The Rio Report

Facts: 7 truths – Giant clocks, German domination and the madness of Pepe

The Rio Report

Why are those electronic substitution boards so big?

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There used to be a time, no pun intended, when these were just small wooden boards with some chalk scribbled on them to let players know when their number was up. Now a player could be sitting on the beach in Rio and see if he was getting hooked in Manaus. Sponsored by a Swiss company, they are massive. They look like they have been pinched from the clock face of the local town hall. Well done for raising one of them above your head. Wonder where you can get one to stick outside your front door?

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President Obama's support for US side shows growing popularity of football in the States

"Go Team US, show the world what we're made of," said President Barack Obama before his country's 2-1 win over Ghana. It would be cynical to say Obama released a video at half-time of the USA's opening match with Ghana to gain maximum exposure. But it is fair to say, it was timed nicely with Juergen Klinsmann's team leading 1-0 courtesy of Clint Dempsey's early goal.

Twenty years since America hosted the World Cup for the first time, it is fair to say football, or soccer, is a growing sport in the US. Apart from the Obama message of goodwill, the vice-president Joe Biden was among the interested spectators at Estadio Das Dunas in Natal. We did wonder where Leonardo DiCaprio and Katy Perry where among the crowd. Especially if Perry was twerking. But that was all forgotten about when substitute John Brooks headed home five minutes from time to give the US a 2-1 win.

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Thomas Mueller could be a World Cup record-breaker

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One of the most prominent aspects of Germany’s World Cup campaign has been the focus on whether Miroslav Klose, with 14 goals in finals history, will manage to match and then break the Brazilian Ronaldo’s record of 15. Even if he does, however, the ageing striker could well find his own tally surpassed by one his own team-mates in years to come.

Three goals for Mueller took the 24-year-old onto eight World Cup goals in seven games, a full five clear of Lionel Messi. Given he won the Golden Boot four years ago in South Africa after only one full season of professional football, it is surely true that few players have ever looked at home as the young German on the World Cup stage. He has another two World Cups ahead of him as well, possibly even three if he’s still performing at the top level at 36. Mueller could set a new mark that stands the test of time.

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Pepe needs anger management classes

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The indisciplined Sergio Ramos might have 19 career red cards but his Real Madrid team-mate Pepe is surely the undisputed king of hot-headed stupidity. Everyone knows Pepe is a liability on the pitch and Germany targeted that temper as Mueller provoked him into an idiotic headbutt in the first half, with the German player still sat on the deck. Job done from Mueller’s perspective. Pepe’s abject behaviour left his team with 10 men and on the end of a hiding. A man who has a history of stupid behaviour on the pitch needs to get his head straight or be dropped.

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It was a good day for Germany

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Hot on the heels of Die Mannschaft's Portuguese pummelling came yet more German success later in the day. Juergen Klinsmann, the former striker and now coach of the US, masterminded victory over Ghana in the Americans' Group G opener. It was the German tactician's decision to introduce the young Schalke defender John Brooks at half-time which proved inspired - the 21-year-old rose amid some admittedly shabby Ghanaian marking to head home the winner in a 2-1 win. Just to underscore the German theme of the day, Brooks was born in Berlin, and holds both an US and a German passport.

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Luis Suarez will score against England

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Today was also the day when Luis Suarez gave England fans the news they never wanted to hear: the Uruguay striker is "100 per cent" fit and ready to expose the Three Lions' defensive deficiencies when the two sides meet on Thursday. And as Mario Balotelli proved with his goal for Italy against England, Premier League bad boys are destined to make England suffer at this World Cup. You heard it here first.

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Even a goalless bore-draw cannot derail the excitement juggernaut

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Iran and Nigeria tried their best, but despite producing by far the worst game of the tournament so far in their 0-0 draw, the World Cup continued to thrill on the fifth day of action. What with Germany's four-goal victory over Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal and a fantastic late match between Ghana and the US, which produced a further three goals and a thrilling denouement, the tournament seems to be going from strength to strength. The Best World Cup Ever™ is showing no signs of slowing down.

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