Suddenly… a day without football. We have been so used to three or even four games a day, that yesterday's emptiness came suddenly, like a betrayal – a blip to remind us that someday, not far from now, there will be no World Cup, because no joy is eternal.
The stillness of the day was disrupted when Fernando Hierro announced that David De Gea would continue in goal, and when Thiago Alcántara took aim at the Spanish press for their criticism of the Manchester United goalkeeper (“Being Spanish, you should all make some self-criticism, you are all far away from home supporting Spain”). Footballers, almost without exception, boast that they do not read the sports press, but complain about it when things go bad, or when things go regularly, as is now the case.
For its part, FIFA took the opportunity of the free day to take stock of VAR, the great debutant at this World Cup. Those responsible for its introduction are satisfied, and I would not be telling the truth if I did not confess that it is convincing me more than I had expected.
As should be done with all technology, it is being used with care. VAR is interfering in matches to the minimum. It has corrected errors that would have made the tournament look bad and has let other plays continue. Everyone can still have reasons to complain (oh, Queiroz!), but football will flow as it should and really serious things will not pass through the sieve. Forty-eight matches allow us to draw fair conclusions at this stage.
Today the football is back, with two mouthwatering encounters: France-Argentina and Uruguay-Portugal. The World Cup is structured like a classic play, in three acts: setup, conflict and resolution. The setup is the group stage, in which we have seen everyone play their role, with several never to return. The conflict comes now, in the last 16 and the quarter finals. The resolution, of course, is the semifinals and the final. Let’s sit back and enjoy the rest of the play!