro Amenábar beautifully explored the complex world of dreams and reality in Open Your Eyes, later remade into Vanilla Sky. However, the story of both films only explored one level of a dream world. Christopher Nolan has taken that core concept of dreams vs reality and gone two/three levels deeper, thereby creating a hyperlink dream maze that requires multiple hops to exit. Even though Inception traverses multiple dream levels and is bursting with fascinating ideas, it is a remarkably accessible film that manages to explains its ideas in a fluid manner without halting the plot progression. Ofcourse, since it is also a summer film, it contains the mandatory action sequences and explosions, without which the film might not have gotten booked in a multiplex in the first place. Thankfully, a majority of the explosive scenes shot in the Canadian snow-capped mountains arrive in the finale and don't derail the film too much.

Rating: 9/10

note: The story presented in Inception would certainly have made Jorge Luis Borges smile, given that Borges was a master of labyrinths and dreams within dreams.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ugly tactics & antics close off a good tournament

The Dutch are destined not to win the World Cup. Their total football failed to win the World Cup in 1974 and 1978 and on Sunday, their ugly brutal football failed to land the 2010 trophy. Yet, the Dutch ironically contributed to their own downfall. The architects of their total football Rinus Michels and Johan Cryuff found their way to Barcelona in the 1970's and laid the first seeds of Dutch footballing ideas in Catalunya. Louis Van Gaal and Frank Rijkaard nurtured those attacking philosophies further and contributed to Barcelona becoming an attacking force. And those Barcelona players were a huge reason why Spain won their first World Cup on July 11. In a way, Dutch footballing ideas taken from the Ajax academy and planted in Barcelona over a course of three decades led to a Dutch defeat. Although the Spanish added their own key ingredient of play-acting, cheating and diving to ensure the Dutch would have no chance. Sure Holland's tactics were brutal but the Spanish attempts to con the referee were no less ugly. Iniesta was especially guilty of such antics and his most clear cut dive was to get Van Der Wiel booked. Busquets complained to the ref about Dutch diving yet it is Busquets who took the biggest dive of the 2009/10 Champions League season when he performed a somersault at the hint of a slightest touch against Arsenal's Denilson. Oddly, the one Dutch player known for his diving chose the wrong time to become honest. Robben was through on goal for a 2nd time, after missing his first clear cut break away chance in the 62nd minute, and was clearly held back by Puyol yet Robben decided to stay on his feet for a change. Had Robben gone down, then Puyol would surely have gotten a red card.

If Spanish players can't take the kicks, then why must Arsenal put up with it?

Plenty of neutrals are praising Spain for their beautiful football but in reality, Spain were nothing special. They controlled the ball but that was because Holland opted to unsettle Spain by fouling them off the ball and disrupt their play. The Germans also decided to sit back and let Spain have all the possession but the Germans failed to pull off a Swiss result and created no counter opportunity.

It is funny to see the Dutch getting criticized for their negative play by English writers, especially since this is the tactic adopted week in week out by Blackburn, Stoke and Bolton when they play Arsenal. Yet, Arsenal are told to get on with it and are said to not like the physical aspect of the game. But the Spanish are treated as victims when Holland went all Blackburn on Spain. Arseblog sums it up perfectly:

When professional footballers speak before a game about how you have to kick Arsenal, literally, to compete in a game they have a little titter, complain about Arsene Wenger moaning and accuse us of being weak, needing to man-up. Yet they couldn't condemn the Dutch fast enough. And leaving aside van Bommel and de Jong there wasn't another dirty player on the pitch. Bookings are part and parcel of the game, Spain picked up a few too. There's another thing - why do they ignore the cynical side of the Spaniards? If you're going to have a go at dirty/foul play why not criticise the Spanish for the way they constantly crowded the referee waving imaginary cards?

Interestingly, Howard Webb freely gave out yellow cards during the final yet on many occasions in the English league, he has kept the card in his pocket for similar or worse tackles thereby allowing the English players to freely get stuck in against the opposition.

Tricks

A year ago I used to admire the Spanish ball movement but over the last few months it has become very hard to appreciate Spain because their Barcelona players have transformed into an ugly propaganda machine in their effort to bring Cesc back to Barcelona. Cesc has a legal contract with Arsenal yet Barcelona have tried every single disgusting trick to pressure Arsenal into selling their key player. Now it seems the dirty tricks of the Barca players have extended even to Pepe Reina who is a Liverpool player. I cannot understand why Reina, Puyol & Pique resorted to this trick of putting a Barca shirt on Cesc during the Spanish post world cup celebrations. Disgusting!

Nothing at stake = lots of goals

Before the tournament, I would have liked either Spain or Holland to have won the trophy on the basis of the amazing technical players they had. But after watching a terrible final, I rather the trophy was given to one of Germany or Uruguay who put on quite a show in the 3rd place game.

I have wanted the 3rd place game to be eliminated for a while now but the one positive thing about the fixture is that it traditionally provides plenty of goals. One would have to go back to 1978 to when the final had more goals than the 3rd place game (in France 98, both the 3rd place game and final had a total of 3 goals.) And so it was again on Saturday when the meaningless game provided 5 goals and plenty of excitement. Germany won the game 3-2 but Forlan came within inches of taking the game into extra-time when his last second free kick rebounded off the bar. The game also gave Muller & Forlan a chance to notch up their 5th goals of the tournament, a result which meant that Muller took home the golden ball. Back in 1998, Suker also took home the golden ball after scoring a 6th goal in a 2-1 win over the Dutch. Ofcourse, Just Fontaine made the most of this fixture when he grabbed 4 goals in France's 6-3 win over West Germany in 1958 taking his goal tally to 13, a record that will never be broken.

Regional overview

32 teams is too much for the World Cup, especially since many teams are there just to make up the numbers. Ideally, I would like to see the number trimmed back to 24 and a coefficient system used to determine how many teams from each confederation will be allowed for future tournaments. Such a coefficient system is currently used in the Champions League and ensures that club teams from the various countries try to perform well otherwise their nations risk losing key spots.

1) Europe

13 spots is too much for Europe, especially since Denmark, England, France, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Portugal, Switzerland and Serbia were plain awful. Slovakia provided a thrilling finale against Italy but were unadventurous against Paraguay. In the end, European teams took the top 3 spots in the tournament but only Germany and Spain can hold their heads up given the football they played.

2) Africa

Only Ghana did Africa proud whereas Nigeria, Ivory Coast & Cameroon look to have taken a few steps backwards in the last few years. Africa's 5 spots seems too generous given the poor football on display in 2010.

note: South Africa got the 6th African spot as hosts.

3) South America

Considering that there are only 10 countries in the confederation, 5 South American spots seems too much but in fairness all 5 teams did full justice to their World Cup places. Still, one spot can be trimmed, most likely the play-off spot between the 5th place South American team and the 4th place North & Central American team.

I am not sure if there is a possibility of 6 South American in 2014 since Brazil are the hosts. 6 would be too much for South America.

4) North & Central America

Mexico and USA carried the region's flag proudly although Honduras went home with no goals. Still, 3 spots seems to be a minimum for this region.

5) Asia

South Korea & Japan did amazingly well, especially when it came to free-kicks, scoring 3 goals from set-pieces. North Korea had a decent 55 minutes against Brazil but were clearly out of their depth in the other 2 games. Australia came in through the Asian qualifying path and should only improve as they have managed to establish some rivalries, especially with Japan, from playing in Asia. I would leave Asia's 4 spots untouched, although I would remove the option for a 5th team in a play-off with Oceania.

6) Oceania

New Zealand had the easiest path to the tournament and managed to leave as the only unbeaten team. That is quite a remarkable achievement but I still want to see Oceania merged completely with Asia, thereby providing New Zealand the same chance as Australia to frequently play better opposition.

Balancing the numbers

If 32 teams are to be reduced to 24, then I think this is how the 8 spots can be eliminated:

Europe should lose 4 automatic spots.
Africa should lose 2 automatic spots.
The additional play-off spot between Asia and Oceania should be eliminated.
The additional play-off spot between South America and North & Central America should be eliminated.

This would give a total of 23 automatic spots with Europe (9), South America (4), Africa (3), Asia & Oceania (4), North and Central America (3). The 24th spot can go to the host nation and have no bearing on the regional quota.

These numbers should not be fixed permanently and instead should change with every World Cup depending on how the various regional teams perform.

Also, an additional option could be to have more inter-regional play-offs such as between Europe & Africa, Europe & Asia, South America & North America to ensure teams that reach the World Cup are there on merit rather than making up the regional numbers.

