World Cup Wrap: Day 19

As the 2014 World Cup second round knock-out games continue, we take a look at some of the stories taking place off the pitch in Brazil.

USA keen to extend stay

It seems the USA are planning to be in Brazil for the long haul, after progressing into the knock-out stages of the World Cup.

USA

Omar Gonzalez says Klinsmann has provided positivity around the USA squad

Despite a narrow defeat in their final group match against Germany last week, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side still qualified for the second phase, where they will face Belgium on Tuesday.

And according to defender Omar Gonzalez, their boss is confident enough of progress that he’s told his squad to change their flights home.

“Jurgen has been nothing but positive,” said Gonzalez. 

“He’s telling us to change our flights to 14 or 15 July because we’re going to be here until the very end.

“That just speaks volumes of how positive he is, how much he believes in this team. 

“It trickles down to all of us. That means that we’re all as confident as he is and that we all believe in this team. We plan on being here a few more weeks.” 

Rodriguez takes plaudits

James Rodriguez is the name on everybody’s lips in Brazil, following his latest goal haul in the World Cup.

Colombia

Colombia’s James Rodriguez has caught the eye in Brazil

The Monaco forward proved to be the difference for Colombia in their win over 2-0 Uruguay on Saturday with a brace taking his World Cup tally to five goals so far.

And his latest performance earned praise from opposition boss Oscar Tabarez, who compared his talents to that of the world’s best.

“For me, talents are those who do things that have nothing to do with their life experience,” explained Tabarez. 

“Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and James Rodriguez – they do things because they have a certain gift which makes them special.” 

Colombia coach Jose Pekerman concurred: “I never had any doubts that this was going to be his World Cup.

“In my long experience in football, I’ve had extraordinary footballers in my teams, elite players of a very high technical level. 

“What is most surprising is that, at his young age, he does not have any problem doing things football players take many years to understand.

“From what I have seen, he is the best player in the World Cup – I am not exaggerating, he is a great striker.”

No fast focus for Algeria boss

Algeria boss Vahid Halilhodzic has played down the effects of a Ramadan fast within his squad, as they approach Monday evening’s game with Germany.

Algeria boss Vahid Halilhodzic.

The Algeria boss Halilhodzic refused to be drawn into questions on Ramadan

A 30 day dawn-till-dusk fast, which is mandatory for Muslims, began on Sunday and the Bosnian was quizzed about which of his players were observing it given the vast majority of them are Muslim.

But Halilhodzic, a Muslim himself, soon grew tired of the questioning as his squad aim to make further history for themselves following their progress out of the group stages.

“This is a private matter and when you ask this you lack respect and ethics,” said Halilhodzic. 

“The players will do as they wish and I would like to stop this controversy.

“Ramadan is here and I read in some Algerian newspapers criticisms about me, about my image, about my honour. 

“They are trying to raise hatred against Vahid, against my family, and this is really disgusting. 

“It is not the first time I have Muslim players in my team, I myself am a Muslim, and I’ve always left them totally free. This is a private issue – it has to do with private freedom of expression.”

Whilst Ramadan is mandatory for Muslims, there are exemptions for individuals who are travelling or going to war and this is the provision under which most athletes will delay the fast until a more suitable time.