And so now we come to the most exciting four days of the World Cup. Twice a day, two simultaneous matches. Twice a day two sides eliminated from the World Cup. By Friday morning there will be only 16 teams left in the cup.
This is a set-up born from the Horror of Gijon in 1982. El Anschluss. Germany and Austria met in the last round of pool play knowing exactly what they had to do to get through to the next round. And a 1-0 win to West Germany was duly played out. The situation was that cynical that even FIFA acted, and introduced the simultaneous matches.
It is a viewing experience with a difference, because what is going on in the game you are not watching can often provide a lot of context to the one you are watching. And switching between the two every minute is a sure way of getting to miss all the goals. So this is what needs to happen tomorrow
Brazil have not qualified for the final 16, let alone as top qualifier, but you would be a mug to bet on that not happening. That is not because this looks like a great
Brazilian side; far from it, but because they get to play Cameroon in this round. And the way they finished against Croatia (elbowing opposition player in the back, head-butting team mates, and giving up on tackling) it is really hard to contemplate a turn-around in the last few days.
If you think you’ve had a bad week spare a thought for their manager Volker Finke dealing with the players in the build-up to this. And they’re probably still squabbling over their performance bonuses; a hypothetical argument if ever there was one.
So that leaves the Mexico v Croatia game. Mexico have the advantage in that they only need to draw to progress here, but they would be ill-advised to go out and play like that. It is an injustice that one of these sides will not progress.
Two of the bigger bandwagons of the tournament so far meet up in Sao Paolo. The Netherlands have the advantage of only needing a draw to qualify top and therefore avoid Brazil in the Round of 16 should all go to plan above.
But they are without Robin Van Persie, and Chile are certainly looking the part. They will back themselves and have shown ruthlessness on the counter-attack; not unlike the Dutch really. An early goal here and this one could really take off.
In the other game Spain needs to beat Australia to avoid the wooden spoon, which seems an unlikely thing to write. If they beat them by two they will no longer have conceded the most goals in the tournament.
They can then look forward to that awkward reception at Madrid Airport