Tag Archives: FIFA

The Knockout Rounds Preview

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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.

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World Cup Recap: First Games

 

With Russia-South Korea bringing an end to the first games for every team in the World Cup, I figured that it’d be a good thing to take a quick jaunt through the sixteen games played and to check up on my picks for each group (if you haven’t read about those yet, go read https://sushionsports.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/the-world-cup-preview/. The rules for this pool are outlined near the top of that article so for you to understand this one fully, it might be a good idea to go to that article.). And, another advantage of writing something like this is that it allows people who haven’t been following the World Cup so far to get into it. With that, let’s get started!

Group A:

My Picks:

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

Brazil 3-1 over Croatia

Mexico 1-0 over Cameroon

Outside of an own goal by Marcelo, Brazil thoroughly dominated their game against Croatia, winning 3-1, while Mexico could have beaten Cameroon 3-0 if not for a couple of bogus offsides calls by the refs, instead beating them 1-0.

My picks are in very good shape. Cameroon looks to be the worst team in the group while Brazil is clearly the class of the group. It seems as though I chose correctly when I took Mexico over Croatia, as Mexico looked a lot better than Croatia did.

My picks seem to be very good. Of course, it’s not gonna stay that way for long.

Group B:

My picks:

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

Netherlands 5-1 over Spain

Chile 3-1 over Australia

Chile took care of business against Australia, winning 3-1, while the Netherlands utterly destroyed Spain, 5-1, in part due to the early frontrunner for goal of the tournament: Van Persie’s header.

My picks here… Not exactly so great. In a vacuum, I didn’t pick well. The Netherlands are likely going to win the group, with Chile in second, Spain in third, and Australia in fourth. That means I picked badly.

However, everyone picked Spain to be first. If Spain comes in third, then we all get zero points which doesn’t matter in a competition. However, everyone in the pool picked either Chile or the Netherlands to come in second. If the Netherlands comes in first and Chile comes in second, then I earn three points from getting Chile right, but the Netherlands completely wrong. If Chile wins the group and the Netherlands place second, then I get partial credit for each one, only netting me two points. In a nutshell, I’m a Netherlands fan from now until the end of the group stage.

Group C:

My picks:

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

Colombia 3-0 over Greece

Ivory Coast 2-1 over Japan

Colombia easily beat Greece three-nil, while the Ivory Coast had a come from behind victory to defeat Japan 2-1.

My picks are doing quite well. Colombia showed that it’s easily the best team in this group while the Ivory Coast showed that it can defeat inferior teams but is inconsistent enough that a good team can beat them. The only part I’m not pleased with is the Greece in third, Japan in fourth picks. Japan showed that it isn’t a bad team and that it can play with some good teams, while Greece showed that they’re really bad after getting mashed by Colombia. Still, it’s not a huge problem as of now, because, assuming that Greece and Japan lose to both Colombia and Ivory Coast, their matchup will decide who gets third. Greece will probably need to either win or tie that game because their goal differential right now is -3, compared to Japan’s -1. At least I’m in good shape for now.

Group D:

My picks:

  1. Uruguay
  2. England
  3. Italy
  4. Costa Rica

Costa Rica 3-1 over Uruguay

Italy 2-1 over England

Costa Rica upset Uruguay, 3-1, although Uruguay didn’t have its’ best player, Luis Suarez, while Italy beat England 2-1 in an exciting and competitive game.

I’m not doing well at all with these picks. There’s a decent chance that I don’t get any points at all from this group. As Uruguay has a bad goal differential, it’s behind England in the standings. Its’ only hope for advancement is to run up the score on England in their next match while hoping that the game between Italy and Costa Rica isn’t a tie AND still having to win their game against Italy while hoping that the loser of Costa Rica-Italy either loses or ties, or tying against Italy while hoping that the loser of Costa Rica-Italy loses. Either way, I’m not in the best of shape. England needs the same scenario as played out above (with their opponents switched in for Uruguay’s, obviously) to advance as well.  Italy and Costa Rica each need a win in their last two games in order to clinch their ticket to the knockout rounds, depending on the goal differential.

