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Saturday 23 August 2014

World Cup Diary

Published 14/06/2014 | 17:04

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Holland's two-goal man Arjen Robben turns away from Spain duo Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres . Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images
Holland's two-goal man Arjen Robben turns away from Spain duo Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres . Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images

The BBC's bosses must have been rubbing their hands with glee that their pick of Holland v Spain provided one of the greatest World Cup matches of all time.

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The viewing figures of an 11.4million peak - a 49.8 per cent share of the audience and the biggest UK audience for a sports event in 2014 - highlighted the enduring appeal of the tournament and beat the 10.7million who tuned in to the World Cup opener on ITV between Brazil and Croatia.

Holland v Spain is just the sort of match - a group game involving teams other than England - that FIFA has been desperate to de-classify as a 'Listed' event which is reserved for free-to-air television.

FIFA chiefs reckon they can get much more money by selling the rights to a combination of terrestrial and pay-TV broadcasters, but the most recent review of Listed events in Britain decided to maintain the status quo.

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If Iker Casillas' horror show against Holland costs Spain's Real Madrid keeper his place against Chile next week, then it could mean Manchester United's David de Gea setting a remarkable record.

De Gea has never started for Spain - indeed he has only eight minutes of full international experience, and that was as a substitute against El Salvador in a lame friendly earlier this month.

It must be unheralded for a keeper's first full cap to come in a World Cup finals.

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Brazil's Jekyll and Hyde attitude to the World Cup was highlighted by the fact that the big screens at Sao Paulo's international airport were not showing any live matches.

Airport officials refused fans' pleas to change the channels - no wonder FA chairman Greg Dyke said anyone would be hard-pushed to know the World Cup was on in that sprawling city.

In Rio de Janeiro however, the atmosphere is completely different - fans of all countries sat together on seats at big screens at the city's domestic airport watching Mexico beat Cameroon.

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FIFA president Sepp Blatter knows how to judge the mood of the world.

Croatia coach Niko Kovac said that 2.5billion people watching around the world thought Japanese ref Yuichi Nishimura got it badly wrong when he awarded a penalty for Brazil in the tournament opener.

Make that 2,499,999,999 people. Blatter, speaking in Rio on Saturday, said: "The referee of Brazil v Croatia was absolutely right to give a penalty."

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World Cup organisers took a leaf out of London 2012's book in their opening ceremony by beaming a flag of Niger instead of Nigeria's onto a giant football.

It was not quite as bad as London's blunder in 2012 before the North Korea v Colombia women's game at Hampden Park where organisers displayed the flag of deadly enemies South Korea by mistake.

The North Koreans were so infuriated they refused to take to the field until a grovelling apology had been made.

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Sky Sports News are already struggling to get access to World Cup press conferences as non-rights holders, and to make matters worse chief reporter Bryan Swanson had his breakfast confiscated by over-zealous security at the Maracana Stadium.

Swanson had tried to smuggle in a banana - and local organising spokesman Saint Clair Milesi confirmed that breached rules, but denied it was to force people to buy food and drink from outlets inside the stadium.

"It's a health regulation," he said.

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