Change is required

I can safely assume FIFA will not do anything with the regional numbers. Too much lobbying effort is spent by each federation to ensure their numbers are kept intact. Also, the FIFA president requires votes from each of the federations so one can assume any decision against one federation could endanger those votes.

However, as a minimum, FIFA must introduce goal-line technology to ensure that the games are not ruined by horrible decisions. Also, FIFA must have the power to ban divers after reviewing each game and reverse incorrect yellow card decisions in a game. Muller's yellow card seemed harsh in the Quarter-Final and caused him to miss the game with Spain where he might have made a difference. Laurent Blanc famously missed the 1998 World Cup final after Bilic dove in the semi-final earning Blanc a ridiculous red card.

Also, the number of games played by the top players in the world has to be reduced. FIFA has to eliminate the useless Confederation Cup, along with trimming some of the World Cup qualifying games. UEFA also needs to do their part by reducing the qualifying games for the European Championships especially since 24 teams will be allowed in future tournaments. 24 is almost half of the 53 teams that play in UEFA, so why should European teams have to play in a group of 5-6 teams to qualify for the European Cup?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

2010 Movie World Cup, Recap

A film spotlight based on the 2010 Soccer World Cup

The Rules and selection criteria were drafted back in November 2009, with the first film viewed back in Dec 2009 and the final film seen only days before the soccer World Cup kicked off on June 11, 2010. From the 32 film list there were many entries that looked as potential finalists:

England: Of Time and the City (2008, Terence Davies)
Japan: The Human Condition, part I (1959, Masaki Kobayashi)
Portugal: Colossal Youth (2006, Pedro Costa)
Paraguay: Paraguayan Hammock (2006, Paz Encina)
France: Sans soleil (1983, Chris Marker)
Brazil: Almost Brothers (2004, Lúcia Murat)
Spain: The Spirit of the Beehive (1973, Victor Erice)
Germany: Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922, Fritz Lang)
Italy: Il Divo (2008, Paolo Sorrentino)
Argentina: Liverpool (2008, Lisandro Alonso)
South Korea: Like you Know it All (2009, Hong sang-soo)
USA: Ballast (2008, Lance Hammer)
Chile: Historias de fútbol (1997 Andrés Wood)

Of these, the English, Italian and Brazilian titles were hugely disappointing. Only the Argentine feature exceeded expectations and very early on it was evident that it was a potential winner. The following were a few pleasurable discoveries:

Mexico: In the Pit (2006, Juan Carlos Rulfo)
Honduras: El Porvenir (2008, Oscar Estrada)
Serbia: The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (2009, Mladen Djordjevic)

I wish I had spent more time digging up a Dutch title but I took a gamble with the 2009 feature Amsterdam (Ivo van Hove) and unfortunately, it didn't pay off.

Below is a more complete recap.

First Round

Following are the films listed in the order they finished in the group, with total points out of 9.

Group A -- Mexico (In the Pit, 8), Uruguay (Gigante, 8), France (Sans Soleil, 7), South Africa (U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha, 6)

Group B -- Argentina (Liverpool, 9), Greece (The Lost Monument, 8), South Korea (Like You Know it All, 8), Nigeria (Without Shame, 4)

Group C -- USA (Ballast, 9), Algeria (Daugther of Keltoum, 7), Slovenia (How I Killed a Saint, 6), England (Of Time and the City, 5)

Group D -- Serbia (The Life and Death of a Porno Gang, 9), Germany (Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler, 8), Australia (Celia, 6), Ghana (The Perfect Picture, 5)

Group E -- Japan (The Human Condition, part I, 9), Denmark (Flame and Citron, 8), Cameroon (A Trip to the Country, 7), Holland (Amsterdam, 5)

Group F -- Paraguay (Paraguayan Hammock, 8), Italy (Il Divo, 6), Slovakia (Orbis Pictus, 6), New Zealand (Black Sheep, 4)

Group G -- Portugal (Colossal Youth, 9), North Korea (North Korea: A Day in the Life, 7), Brazil (Almost Brothers, 6), Ivory Coast (Adanggaman, 5)

Group H -- Honduras (El Porvenir, 8), Spain (The Spirit of the Beehive, 7), Chile (Historias de fútbol, 6), Switzerland (A Crude Awakening, 5)

The top 2 films from each group advanced to the second round or the round of 16.

Second Round


1) Mexico (In the Pit) 3-1 Greece (The Lost Monument)
2) USA (Ballast) 3-2 Germany (Dr. Mabuse The Gambler)
3) Japan (The Human Condition, part I) 3-0 Italy (Il Divo)
4) Portugal (Colossal Youth) 2-1 Spain (The Spirit of the Beehive)
5) Argentina (Liverpool) 3-1 Uruguay (Gigante)
6) Serbia (The Life and Death of a Porno Gang) 3-0 Algeria (Daughter of Keltoum)
7) Paraguay (Paraguayan Hammock) 2-3 Denmark (Flame and Citron)
8) Honduras (El Porvenir) 3-0 North Korea (North Korea: A Day in the Life)

Quarter-Finals


1) Mexico (In the Pit) 3-3 USA (Ballast)
2) Japan (The Human Condition, part I) 2-2 Portugal (Colossal Youth)
3) Argentina (Liverpool) 3-2 Serbia (The Life and Death of a Porno Gang)
4) Denmark (Flame and Citron) 2-2 Honduras (El Porvenir)

The Mexican, Japanese and Honduran films all advanced to the Semi-Finals on the basis of subjective penalty shoot-out wins.

Semi-Finals, 3rd Place & Final

Semi-Finals

Mexico (In the Pit) 3 - 2 Japan (The Human Condition, part I)
Argentina (Liverpool) 3-2 Honduras (El Porvenir)

3rd Place

Japan (The Human Condition, part I) 2-2 Honduras (El Porvenir)

The Honduran film takes 3rd place on penalties.

Final

Mexico (In the Pit) 2-3 Argentina (Liverpool)


Overall, a very enjoyable festival with plenty of rich cinematic offerings. I especially relished the challenge of tracking down films from all 32 countries and such a task required a good investment of time and money. Some films were obviously a lot harder to find, such as the entries from Honduras, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria but in the end it was worth it as the presence of a full set of 32 films made for a worthy competition.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

2010 Movie World Cup, Semi-Finals, 3rd Place & Final

Semi-Final #1

Mexico (In the Pit) 3 - 2 Japan (The Human Condition, part I)

In the Pit

Freeway construction site. A concrete cross ready to bear the burden of human's technological advances. Forgive us concrete, for we humans have sinned.
The end sequence of In the Pit is quite beautiful and gives an overview of the enormous construction site and hovers over some of the hundreds of workers involved. We only get to meet a few of the site workers in the film but there are many more stories waiting to be told.

The Human Condition

An intelligent and fascinating case study of human egos, greed and power.

Kaji has the difficult task of trying to implement his ideals across two parties, masters and slaves, who hate and distrust the other. Just three snapshots of his complex discussions:

1) Telling the labor bosses to steal less makes Kaji an instant enemy.
2) Kaji's ideas about fair labor conditions and practices are immediately dismissed by his supervisors as impractical.
3) Breaking the bad news to the prisoners -- Kaji almost always has bad news for the prisoners because his humane methods are either not recognized or undermined.

The Human Condition is a timeless film that will always be relevant because humans will never be able to treat others with respect and dignity. Egos, greed and lust for power will never go out of fashion.

Semi-Final #2

Argentina (Liverpool) 3-2 Honduras (El Porvenir)



Liverpool is about a solitary man's journey while El Porvenir looks at the reasons why young men abandon isolation in favor of gangs. Death is implied yet never seen in Liverpool whereas El Porvenir examines the brutal killing that took place in April 2003 at the El Porvenir penal farm.

3rd Place Match

Japan (The Human Condition, part I) 2-2 Honduras (El Porvenir)

Penalty shoot-out! The Honduran film narrowly sneaks out third place on penalties.


Movie World Cup Final



Mexico (In the Pit,2006, Juan Carlos Rulfo) 2-3 Argentina (Liverpool, 2008, Lisandro Alonso)

Lisandro Alonso's beautiful film ends up as the best overall film when compared to the other 31 entries. The Brazilian film, In the Middle of the World, won the 2006 Movie World Cup and now another South American film takes the 2010 Movie World Cup. Unfortunately, no South American team will win the 2010 soccer World Cup despite a strong showing from all 5 South American teams in the opening rounds.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Fate, High Drama, Penalty Kicks & Heroes/Villains

Uruguay vs Ghana, Extra Time, Quarter-Finals

Revisiting the now historic & dramatic final seconds of extra time during Uruguay's 1-1 tie with Ghana.

1) Free-kick is awarded to Ghana with less than 30 seconds on the clock.


2) Ghana's goal bound attempt is legally cleared off the line.


3) Ghana's second attempt is illegally punched off the line by Suarez.


4) A penalty is awarded to Ghana and a red card shown to Suarez.

5) Gyan steps up for a historic kick. The fate of a nation and an entire continent rests on his shoulders.


6) Incredibly the ball rings off the crossbar.


Gyan is shattered and the camera cuts to Suarez, the villain of this episode, who is now shown to be celebrating.

7) The match ends at 1-1 and heads to a penalty shoot-out.

Gyan shows tremendous mental strength and courage in being Ghana's first penalty taker. He once again goes for a high corner but this time successfully converts his kick.


Gyan's brave effort proves to be not enough as two of his teammates see their tame penalties saved allowing Abreu to chip Uruguay into the final four.


Ironic Penalties

Ironies are part and parcel of this game, especially those associated with penalties. People blame Roberto Baggio's penalty miss for costing Italy the 1994 World Cup but without Roberto Baggio's wonderful goals, including an extra time penalty kick against Nigeria in the second round, Italy would never have been in the final to begin with. Similarly, without Gyan, Ghana would not have been in the Quarter-Finals. Ghana failed to score a single goal from open play in the first round and the only reason that Ghana got to the second round was thanks to two successful penalty conversions from Gyan against Serbia and Australia. In both cases, it was a handball that gave Gyan the chance to score his vital goals. Gyan's penalty kicks enabled Ghana to be the only African team to make the second round at this World Cup so it is ironic that his miss dented Ghana's chances of making further history by becoming the first African country to make the semi-finals. Even though Gyan redeemed himself in the shoot-out, his failed attempt was the closest an African team has gotten to making the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Besides Ghana, in the last two decades, Cameroon and Senegal were the other two African teams who were within touching distance of the Semi-Finals but both Cameroon and Senegal lost in extra-time of Italia 1990 & Korea/Japan 2002 respectively. Although, penalties played a cruel part in Cameroon's elimination 20 years ago. Cameroon were leading 2-1 over England in regulation and were within 7 minutes of the Semi-finals but they gave away a penalty allowing England to tie the game up 2-2 and in extra time, they gave away another penalty to bow out of Italia 1990.

Monday, July 05, 2010

2010 Movie World Cup, Quarter-Finals


The head-to-head rules for the Quarter-Finals are the same as the second round, meaning three categories are used to decide a winner -- Direction, Structure (story and editing) & Cinematography.

1) Mexico (In the Pit) 3-3 USA (Ballast)

Both films perfectly soak up the mood and noise of their locales with In the Pit focusing on a freeway construction site in Mexico City and Ballast observing a family's plight in the Mississippi Delta. However, Juan Carlos Rulfo has also created a film that explains a nation's economic and social situation and offers a meditative look at the mess that humans have created for themselves with their never ending car packed roads. The more roads that humans build, the faster they will be filled with cars so in a way, construction for easing car congestion will inevitably lead to more congestion. The Myth of Sisyphus is well and truly a reality.

2) Japan (The Human Condition, part I) 2-2 Portugal (Colossal Youth)

Two completely different styles at play here with The Human Condition being a narrative driven exercise and Colossal Youth a mesmerizing painting. In the end, the Japanese film wins out because of its rich and fascinating template of intriguing characters who provide an understanding into the political problems facing our world. Now, there is no denying the pleasure that exists in observing Ventura in Colossal Youth but in order to enjoy moments with Ventura we are forced to spend time with Vanda, whose conversations did not suit my cinematic palate. In a way, Colossal Youth demonstrated both the beauty and frustrations demonstrated by the Portuguese national team at this World Cup. On one hand, Portugal played some champagne football in their 7 goal classic against North Korea but on the other hand they were also guilty of mind numbing dullness in two 0-0 draws against Ivory Coast and Brazil. Portugal vs North Korea = Ventura, while Portugal vs Ivory Coast = Vanda. If only Cape Verde were present in this group instead of Ivory Coast, then maybe, just maybe a dream of a lava house would have been truly realized.

3) Argentina (Liverpool) 3-2 Serbia (The Life and Death of a Porno Gang)

Death is a common bond between these films but with a slight difference -- in the case of Liverpool death is indirectly implied outside the frame but in The Life and Death of a Porno Gang death is found brutally and explicitly at every turn. Liverpool also signifies nirvana where the main character is able to shed off his worldly worries and attain pure liberation. On the other hand, The Life and Death of a Porno Gang demonstrates multiple lives cruelly cut short with none of the characters ever coming close to living out their wishes.

4) Denmark (Flame and Citron) 2-2 Honduras (El Porvenir)

The Danish film shows the emotional wear and tear of characters trained to kill for their cause while the Honduran feature examines a social system which allows killing to easily take place. Flame and Citron is set during WWII at a time when resistance groups fought for freedom but as El Porvenir shows even when a nation gets freedom, its citizens cannot freely etch out a living.

Movie Quarter-Final Results

Mexico, Japan and Honduras advance on the back of subjective penalty shoot-out wins while the Argentine feature advances with yet another strong result.

All the films at this stage are quality works as demonstrated by the first round ratings -- 5 of the 8 films scored 9/9 and the remaining 3 netted 8/9. So this made for some very close decisions and interestingly, three of the quarter finals ended up being decided by a subjective penalty shoot-out after the head-to-head match-up ended in a tie.

Soccer World Cup Quarter-Finals

My prediction for 4 possible South American teams in the Semi-Finals came to a crashing end this past weekend. But thankfully, the 4 matches were all classics in their own right and provided plenty of drama and intriguing stories.

  • Holland 2-1 Brazil



  • I did not see this one coming, especially after the first half when Holland were absolutely poor. How can one explain Brazil's implosion in the second half, especially Felipe Melo's moment of madness? Melo lost his mind and so did Brazil. Robinho and Fabiano are imposters who should spend their energy playing the game and not complaining. Dunga's decision to take extra defensive players to the World Cup backfired and when Brazil needed a goal, they had no creative force to call upon. Hopefully none of the existing Brazilians will ever play for the national team again and the 2014 Brazilian squad returns to its beautiful football roots.

    Holland are in the semis for the first time since 1998 but this Dutch team is a world away from the 1974, 1978, 1988 Dutch squads known for beautiful football. Still, if there is a nation that deserves to win the World Cup based on the game's history, then it is Holland. But if the Dutch are to succeed, then they need Van Persie to stop getting injured and start scoring goals.

  • Uruguay 1-1 Ghana, Uruguay wins 4-2 on penalties



  • The hand of Suarez, a last minute penalty miss and a penalty shoot-out drama!! The end result is that Africa misses out on a historic semi-final berth while Uruguay is back in the semi-finals for the first time since 1970 when they lost 3-1 to Brazil.

  • Germany 4-0 Argentina



  • Prior to the game, my mind expected Germany to win but my heart wanted Argentina to win. Yet, I didn't expect such a one sided demolition job. Wow! Maradona went the opposite way of Dunga in that he left out much needed defensive cover in the form of Cambiasso & Zanetti and opted for more offensive players. The end result was that Germany had enough freedom to find space in Argentina's hollow defense.

  • Spain 1-0 Paraguay



  • What would Spain do without David Villa? Once again, Villa comes to the rescue after both team's captains, Casillas & Villar, made vital penalty saves although Villar got 2 tries to save one kick.

    Brazil's defensive setup vs Argentina's attacking lineup

    Dunga opted for 8 defenders, 8 midfielders and only 4 forward whereas Maradona took 7 defenders, 7 midfielders and 6 attackers. On top of that, Argentina's midfield was far more adventurous and attack minded than Brazil's defensive midfield which featured more holding players such as Gilberto and Melo. A Brazil vs Argentina final would have been a great opportunity to observe the contrasting styles but both team's weakness did them in. Brazil had almost no creativity to pry open the Dutch team and were as ineffective as they were in the 1-0 loss to France in the last World Cup whereas Argentina lacked any defensive cover to stop the German runs.

    So back to the drawing board for Brazil and Argentina.

    South America 1 - Europe 3

    South America's bright start has faded away and only Uruguay remain waving the continent's flag while the presence of Holland, Germany and Spain in the semi's means there is a strong possibility of a European team finally winning the World Cup outside of Europe.