Group E:

My picks:

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

France 3-0 over Honduras

Switzerland 2-1 over Ecuador

France easily dispatched Honduras after a red card forced Honduras to play with ten players, while Switzerland and Ecuador were even throughout their game until a late goal by Switzerland in extra time gave them the victory.

Well, I’m, at least, in pretty good shape in this group. France looks like they’ll be able to run away with the group and Honduras pretty clearly looks like the clear favorite for last place, leaving Ecuador and Switzerland fighting for the group’s second spot in the knockout rounds. Ecuador is at a severe disadvantage in that race after losing to Switzerland. For it to vault past Switzerland, it’ll need to run up the score against Honduras, while hoping France beats Switzerland. Then, assuming that they have a better goal differential than the Swiss, Ecuador just needs to match whatever Switzerland does (i.e. win-win, tie-tie, loss-loss) in order to advance. If they don’t have a better goal differential, they’ll need to have a win to a Swiss tie or loss or a tie to a Swiss loss. If Switzerland manages to tie, or even beat, the French, then Ecuador will have almost no chance at advancing, although if Switzerland beat France, Ecuador would play France in their last game, meaning that they would just have to beat France in order to advance alongside Switzerland.

Group F:
My picks:

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

Argentina 2-1 over Bosnia and Herzegovina

Nigeria 0-0 against Iran

Argentina escaped against Bosnia and Herzegovina, winning 2-1, a close scrape for a team that is widely believed to be in championship contention, while Nigeria and Iran combined for a 0-0 tie, the first tie of the tournament, in the thirteenth game. Who says soccer is boring?

Everything is in good shape here. Argentina should run away with the group, Bosnia and Herzegovina (wow, that’s annoying to type) should beat up on the bottom two teams, while Nigeria and Iran will duke it out for third place. For me, all I need is for the top two teams to beat up on Nigeria a little less than Iran so Nigeria will have third place over Iran on the tiebreaker of goal differential.

Group G:

My picks:

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

Germany 4-0 over Portugal

America 2-1 over Ghana

Germany walked all over Portugal, winning 4-0, especially after Pepe received a red card, making the Portugese play with ten men. Thomas Müeller got a hat trick for Germany. America beat Ghana 2-1, in an exciting game in which Ghana dominated the flow of play for most of the game. America scored thirty seconds in before a stalemate for more than 80 minutes. Ghana scored to tie it up, but a couple of minutes later, the United States scored to take the lead 2-1 and to eventually win the game.

I’m in great shape in this group. Germany, especially with its’ huge goal differential after its’ 4-0 victory, is a huge favorite to capture the number one spot. America is likely to capture second place after their win and because Pepe’s red card which will keep him out of Portugal’s next game, against the Americans, making the United States more likely to win that game too. Portugal has a horrible goal differential and it’s at a severe disadvantage against the United States (because of Pepe’s absence) so it’ll need to beat Ghana in their third game to capture third place. Luckily for me, that’s a probable outcome as Portugal is a better team than Ghana.

Group H:

My picks:

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

Belgium 2-1 over Algeria

Russia 1-1 against South Korea

Belgium dealt with Algeria, 2-1, while Russia let in an embarrassing goal to give South Korea a tie, 1-1.

My picks here are also doing quite well. Belgium has the lead by two points and are likely to take first place. Algeria has zero points and are at a disadvantage against South Korea in the race for third place because of South Korea’s tie with Russia. The gap between Russia and South Korea is smaller than it seemed before the tournament, but there’s still enough of a gap for it to be likely for Russia to take Group H’s second berth in the knockout rounds.

By the way, sorry for this being posted so late. I had finals and all the rest. Now that school’s over, hopefully I’ll have more time to write. Speaking of which, the next article out should be recapping the second game for each team. After that, there’s the NBA draft which I plan on writing a draft diary for. Then there’ll be an article recapping the third game for each team, then one previewing the knockout rounds, and then… who knows?

Anyways, there should be a bunch of great games on over the next few weeks and we’ll all be watching, alongside of the rest of the world.