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Only downside to a sparkling World Cup is that those in charge will benefit . . .

THERE is a downside to what we saw from Colombia's James Rodriguez, you know.

It is all very well us purring over the technique and the vision as this baby-faced new star chested a ball and thumped an unstoppable shot into Uruguay's net the other night, to further illuminate this wonderful World Cup, but that goal came at a cost.

The same can be said of all the other sparkling moments which have brightened our lives since this irrepressible carnival began 18 days ago. Neymar: this beautiful talent with ice in his veins. That Robin van Persie header, Arjen Robben's acceleration, the fall of the house of Spain. Tim Cahill's sumptuous volley, Chile's dynamism and chest-pumping patriotism.

The virtuoso displays from Andrea Pirlo and Luis Suarez to undo England. The joy of Costa Rica and France's early performances. Lionel Messi's goal against Iran, Germany routing Portugal, Ronaldo's cross for their equaliser against the USA. The scenes when the Americans reached the last 16.

The explosive celebrations when Algeria did. Fans in the brightest plumage packing every ground for every game. The people of Brazil hitting the streets and Copacabana to give the tournament all of their glorious colour and exuberance.

All of this and much, much more (the highest goals-per-game ratio since the 1970 finals) has led some to proclaim this the greatest World Cup there has ever been. Let's hold fire on that for now. Having been there for eight days and taken in three of the group games (including Spain's elimination) I'd happily be first in the queue to acclaim Brazil 2014 as the best tournament of all time but it has to be judged as a whole.

After two days of knock-out play the signs are encouraging but if teams tighten up from the quarter-finals the perception of the games will shift and the sunshine will cloud over. The rate of goals inevitably drops as the better teams congregate from the last eight onwards and there will be matches which look mouthwatering on paper only to peter out into two well-coached, highly-capable teams cancelling each other out.

But fingers crossed. While there remains the prospect of a Brazil-Argentina final in the Maracana, this World Cup is rich with possibilities.

But there really is a downside to all of this intoxicating football, or at least a highly unfortunate byproduct. In the week we spent in Rio de Janeiro, and the subsequent visit to Sao Paulo, I never set eyes on a single anti-FIFA protest (although there were reports of small demonstrations and gestures here and there). That was either because a vigilant and intimidating local police presence has deterred the protesters (for now) or else the tournament has been so popular among the general public that demonstrations would be clearly counter-cultural and unpopular, at least while Brazil's own team survives as a contender.

Neymar, James Rodriguez, and the supporting cast of superstars have let FIFA off the hook over the past three weeks. Their skill, commitment, athleticism and professionalism have shone through. They have delivered football so vibrant and compelling that the daily news agenda has been filled, thank you very much, without recourse to the story which dominated the pre-tournament headlines and has disappeared while remaining as alarming and relevant as ever.

Remember that devastating investigation and allegations from The Sunday Times' Insight team? That former FIFA vice-president Mohamed bin Hammam used a £3m slush fund to buy support for his bid for the presidency and also to aid Qatar's successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup? (Accusations the Qataris deny). FIFA's chief ethics investigator Michael Garcia - who was nearing the end of his own investigation into how Qatar won the bid - said he was already aware of the millions of emails and documents the Insight reporters said they possessed to underpin the corruption allegations. Blatter, beneath contempt, accused the newspaper of racism.

Qatar, with its grotesque exploitation of migrant workers and its baking summer climate incompatible with top-class football, is still on course to host the World Cup after next. Garcia's report is due to be published towards the end of July. Let us just say president Sepp Blatter is not quaking in his shoes at the prospect of his empire collapsing.

James Rodriguez, Neymar and plenty of others have had an excellent World Cup so far but so has FIFA. The new stadiums were ready, after all, and there have been no major problems with transport, accommodation or crime. Even the governing body's handling of Suarez's biting was decisive and unequivocal. The cynics among us expected a mealy-mouthed "punishment" to leave the door open for one of the tournament's biggest stars to keep playing pending an appeals process. But no, Suarez was stripped of his tournament accreditation and virtually frogmarched out of the country.

Running a successful World Cup means nothing when it comes to the accusations FIFA face. Let's hope peaceful protests return as the World Cup comes to its climax because FIFA and the Brazilian government deserve all the criticism they get. This tournament has been fantastic and the one disappointment is it has taken the heat off those who rule the governing body.

Blatter and his cohorts, enjoying the luxury of the Copacabana Palace Hotel, must be laughing up their sleeves about all of this. As usual.

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