After three weeks of compelling and often controversial action, the World Cup has been reduced from 32 to four teams.
On Tuesday, Germany and Italy will meet in the opening semi-final. France and Portugal will decide the other finalist on Wednesday.
A new champion will be crowned from the all-European final four on Sunday.
It's been a tournament filled with scandals on and off the pitch, breakthrough performances from the game's next generation and the end of an era for a handful of icons.
The Globe and Mail's Neil Campbell and Simon Beck were online Tuesday to discuss all the action with readers. Both soccer fanatics have covered the entire event in the Globe's unique and often off-beat blog.
Simon Beck is the Globe's Special Reports Editor and writes The Week column in Report on Business. He is (just) old enough to remember England's 1966 triumph on TV and is still waiting vainly for a repeat. A Londoner by birth, he supports Queen's Park Rangers, another team that has not won a trophy since the 1960s. His favourite World Cup team of all time is the elegant French side of the 1980s, led by Platini, Giresse and Tigana.
Neil Campbell is The Globe and Mail's executive editor and previously served as sports editor and editor of globeandmail.com. He covered several World Cups as a sports writer and sports columnist. He was born and raised not far from Ibrox, home of Rangers, and Love Street, home of St. Mirren. Those are his favourite teams, along with Scotland, Canada and whoever is playing Celtic and England. You can add Toronto FC to the list beginning next year. The $50 deposit for season tickets has already been paid.
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David Leeder, Sports Editor, globeandmail.com: Welcome Neil and Simon, thanks for joining us today. At times during the tournament, the action on the field has been overshadowed by the performance of the referees. However, it seems like that's a storyline in every international competition. Two questions for both of you to start us off:
1) Has the officiating been any worse during this World Cup than other recent tournaments?
2) Do you think FIFA president Sepp Blatter's announcement today that he supports a new booking system that would allow players to receive three yellow cards in a round before they're suspended for a match is a step in the right direction?
Simon Beck writes: Hi Dave, and hello to all you soccer fanatics out there. Isn't the World Cup just the best sporting event, period?
I don't think the refereeing has been any worse. The problem is FIFA's dogged insistence on set responses to certain fouls or misconduct. In the old days, referees would talk to players and calm them down and try to keep the match going before robotically producing yellow and red cards. Nowadays, the "one or two strikes and you're out" attitude that FIFA lays down ends up with players like Rooney and Materazzi being sent off for behaviour which really deserves a yellow at best. Red cards completely change the character of games, usually to their detriment. Also, two yellow cards don't always deserve a red.
As for Blatter's new idea, it just seems a desperate measure to solve the problem that he created. It's a good move, but once again, the crisis comes from FIFA's controlling attitude towards the refs and discipline on the field.
Neil Campbell writes: 1) I think the offside decisions have been poor but I actually think overall the standard of officiating hasn't been that bad. Most of the so-called controversial decisions have been correct, such as the decision on Saturday to send Rooney off for violent conduct. The U.S.-Italy game was well done, with correct red-card decisions on De Rossi and Mastroeni.
I think the Russian made a mistake in the Holland-Portugal match for not sending off the Dutch defender Bouhlarouz who went after Cristiano Ronaldo. He was booked but he should have been sent off. I know that's harsh because it was early but it would have settled the contest down.