The Rio Report

Facts: 7 truths – Savage, Messi and footballing immortality

The Rio Report

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BBC didn't exactly do Robbie Savage any favours

You are sitting waiting for your Sunday night action on the Beeb, and Auntie appears around 7:30pm with your pundits for the evening. Arsenal legend and 1998 World Cup winner Thierry Henry, multiple Champions League winner Clarence Seedorf and, erm, Robbie Savage of Leicester City and Derby County fame. Talk about doing your guest experts no favour. The first Welshman to qualify for a World Cup since 1958 was how Gary Linkeker billed him. Excellent stuff.

No disrespect to Robbie, but it is like comparing a bottle of cheap plonk to some Bollinger. Wonder if Seedorf was asking the Robster what it was like to line up alongside Muzzy Izzet and Matt Elliott? Needless to say, viewers took to the internet in their droves to point out the incongruity of it all - though none of the barracking was more eloquent or elegant than this from our resident Photoshop wizard, @BeardedGenius:

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Picture courtesy of Nooruddean@BeardedGenius

This is Messi’s opportunity for immortality

If Lionel Messi fails win the World Cup then the debate over greatest player ever will rage on. However, claim the Jules Rimet trophy and there surely can be no doubt. The argument for Messi becomes too strong - watertight. And this is his chance. Having had a stop-start season for Barcelona he comes into the World Cup relatively fresh. He made a solid start against Bosnia in his side’s first game of the tournament and can build momentum from there.

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Teams continue to pay a heavy price for naivety

Take the point. That should have been the feeling within the Ecuador camp when the board went up to show three minutes added onto to the Group E match with Switzerland. A draw would have been no disaster for the South American side, but they somehow decided to go for broke and paid a heavy price. Valon Behrami made a superb tackle as Michael Arroyo prepared to pull the trigger before the Swiss player broke swiftly to the other end with Haris Seferovic slotting the winner from a Ricardo Rodriguez pass to seal an unlikely three points for the European side. Ecuador suffered from unforgivable naivety.

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This is a World Cup without inhibition

The aforementioned naivety has made for a great spectacle. Much has been made of the fact that there is yet to be a draw at the 2014 edition of the World Cup – and rightly so. Much of this is down to the manner in which the teams have approached the tournament. For whatever reason there is a complete lack of inhibition. Take for example the Argentina-Bosnia game. The game was finely poised going into the final moments but in both teams sought more goals. This has been an extraordinary World Cup.

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Paul Pogba should have been sent off for a Beckham moment

What was the difference between Paul Pogba lashing a foot out at Wilson Palacios and David Beckham flicking his boot at Diego Simeone during the 1998 finals? The answer? Pogba was only booked while Beckham walked. Granted, Palacios shouldn't have been trampling on the Juventus midfielder, but Pogba was fortunate in the extreme for reacting like he did. Pogba is a superb midfielder, but he needs to get his act together. France should have been down to ten men when the scoreline was only 0-0. Palacios later went as France won 3-0, but there is a lesson there for young Pogba to learn. He must keep his cool in the heat.

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France look a good outside bet

France have already put the ghost of their disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign to bed with a performance of maturity, industry and adventure against Honduras. The most impressive aspect of their performance though was their calm in the face of constant Honduran provocation - bar the Pogba incident, of course, but that did feel like a one off. France’s undoubted talent has, on occasion, been let down by a questionable attitude but Didier Deschamps appears to have drilled this side into a cohesive unit and they could emerge as dark horses to claim the Jules Rimet trophy.

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Clear favourite yet to emerge

Holland produced what could, on reflection, be a watershed performance with their 5-1 demolition of Spain. However, doubts remain over their defence – particularly with the absence of midfield anchor man Kevin Strootman. That aside none of the pre-tournament favourites – we are looking at you Brazil and Argentina – have put in performances befitting of such status. This is a very open tournament and all the better for it!

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