Richard Hercock: Only England have vanished quicker than referee’s spray

The vanishing spray.

The vanishing spray.

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Every World Cup produces a new star and I have already decided on my favourite in Brazil.

And it has nothing to do with the actual football, but that amazing disappearing foam.

Suddenly referees have turned into an on-pitch Banksy, whipping out the spray can at free-kicks.

Not only do they produce a nice little semi-circle to make sure no-one can nudge the ball forward a few feet, but the referee then counts out the mandatory 10 yards and marks the boundary which defenders cannot encroach.

If you are a regular football follower, you will know how frustrating it is to see free-kicks crumble into disarray on a regular basis.

How many times has the attacking side tried to steal a few feet when the referee turns his back? Or the wall rush out to block the ball before it has been even kicked?

This foam - which disappears soon after - has been a huge help for officials and I would not be surprised to see it making its way into domestic football.

Much like goal line technology, this is something which can only help referees keep control on the grass.

Apparently, the foam spray has been used in South America - and Major League Soccer - for quite some time and it’s one which European football should adopt swiftly.

The first week of the World Cup has been memorable for many reasons, and not just my new-found love for foam.

The bubble that is Spanish football has burst, after humiliating defeats to the Netherlands and Chile - the latter being the surprise team of the tournament so far.

When they beat England at Wembley in a recent friendly, I didn’t really rate them, but they look right at home in Brazil and expect to see them reach the last eight at least on this form.

Not seen too much to impress me from the African nations. Cameroon were poor, again failing to reach the second round for their fifth successive World Cup. Algeria – before yesterday – Nigeria and Ghana have also failed to impress. Ivory Coast look like they will be the continent’s best hope.

I am not a betting man, but so far only the Dutch, France and Germany look like challenging a South American winner come July 5.

Thomas Muller, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben have been three of the tournament’s stars, but with hosts Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Argentina all playing well, my cash would be on the winner coming from one of those quartet.

Obviously, the pain of England’s early exit – they fly home after tomorrow’s game with Costa Rica – has subsided a little now.

We had chances against both Italy and Uruguay, failed to take them – most memorably against the latter when Wayne Rooney hit the woodwork from close-range – and were subsequently punished.

Did get me thinking though, the two strikers who punished England have learned their trade in England (Mario Balotelli and Luis Suarez). Another example to those who believe the Premier League has too much foreign talent which denies emerging English talent to get their chance at the top clubs.

Going back to the vanishing spray, the only thing that has surprised me is the spray can has not been sponsored. Watch this space.

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