With the USA-Portugal game bringing an exciting close to the second game for each team in the Group Stage, it’s time to look back and see how the picks are doing, as well as pointing out a couple of important storylines to watch that could be huge if the right dominoes fall.
Speaking of the USA-Portugal game… Damn it! That goal with thirty seconds left in extra time… How did the USA not hold them??? I’m writing this ten minutes after the game ended, and it hasn’t quite sunk in. Later on, in the Group G section, I’ll explain the ramifications of the tie.
By the way, if you haven’t already, check out https://sushionsports.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/the-world-cup-preview/ for the World Cup Preview and https://sushionsports.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/world-cup-recap-first-games/ for the recap of every team’s first game to ensure that you’re not totally lost as we head through this article.
Brazil 0-0 against Mexico
Croatia 4-0 over Cameroon
After their 0-0 tie, Mexico and Brazil are tied atop the group. This is a big problem. Remember the game that Mexico won, 1-0, against Cameroon? In that game, Mexico should have won 3-0 because of two bogus offsides calls that the referee screwed up. This would normally be fine except for one thing: goal differential. Let’s say Brazil beats Cameroon (very likely) and Mexico beats Croatia (probable). Let’s say that each team wins their game by one goal. In that scenario, Mexico and Brazil would be tied for first place, except that Brazil would win first place because they had a +3 goal differential after beating Croatia by two, tying Mexico, and, in this scenario, beating Cameroon by one. Mexico would have a +2 goal differential because they beat Cameroon by one, tied Brazil, and beat Croatia by one. This would result in Brazil winning the tiebreaker over Mexico and taking first place in Group A. There’s just one problem: if that referee hadn’t screwed up those two offsides calls, then Mexico would have a better goal differential than Brazil, would have, in a huge upset, won the group, and would have faced second place in Group B (the loser of Netherlands-Chile). There would be rioting on the streets of Mexico. Of course, this scenario may not end up happening, but if it did, FIFA would have a lot of explaining to do.
My picks are very likely to be perfect. It’s almost guaranteed that Brazil beats Cameroon, clinching Cameroon last place and giving Brazil the inside track to first place. Croatia needs to win and it moves into second place, while Mexico just needs to hold Croatia to a tie in order to keep second place in order to move on to the knockout rounds.
Chile 2-0 over Spain
Netherlands 3-2 over Australia
Well, this group, one of the craziest groups in the World Cup so far (them or Group D), has lost almost all of its’ intrigue. The top two and bottom two spots are decided. Spain and Australia are both 0-2-0, tied for last place, each with zero points. The upcoming game between them is interesting because it’s a chance to see whether or not tiki-taka and the Spanish soccer dynasty are truly gone. It’s understandable that Spain may have gotten worse and moved down a level, and then, accordingly, got destroyed by two superior teams. However, if they lose to Australia, one of the worst teams in the tournament, then it’ll be clear that Spain is done. Those are the stakes for this match.
The other match, between Chile and the Netherlands, has more immediate importance. The winner of the game wins the group. If they tie, the Netherlands wins the group because of goal differential. Assuming that Brazil wins Group A, (as we talked about earlier) the loser of this match will have to go play Brazil, where they’ll be an overwhelming underdog against the best team in the tournament. The loser will get to play Mexico, or less likely, Croatia, a much easier task.
For my picks, it’s quite simple: Spain needs to beat Australia (because if they lose, Australia goes ahead of them, and if they tie, Australia wins on goal differential) to finish third, and the Netherlands cannot lose to Chile; otherwise, they take first place.
- Ivory Coast
Colombia 2-1 over Ivory Coast
Greece 0-0 against Japan
Colombia has complete control of this group and will win it unless something crazy happens. For Columbia to come in second, they would have to lose to Japan, Ivory Coast would have to beat Greece, AND the four goal advantage that Columbia has over Ivory Coast would have to be erased. As I said, it’ll take something crazy and pretty much unprecedented for Ivory Coast to win the group. Greece tied Japan so they’re tied for last place with one point apiece. To finish third, Greece needs to win and have Japan tie or lose, or tie and have Japan lose. I suppose that they could also win by three (or one) while Japan wins by one, but that’s highly unlikely. Luckily, Greece is playing Ivory Coast while Japan is pitted against Colombia, so Greece is more likely to tie or win than Japan is. Of course, Colombia is almost guaranteed first place, so they may not be playing as hard as they could, while Ivory Coast will be doing its’ best to lock up a spot in the knockout rounds. This is too confusing. Let’s just continue with Group D.
- Costa Rica
Uruguay 2-1 over England
Costa Rica 1-0 over Italy
Well, this was a disaster. England flopped, Costa Rica decided to be really good, and Uruguay didn’t have Luis Suarez, only its’ best player, for their match against Costa Rica, which they lost. Costa Rica will almost certainly take first place, barring a historic meltdown. England cannot advance, although they could, potentially, make it to third place, which would at least give me a point. The winner of Uruguay-Italy moves into (almost certainly) second place and will head across the bracket to face (highly likely) Colombia. If Italy and Uruguay tie, Italy moves on, based on goal differential, as they lost to Costa Rica by just one goal, as opposed to Uruguay’s two goal defeat. For Uruguay, their game is a win and in. I’ll be cheering for them desperately. If they win, I salvage a point, Italy will likely move into third place, getting me another three points, and, on top of that, I picked Uruguay to be the runner-up, losing to Germany in the Finals so, although that almost certainly can’t happen anymore (because they’ll be on the same side of the bracket as Germany if they come in second place and Germany comes in first) but at least it’s not as bad as saying that your runner-up pick flamed out in the group stage. Anyways, this is making me sad. Let’s move on to Group E!
France 5-2 over Switzerland
Ecuador 2-1 over Honduras
These picks aren’t too bad. France is almost a lock to come in first. Honduras is almost a lock for last. The intrigue comes with the middle two teams. Switzerland is likely to advance because, although they’re currently tied in points, Switzerland gets to play Honduras, while Ecuador has to play France. Still, if France doesn’t play as hard as they could and Honduras rises to the occasion, then Ecuador could capture second place. Unfortunately for me, although it could happen, it’s not likely. Wow this is a dull group. I don’t have anything else to say. There’s really not much interesting to talk about over here. I suppose we should just talk about Messi and Argentina instead.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
Argentina 1-0 over Iran
Nigeria 1-0 over Bosnia and Herzegovina
Argentina has looked startlingly weak this World Cup. They haven’t looked like a member of the Elite Four that I mentioned in the World Cup Preview column. Then again, nor have Spain. Huh. This really has been a weird World Cup. Anyways, Argentina only beat Bosnia and Herzegovina by a goal, and it took a clutch goal by Lionel Messi a minute into stoppage time to escape Iran. They really have not looked sharp. At least they lucked into an easy group like Brazil did, so their flaws aren’t as evident. Of course, look at Spain. They got stuck with a tough group and got destroyed. Brazil and Argentina should be worried that that’ll happen to them too, except on an even bigger stage during the knockout rounds, with the whole world watching. The possible decline of Argentina is a huge factor to watch. Bosnia and Herzegovina (Can I call them B&H for shorthand? Wait… That’s either a camera store or a bagel place. Damn it! The world needs to come up with a good abbreviation for Bosnia and Herzegovina) are eliminated from the tournament after their loss to Nigeria, so I can’t get that pick perfect. It seems likely that Bosnia and Herzegovina and Nigeria will switch places so, at the very least, I’ll gain a point from each of them.
Germany 2-2 against Ghana
USA 2-2 against Portugal
Let’s start with the game less likely to get me angry: Germany-Ghana. Ghana managed to hold on and tie Germany, keeping them alive, barely. Now for Portugal-USA. Ugh. I watched the game, and watched with pure horror as the shot from Graham Zusi looked to be going wide. Then, as quick as could be, that horror turned to elation as I realized “Hey, wait a second… THAT’S A PASS” before the house erupted with roars of triumph. Of course, none of that compared to the feeling that we had been robbed after Ronaldo made a beautiful pass with thirty seconds left that resulted in a header, slipping past Howard for the deciding goal. Damn it! Anyways, the USA is still in good shape. If they tie or win their game against Germany, then they’re in. If they lose, then it gets trickier. If the United States loses to Germany, then they’ll need for either Portugal to win (as long as it’s not by four goals or more) or for there to be a tie. If Ghana wins, then it gets even trickier. If Ghana wins by more than one goal, they’re in and America is out. If they win 1-0, America is in. If they win 2-1, then the two teams draw lots to see who advances. If Ghana wins 3-2 or higher, then Ghana advances. Regardless, I’ll be cheering for Portugal and the USA, although I’ll try to keep it a secret that I’d actually prefer for there to be a tie or a Germany win. Of course, since Germany is so good, that shouldn’t be much of a problem. No matter how good the United States has looked, they still can’t play with the best teams in the world.
- South Korea
Belgium 1-0 over Russia
Algeria 4-2 over South Korea
Belgium is almost guaranteed to take first place. Other than them, this group is up for grabs. Algeria currently is in second place and has good goal differential, giving them an advantage over South Korea and Russia. If Algeria ties Russia, then they clinch second place. Belgium will still be playing hard to at least get a tie so they can stay in first and avoid (probably) Germany in their first game of the knockout rounds, so South Korea doesn’t have an advantage there. If Algeria loses to Russia and South Korea beats Belgium, then Algeria falls to last place with three points, while Russia and South Korea would be tied for second with four points. Russia has a one goal advantage against South Korea so South Korea would need to beat Belgium by one more goal than Russia beats Algeria by to win the tiebreaker by having scored more goals. Still, they would have to do it against the Belgians, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, and Thibaut Cortois, so it’s not particularly likely. Russia seems to have the inside track to the second place spot, while South Korea is likely to finish third. Here, at least, my picks seem to be in reasonably good shape.
Anyways, the upcoming games should be incredibly exciting. Each group has its’ two games playing at once so, at about the same time, each group will be decided. I am psyched, and it’ll be great to cheer on Team USA against Germany. U-S-A! U-S-A! Enjoy the games, everybody, and thanks for reading.
Dear Blogger Sir,
Would you care to comment on the virtual disappearance of top-rated European teams (Spain, England, Italy, etc) going into the knockout phase? As of today there are only 3 European teams going into the knockouts. Your thoughts on the long-range significance?