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... oh, good.

5–1 to Netherlands? As an avowed Spanish – and, moreover, Casillas – fan, I probably shouldn't be excited about that result. But honestly, when they were up 1–0, and off a penalty no less, I couldn't help feeling that would be the worst possible result to take into the competition. Not only is it not interesting, that kind of middle ground is a slow-bleed death for their temperament, and I would have spent the entire tournament waiting for them to fizzle out somewhere around the quarter finals with the sound of the last bit of air leaving the balloon. They needed to either come out and DOMINATE from the very beginning, or get smacked down and have a fire lit under their ass. When van Persie scored with that incredible header, I was out-and-out relieved.

Granted, this was a rather hotter fire than is comfortable, but way, waaayy more interesting now. Is the team's hard-won cohesion real, or will they return to their former, very real Spectacular Implosion ways? Will they hold together now that they aren't buoyed by the momentum and the pride of victory? Do they have the mental toughness to rally with their poise and confidence? Moreover, does Casillas himself have the fortitude to come back from that performance, and all the criticism that will be levelled at him for it?

(Spoiler: he does. Every keeper has bad games; if I had to pick any one in the world who could shake off one like that, it would be him. I was hurting for him in the second half – even more because from the beginning his presence couldn't be felt in the team and their play, which is unusual with him/them, but does happen occasionally – but soothed instantly by the way he walked off the field at the end.)

He, like his team, is passionate and mercurial and very, very skilled. He, like his team, this day was a little sloppy (yes, only a little; it doesn't take much, and that back-pass was just a little badly weighted and just a little off-target, and his touch was just a little loose) and unfortunate that they were having one of those days against the Dutch who were ready and able to make them pay (and pay and pay). He, like his team, took an absolute hiding. I'm a terrible fan, I know, but whether they go out in the group stage or make it all the way, I'd rather see what they do now they're knocked down to the very bottom than watch them wander around at the top (hi Dean! *waves*). And not just in this World Cup, but to see how they come out at the Euro Cup in two years. (And to be fair, winning three international championships in a row is not to be sneezed at.) (It's all so very Spanish. I love it.)

Now to watch the young and somewhat confused Australia team, having lost the steady experience of Schwarzer at the back, begin their inevitable meander to the exit, which is less frustrating than the damn SBS panel. (I want Les back. Fozz too. *cranky pout*) Spider, dude, I've forborne with some latent affection for you, and I know you guys are all flailing around for Insightful Things to say (none of you being naturally gifted in this area), but that lack of confidence is yours, not Casillas'. The kindest thing for him would be del Bosque leaving him out for the rest of the tournament? Dude. If anyone ever needed proof for why you were always second-choice for keeper....

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January 2016
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