Picture the scene. It's the Maracana on July 13.
Fanatical supporters are making one hell of a noise, the anticipation has reached fever pitch. The game gets underway.
And then, whenever a certain Brazilian comes into possession, the cheers turn and the carnival atmosphere goes dark. There are boos, almost unanimous from the 76,000 in attendance. The supporters whistle and hiss, screaming obscenities at the player, born in Sergipe, the smallest state in Brazil, located on the eastern tip. Every touch, he is barracked, every challenge is appealed against with screams and calls for cards.
Welcome to the scenario facing Diego Costa, the Brazilian-born striker who, as recently as March, saw his international future with the country of his birth, making two friendly appearances for the Selecao.
"I hope people understand and respect my decision because it has been very difficult," the 25-year-old said.
"It was very difficult to choose between the country where you were born and the country that has given you everything.
"I looked at everything and saw that it was right and best to play for Spain because this is where I have done everything. All that I have in my life was given to me by this country."
For some it is a road well trodden. Deco declared for Portugal, Marcos Senna previously helped Spain win Euro 2008, while numerous others have been nationalised across the globe to represent other countries. Certainly, there's a theory that in Brazil they look on with pride as their sons venture off to represent their adopted nations.
But not this time.
For this is completely different. This time Costa was wanted by the five-time world champions. The likes of Deco and Senna weren't when they made their decision; they were players that weren't even on the radar.
Costa, on the other hand, had been brought in, he'd had a taste of things. Sure, he didn't make the Confederations Cup squad, with Scolari staying loyal to the likes of Fred and Jo.
But his performances this season, as the powerful focal point of Diego Simeone's attack at the Vicente Calderon, made him a possible contender for a starting spot next summer, never mind merely a squad place.
However, Costa's decision has riled those in authority in Brazil. CBF chief Jose Maria Marin has declared that the Brazilian football federation will "fight to the end" for Costa (as reported by Yahoo.com), and this one could turn into quite the complex legal battle, assuming they don't back down.
They may well be right.
But come next summer's World Cup, Diego Costa is likely to not feel Brazilian either.
40-Team World Cup
It seems that when you are the head honcho of a major organisation, the old adage that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" doesn't seem to apply.
Take the European Championships. Every four years Europe's 16 best international sides came together for a tournament rich in quality, where every game mattered. Get off to a bad start, and it'd be one hell of a difficult journey back. Make one slip, and your whole tournament hung in the balance. Every game counted.
Unfortunately from 2016, that'll be no more with a 24-team tournament. Considering UEFA has 54 member associations, now that Gibraltar have been recognised, and that means that 44 percent of its nations will be at the finals in France.
Hardly the creme de la creme.
And don't even get me started on how utterly pointless some of the 51 games in 2016 will be, given that 16 teams will proceed to the knockout round—some possibly without winning a single game. Utter buffoonery.
Now the man behind that plan, Michel Platini, is preparing his mantra for a 40-team World Cup.
Yes it's more football to watch, and in many ways that's a good thing, but let's look at it for what it is. A ploy. It's a ploy to get people voting for him when he runs for FIFA president (probably in 2015). This way, he gets more teams involved, and nations who currently may be on the borderline of qualifying for the finals, their association presidents will be receptive to the idea, as it increases their chances of a finals place. It has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the tournament:
Additionally the logistics, as explained by Jonathan Wilson in the Guardian this week, are just nuts.
But perhaps most importantly, the integrity of the matches may once more be called into question.
With one team sitting out the final group matches, the chance for collusion increases, meaning sporting integrity may just be thrown out the window on those occasions when two sides face one another knowing the result does the job for them, while squeezing out an opponent.
Unfortunately, if Monsieur Platini gets his way, FIFA will be, as they were then, powerless to stop it when opportunity knocks.
Feel for Jordan
Both players scored in Uruguay's last match, the 3-2 win over Argentina in Montevideo. Cavani notched in the 2-0 win over Colombia in September; while Suarez bagged a brace in the 2-1 away win against Peru three days previously. Only in the 1-0 loss in Ecuador, playing at severe altitude, have they failed to breach an opposing defence since March.
During that time, one or both have scored against Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Japan, Italy, Brazil, Tahiti, Nigeria, Spain, Venezuela and France.
Jordan games don't tend to be goal-fests, and the Asian contenders have managed just five goals in their last six matches against the likes of Syria, Kuwait and Oman.
They don't really have a chance in next month's playoff. Do they?
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