At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Match of the Day: A Latin Twist with Some Turkish Coffee

This will be a quick one, and with no offense meant to the Belgium-Algeria match or the Russia-South Korea clash. But the match of the day today originates from Fortaleza and involves Brazil and Mexico.

Several reasons why this match is intriguing:

1. Brazil needs to show they can play an end-to-end great game against a well-oiled opponent. They showed their colors (and a little bit of dive action in the box) and mettle in a come-from-behind win in the opener over Croatia. But their fans are demanding more.

2. Mexico wants to throw a monkey wrench into Brazil's life today. Oribe Peralta has gone on record saying "We will make Brazil's life difficult." Peralta has the swagger and talent to do so from his striker position, and Brazil fans will recall his two goals in the Olympic gold medal match in 2012, enabling Mexico to swipe the top spot from the Brazilian team.

3. Whoever wins clinches the road through to the knockout stage, for all intents and purposes.

4. The officiating intangibles: Cuneyt Cakir is the referee today, and the Turkish official has been known for a quick trigger disciplinary approach in the past that has garnered a fair bit of controversy. He is ultra-precise on distances on free kicks (more so than the norm), and he does not hesitate to send players off with red cards, be it in the first or last minutes of the game. He angered Sir Alex Ferguson when he sent off Nani during the 2013 UEFA Champions league game between Manchester United and Real Madrid. During the 2012 Euro Cup semifinal between Spain and Portugal, Cakir doled out nine yellow cards in a bitter game that went to a penalty shootout. Mario Balotelli likely still recalls when Cakir sent him off during the 2011 Europa League match between Manchester City and Dynamo Kyiv, a game in which Cakir gave out eight other yellow cards.

All of which adds up to an intriguing matchup, but for me, the officiating intangible might be the one to watch.

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