David Leggat: Reasons to rejoice and despair by the Cup-ful

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Here's a World Cup final All Whites fans would relish: Spain or Germany against any of the others left standing.

And the Spanish or Germans then win the thing. Why? Because that would make Ryan Nelsen's men the only unbeaten team out of the 32 who began the finals.

Strange, bizarre even, but true.

Then again, if Brazil win it, the All Whites could chortle that they're in pretty good, undefeated company.

As the tournament stretches towards its climax, what about the highs and lows.

Here are five things to despair about the World Cup:

1: The cheating.
It's systematic, it's ingrained in players from most teams, it's a massive turnoff and it's the biggest blight on the tournament.

This week Maicon, a classy right back for Brazil and Champions League winners Inter Milan, pushed a ball past a Chilean defender and threw himself forward in what looked like a belly flop without the wet stuff. The Chilean didn't touch him.

The problem is how to rid the game of the cheap theatrics which are engulfing it.

2: The refereeing.
No surprise here. When the rightly indignant Mexican players surrounded an incompetent linesman named Pew Cieco - Blind Pew's Italian cousin - who had missed Carlos Tevez's blatant offside goal this week, referee Roberto Rosetti went across for a natter with his countryman. Might justice be done?

No, that was too much to expect. So much of the officiating at the World Cup has been lamentable, guesswork replacing hard evidence.

A plethora of undeserved yellow cards have been waved about, and a few red ones too.

Teams must pray they get a whistler with a spine - or conversely someone who'll fall for their dirty tricks if that better suits their methods.

3: Technology.
Or, more accurately, the lack of it.

Fifa boss Sepp Blatter has reiterated the need for the game to have "a human face".

They'll be the faces slack-jawed in disbelief at what they've seen in South Africa, then.

Officials parked at each end to sort out goalline issues; a judicial panel to assess incidents of cheating or cards given erroneously the following day, with appropriate punishments for the real offenders; rapid advice on penalty incidents or dodgy goals given from a video official in the stand.

Right now, even one would be a huge step forward for Fifa's crusty dinosaurs.

Blatter is a politician who wants four more years in the big chair. Technology will be introduced only if he needs the votes of the proponents.

4: The departure of France.
Nah, just kidding. Are they the least loved finalists in living memory?

5: Familiar winners.
Not despair exactly, more a measure of disappointment as we like to see things shared around.

But it is unlikely a new name will be engraved on the trophy. Brazil (five times), Germany (three), Argentina and Uruguay (twice) are no strangers to it.

And five things over which a spot of rejoicing is appropriate:

1: The All Whites campaign.
It far exceeded expectations. It's all very well saying they didn't actually win a game. But they weren't tipped to even scramble a draw.

They were unbeaten, finished pool play ahead of the defending world champions. Not at all a bad return.

2: The demise of France.
What a wretched lot they were. They should not have been there in the first place, and once there they mutinied against their admittedly unlovable coach Raymond Domenech, and produced rubbish football.

3: Bristling contests to come.
Either Brazil-Netherlands or Germany-Argentina this weekend would have made a cracking final. Spain were pre-tournament favourites. And now? Hmm.

4: The goals.
Did you see Carlos Tevez's second against Mexico? Or David Villa's effort against Chile? Several Brazilian goals have been sumptuous, while the Germans threw off their pragmatic clothing to deliver goals of verve and skill against England.

5: The best is yet to come.
A winner? Argentina. And Diego Maradona to swan dive his way across Ellis Park.

- NZ Herald

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