Rodriguez the toast of Brazil - but is he better than Bebe?

Jun 30, 2014

World Cup whispers: Rodriguez rocks Uruguay, Brazilian tempers flare, Greek integrity

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Two goals from James Rodriguez, including a contender for goal of the tournament, sent Uruguay packing on Saturday as Columbia booked a place in the quarter-finals for the first time. Much of the build-up focused on the absent Luis Suarez, but he was quickly forgotten when Rodriguez struck in the 28th minute. Controlling a header on his chest, with his back to goal, the Columbian spun and smashed a left-foot volley in off the crossbar. Rodriguez doubled Columbia's lead after the break, taking him to the top of the Golden Boot competition.


Rodriguez's wonder-strike has made him the talk of the tournament, which might make Sir Alex Ferguson slightly uncomfortable. In 2010 when Rodriguez was still a teenager playing for Banfield in Argentina, Manchester United were approached and asked if they would be interested in signning the Colombian for £5m. Ferguson declined the offer and a few weeks later signed another unknown, Portuguese striker Bebe, for £7.4m. United were linked with the player again last summer, but baulked at the pricetag, and Rodriguez eventually signed for Monaco.


Alex Ferguson's judgement may have been called into question in some quarters, but he may have played an unlikely role in the French renaissance at this year's World Cup. France's manager, Didier Deschamps, provided every member of his 23-man squad with a copy of Ferguson's autobiography before they departed for Brazil, and it certainly seems to have had an effect. Les Bleus breezed through Group E to qualify comfortably with seven points, while the internal divisions that crippled their South African campaign seem a distant memory.


After unsavoury incidents involving Cameroon, who threatened to strike unless they were paid World Cup bonuses, and Ghana, who had $3m in cash flown to Brazil by the government before they crashed out in the group stages, Greek footballers have proved that money is not everything in sport but turning down the offer of a bonus for reaching the knock-out stages. They were offered the money by prime minister Antonis Samaras but requested that it is used to build a new training centre for the national side.


The fitness of World Cup poster-boy Neymar may be in doubt after Brazil's gruelling last-16 clash with Chile. Although the Selecao star played the whole of Saturday's game, including extra time and penalties, it's reported he picked-up a thigh injury four minutes in following a bruising challenge from Chile's Charles Aranguiz. With four goals in four games Neymar has been an integral part of coach Luiz Felipe Scolari's side, and doubts over his fitness will be a major concern for the hosts ahead of Friday's quarter-final clash with Columbia.


The stakes are rising and tempers have started flaring in Brazil. There have been claims in the wake of Brazil's narrow win over Chile that Las Rojas' striker Mauricio Pinilla was punched by Brazil's communications director, Rodrigo Paiva, at half-time during Saturday's lasy-16 encounter. There was a scuffle in the tunnel during the match after a flare-up between Brazil striker Fred and Chile defender Gary Medel. Paiva has admitted to shoving Pinilla but said that he did so only in self-defence.

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