When the news all Israelis had been dreading broke on Monday evening, suddenly it was impossible to become absorbed in the World Cup. When Channel 1 interrupted the France vs. Nigeria game to announce that the bodies of the three teenage hitchhikers had been found, the escapist joy of the tournament evaporated in an instant and reality bit.
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So Tuesday’s diary will just stick with the facts. France beat Nigeria 2-0 in a game that failed to live up to its advance billing. The French struggled to get out of second gear, and only really found form when Karim Benzema moved to his favored center-forward position midway through the second half. After that, there was only going to be one winner.
Nigeria were game but posed little threat in front of goal. And in goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, France have one of the most reliable stoppers in the cup.
Nigeria’s own goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, formerly of both Tel Aviv clubs, made some great saves but was ultimately responsible for the French opener, palming a corner onto the head of the lurking Paul Pogba. An own goal in stoppage team sealed the Africans’ fate.
The French will face Germany in Friday’s quarterfinal, after the Europeans defeated Algeria 2-1, after extra time. This game almost achieved the impossible and made you forget events closer to home, with the pacy, direct Algerians unlucky not to be leading at halftime.
The second half saw an onslaught of German attacks, but the ball seemed magically drawn to the gloves of Algerian keeper Rais Mbolhi. Two goals in extra-time put the Germans through with an ultimately deserved win (they racked up 28 efforts on goal), but all the praise will go to the North Africans. The sight of Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic sobbing like a baby at the end concluded an dramatic game and a horrible day.
The surprise soccer story of the day came not from Brazil but Uruguay, where Luis Suarez issued an apology to Giorgio Chiellini after biting him last week during a match. “The truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me,” said Suarez in a statement. “I deeply regret what occurred. I apologise to Giorgio Chiellini and the entire football family. I vow to the public that there will never again be another incident like this."
The (sort of) admission of guilt may help Suarez get his hefty suspension reduced. At the moment, he’s banned for eight more international games and from all soccer activity until the end of October, but has appealed the severity of the suspension.
Argentina vs. Switzerland, 7 P.M.
Belgium vs. United States, 11 P.M.