World Cup teams catch breath on rare day off

Wed Jul 2, 2014 5:31pm EDT
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By Julian Linden

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - After three weeks of unrelenting drama and excitement, the World Cup took a rare time-out on Wednesday as the eight surviving teams tried to catch their breath before the quarter-finals kick off on Friday.

A tournament which was derided as a disaster waiting to happen, has captivated the world, proved all the doom-mongers wrong and has already been declared as one of the greatest World Cups ever.

The tardy preparations which plagued the build-up have long been forgotten with supporters in Brazil and around the planet still gasping at the astonishing quality of play and heart-stopping tension.

"This has been the best one in terms of quality of football and entertainment," said Gerard Houllier, the most experienced member of FIFA's Technical Study Group which analyses tactics, trends and all aspects of technical play in the tournament.

"There has been top quality drama right from the start of the group phase."

The on-field drama has succeeded in overshadowing any off-field scandals that threatened to tarnish the event but still linger.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter praised Uruguay striker Luis Suarez after he apologized for biting an Italian defender during the World Cup while FIFA also addressed claims that matches had been rigged, but said there was no supporting evidence.

Suarez was banned for nine competitive internationals and cannot take part in any soccer activities for four months after he sank his teeth into the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay's 1-0 defeat of the Italians on June 24.   Continued...

Netherlands' national soccer team player Arjen Robben poses for a photo with a fan after a training session in Rio de Janeiro, July 2, 2014. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares