Tag Archives: 2014 World Cup

The Knockout Rounds Preview

https://i0.wp.com/i.imgur.com/N3H6MAp.png

That certainly was an exciting Group Stage. There were blowouts, shutouts, high scoring games, and low scoring games, and that was all in just Group G. Favorites crapped the bed (looking at you, Spain), underdogs pulled off surprising and unlikely victories (nice job, Nigeria, Greece, Costa Rica) and there was craziness throughout. Luis Suarez even got so hungry during a game that he had a bite of Italian food. Of course, that “Italian food” was really the shoulder of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, but still.

In my pool, I came in second, losing narrowly in a competition that went down to the wire. In the end, I ended up losing on that horrible play by Ivory Coast when they fouled someone on Greece INSIDE THE PENALTY BOX, DURING EXTRA TIME, DURING A TIE GAME, WHEN ALL THEY NEEDED TO ADVANCE WAS A TIE!!!!! I mean, how stupid can you get?!?!?! In case you hadn’t noticed, I may be a little bit bitter about that.

Anyways, I figured that, rather than rehashing my picks again, I’d preview each match in the knockout rounds, along with my picks for each game, all the way to the championship game.

Round of 16:

Brazil vs. Chile:

Chile plays a frenzied and energetic style that often leads to high scoring games, either because they score a bunch of goals, or give a bunch of them up. Their game against the Netherlands was huge because the loser had to play Brazil, the favorite to win the tournament, while the winner got to play Mexico, a much easier opponent. Chile lost, 2-0, so here they are.

Brazil didn’t look very sharp in its first two games, but really rounded into form against Cameroon, winning 4-1, showing that they deserved the pre-tournament status as the favorite.

As you know, I like South American teams a lot, but, since both teams are from South America, there’s no advantage for either team. Although I like Chile a lot, I think Brazil has more than enough to beat them.

THE PICK: Brazil

The Netherlands vs. Mexico:
Mexico is a pretty good team. They drew an easy group, and took advantage of it, beating Cameroon 1-0 (should have been 3-0), beating Croatia 3-1, and tying the tournament’s favorite, Brazil, 2-2. Outside of a shaky few months during qualifying, Mexico has been a pretty good team for a few years.

The Netherlands have been one of the surprise teams of the tournament. In the tough Group B with three very good teams, most people (including me) predicted that the Netherlands would be the odd team out. Instead, they won their group in resounding fashion with the maximum nine points. They were the first to show the world that Spain was no longer a very good team, winning 5-1, regressed slightly against Australia, winning 3-2, before easily beating Chile 2-0, to capture first place.

The Netherlands have Robin van Persie, ripped through a tough group, and have been playing very well. Mexico did well in an easy group, and have been playing very well for three games. Although it’ll be closer than expected, the Netherlands should beat Mexico with relative ease.

THE PICK: The Netherlands

Columbia vs. Uruguay

Uruguay beat England and Italy, two good teams, with Luis Suarez. Without him, they lost 3-1 to Costa Rica, a team that is generally not considered to be among the soccer powerhouses of the world. Luis Suarez makes a huge difference for this Uruguay team, and without him, they’re crippled. After the biting incident, FIFA banned Suarez for the next nine matches (and four months), meaning that he’s out for this game, along with the rest of the World Cup.

Columbia ripped through a creampuff group, with a combined score of the three games of 9-2. Because of their easy draw, no one is quite sure how good Columbia is. Uruguay was supposed to be that test, but it seems as though it’s not meant to be. If they advance and Brazil doesn’t get upset by Chile, Columbia should be able to test their mettle against the Brazilians.

With Suarez, Uruguay would be a trendy upset pick to defeat Columbia. Without him, they have next to no chance. Columbia should easily defeat Uruguay.

THE PICK: Columbia

Costa Rica vs. Greece

Greece only advanced because of a brain fart by the Ivory Coast. A Greek player was fouled inside the box in a tie game in extra time, needing a victory to advance. They scored on the penalty kick and advanced.

Costa Rica took advantage of the weakened Uruguay team when they didn’t have Suarez, barely beat Italy, and tied against England. Although they’re probably better than what they were originally assumed to be, they’re still not a great team. Of course, the lucked into an easy matchup, so they’ll continue to seem like a better team than they are.

In the most underwhelming matchup of the knockout rounds, Costa Rica should beat Greece, continuing its Cinderella run for at least another round.

THE PICK: Costa Rica

France vs. Nigeria

Nigeria is not a particularly good team. It was good enough to advance, but that’s largely due to being in an easy group alongside Iran, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Argentina, not because of their own talent.

France, after years of disappointing showings by their national team, destroyed Honduras and Switzerland, 3-0 and 5-2, respectively, before tying Ecuador 0-0 in a game that they didn’t care much about.

France has looked dominant so far and against a weak opponent in Nigeria, they should easily advance.

THE PICK: France

Argentina vs. Switzerland

Switzerland, despite being ranked in FIFA’s top eight, is not a great team. It escaped against Ecuador, was whipped by France, and easily dispatched Honduras. They’re not a bad team per se, but when compared to other teams in FIFA’s top eight, Switzerland is found sorely lacking.

Argentina didn’t play very well in the Group Stage, despite being in an easy group. They won all three games, coming away with the maximum nine points, but never really dominated, only winning each game by a single goal. Still, they have Lionel Messi, the best player in the world, and in the end, that’s really all that matters.

Switzerland will show why it shouldn’t be considered a top eight team worldwide, Messi will continue to be Messi, and Argentina should easily advance.

THE PICK: Argentina

Germany vs. Algeria

Algeria was considered to be the worst team in the tournament but somehow managed to advance because of their easy group. Outside of an explosion against South Korea in which they scored four goals, they have mostly looked like the team people thought they were at the start of the tournament.

Germany was my pre-tournament pick to win it all, and, on the whole, they’ve largely vindicated my prediction. They dominated Portugal (albeit a ten-man one), tied Ghana, and beat the United States.

In a game between one of the best teams in the tournament and one of the worst, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a huge blowout by four goals, but Germany should dominate Algeria with ease and move on to the quarterfinals.

THE PICK: Germany

Belgium vs. United States

The United States have looked very good so far. They beat Ghana, dominated Portugal for most of their game, and played Germany tough. With the rising interest in soccer throughout the United States, they’re going to have the whole country behind them.

Belgium, although it advanced with nine points, did not play well. They won 2-1 against Algeria before winning consecutive 1-0 games against Russia and South Korea. They should have dominated in an easy group, but did not do as well as they should have.

Call me a homer, but I haven’t made an upset pick yet, and I think the United States has a better chance than most underdogs to upset their opponent to advance to the quarterfinals.

THE PICK: United States

The Quarterfinals:

Brazil vs. Columbia

Columbia, although less heralded than Brazil, is a very good team. Unfortunately for them, Brazil is a superior team to them on a neutral pitch. When they’re playing in Brazil, in a stadium with thousands and thousands of Brazilian supporters cheering on their team, I can’t imagine that Columbia manages to overcome the overwhelming home field advantage of the Brazilians.

THE PICK: Brazil

The Netherlands vs. Costa Rica

Here’s where Costa Rica’s Cinderella journey comes to an end: against a superior team that isn’t weakened by injuries that has rolled through its competition so far. It would be a huge upset for Costa Rica to play on an even level against the Netherlands, let alone defeat them.

THE PICK: The Netherlands

France vs. Germany

France has looked like a great team during this World Cup. They’ve looked like they deserve to be in the first tier of favorites, alongside Germany, Argentina, and Brazil, after dominating . However, they have yet to play a team that’s half as good as Germany.

Germany, on the other hand, has played some tough teams in Group G, and despite advancing past Algeria in an easy win, has proved itself worthy of the title “co-favorite”. Their run won’t stop against France, and Germany should continue to advance.

THE PICK: Germany

Argentina vs. United States

The United States have played well so far. They beat Ghana, dominated Portugal before tying them, played Germany tough, and beat Belgium. Still, they have yet to see an individual player as dominant as Lionel Messi, nor a team as good as Argentina (I think that Germany is slightly worse than Argentina). Their run to the championship game should fall short in the quarterfinals against Argentina.

THE PICK: Argentina

The Semifinals:

Brazil vs. Germany

While Columbia is a very good team, it’s clearly not on the level of Brazil. Germany is a different story. Germany, while slightly inferior to Brazil, is an elite team. This is the game where I think that home field advantage will turn out to be a curse for the Brazilians. I talked about this more in The World Cup Preview (go read it), but I believed then and I believe now that both the social and political pressure on the Brazilian team will finally make the team collapse. I figured that the pressure wouldn’t matter against inferior opponents, but Germany is on Brazil’s level. I thought then that the team that beats Brazil would be Germany, in the semfinals, and I still believe that.

THE PICK: Germany

The Netherlands vs. Argentina

Argentina will make it to the semifinals because their quarter of the bracket is the weakest one, alongside the quarter that the Netherlands is in. Argentina is a team that needs Messi to be incredible every game and to be otherworldly against good teams.

On the other hand, the Netherlands has a multifaceted attack, speared by Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie. This attack dominated Group B, winning all three games with a couple of resounding victories. In this game, at least, the Netherlands has the advantage, and will likely be rewarded with a second consecutive trip to the World Cup Finals.

THE PICK: The Netherlands

The Third Place Game:

Argentina vs. Brazil

Both teams rely on an elite attacker (Messi and Neymar, respectively). Both teams are not as deep overall as some other teams. Both teams are South American. There are a lot of similarities between these two sides.

In this potential match, the most important factor is the reaction of Brazil (not the team, the country) to their loss to Germany in the semifinals. Do they support the team? Are they disappointed or angry, further exacerbating the cracks in the team’s foundation? That question will determine the results of this match.

In the end, I’ll have to lean towards Argentina. I think that the Brazilian fans will be devastated by the loss and will blame the team for the government’s lavish spending on hosting the World Cup. Of course, I could be completely wrong as I’m not exactly an expert on the reactions of South American fans to brutal losses to their national soccer team, but this is my column and my picks, so you’re just gonna have to roll with it. Okay? If you disagree or just want to lob insults at me, just head over to the comments section to voice those complaints.

THE PICK: Argentina

The Championship Game:

The Netherlands vs. Germany

The famed home field advantage of the South American teams won’t come into play in this scenario as both teams are from Europe. This scenario will result in the first time a European team wins a World Cup on South American soil.

Germany is deep throughout its roster, with players young and old melding seamlessly into an elite team, the best offensive team in the world, and a member of the Elite Three (no longer the Elite Four after Spain’s demise).

The Netherlands is a little more top heavy than Germany, but still has a relatively even roster. It’s got elite players in van Persie and Robben and was good enough to dominate in a Group of Death and to advance this far in my predictions. Still, I think that for the second straight World Cup, the Netherlands will fall short in the Finals.

THE PICK: Germany

No matter what happens, it’ll be great to watch the best teams in the world go head to head in the battle for supremacy and I, like the rest of the world, can’t wait to see it.

Advertisements

World Cup Recap: Second Games

https://i1.wp.com/pdxpipeline.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/World-Cup-2014-Brasil-logo.jpg

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.

Group A:

My Picks:

  1. Brazil
  2. Mexico
  3. Croatia
  4. Cameroon

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.

Group B:

My Picks:

  1. Spain
  2. Chile
  3. Netherlands
  4. Australia

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.

Group C:

My Picks:

  1. Colombia
  2. Ivory Coast
  3. Greece
  4. Japan

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.

Group D:

My Picks:

  1. Uruguay
  2. England
  3. Italy
  4. 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!

Group E:

My Picks:

  1. France
  2. Ecuador
  3. Switzerland
  4. Honduras

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.

Group F:

My Picks:

  1. Argentina
  2. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  3. Nigeria
  4. Iran

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.

Group G:

My Picks:

  1. Germany
  2. USA
  3. Portugal
  4. Ghana

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.

Group H:

My Picks:

  1. Belgium
  2. Russia
  3. South Korea
  4. Algeria

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.