Read Claude's first e-mail here
You can find his second e-mail here
His third here
His fourth here
His 5th: Revolution is a French sport
The one on the World Cup balls
And the one yesterday on the Maradona's boys
The situation is getting clearer, at least for the German and English teams which just managed to make it through to the next round.
If Germany finished first in Group D, it was not the case for Fabio Capello's English team which ended second, behind the United States, in Group C. Good for Albion's ego! The two 'big' European teams will now meet in the pre-quarter final.
But what suspense!
American fans must have been close to a nervous breakdown. As you know, matches are synchronised so that a 'kind' team can't 'offer' a result favouring another team in the group.
In Group D, the England-Slovenia game was played two minutes early compared to the US-Algeria encounter. When the Group D match ended, Slovenia had qualified by goal difference.
The next minute saw the Great American Miracle; missing a centre from Dempsey, M'Bohli, the Algerian goalkeeper, offered the US a last chance. Landon Donavan coming out of nowhere did not miss the too good occasion.
The Americans's trump card (or lucky charm) was the presence of an enthusiastic supporter in the stands: Former president Bill Clinton. Though sad for the Sloveneans, the victory
In Group D, Germany did not shine, but won with a superb shot by Mesut Ozil in the 60 minute. That was all. Their opponents Ghana, who also qualified, will play the US in the next round. I am thrilled that at least one African team made it to the pre-quarters.
Surprisingly, in the other match, Serbia was defeated by Australia who scored two goals. It was obviously a shock for Serbia.
One thing which disturbs me deeply this World Cup is the poor quality of refereeing.
During the match against Algeria, the Americans were refused a goal by De Bleeckere, the Belgium referee, for an imaginary off-side. Against Slovenia, on a free-quick shot by Altidore, Donavan managed to pass to Edu who sent the ball behind the line. The goal was refused by the Malian referee. Why? Nobody knows.
Then the Chile-Switzerland game. When Chilean Parades crossed over to Gonsalez, the latter was well off-side. He nevertheless scored and the goal was granted.
During the same match, Swiss player Behrami got a red card from the Saudi referee for a minor fault. These mistaken decisions have more than often disastrous consequences for the final result.
The list is long. Against New Zealand, after a mild 'shirt-pulling', the Italian De Rossi fell spectacularly. The referee offered Italy a penalty. It was converted by Laquinta, giving the Italians a lead.
During the Brazil-Cote d'Ivoire encounter, French referee Stephane Lannoy expelled Real Madrid star Kaka on a gross simulation by Abdelkader Keita. Lannoy had earlier granted a goal to Luis Fabiano who controlled the ball first with his left arm and after dribbling Zokora and Toure touched the ball again with his upper right arm. Goal!
Was Kaka's expulsion compensation?
Where were the assistant referees?
Lannoy must have had some doubts. When he returned to the centre, he was seen discussing something with Fabiano, nodding his head and smiling.
The morale of the story: FIFA has an extremely serious problem which can easily be remedied by appointing a 'fifth official' (or video referee) who could be consulted by radio whenever there is a serious doubt.
It is done in other sports and it has brought a great improvement in fairness. Unfortunately, some FIFA officials argue that it would mean a loss of time.
It is a stupid argument. Justice is more important than a few minutes extra.
With vuvuzelas and whistles,
Image: Referee Ruiz shows France's Gourcuff the red card for a foul on South Africa's Sibaya. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters