Friday, June 27, 2014

The Knockouts

So we have completed group play and to say there were a few surprises would be a monumental understatement for what so far has been the best World Cup ever. Choose your measuring stick, but whether you use goals or lead changes or surprise winners or competitive games, it has had it all.

When the dust settled, though, you had some real surprises in certain areas, and not big surprises in others.

Clearly, Costa Rica punched well above its weight in a group as deathly as the one the USA was in. In fact, the three opponents were probably tougher than what the USA faced except that Ghana was the American's executioner two World Cups in a row, which has its own gravitas to it. But they didn't just survive, they won the group - not necessarily easily, but certainly convincingly.

Greece found a way to surprise the Ivory Coast late to steal the second spot from their group.

Algeria also surprised, fighting to earn a big win over South Korea and a tie against Russia when they needed it.

The Swiss used their successful opening win against Ecuador to survive a flood of goals from France. That wasn't entirely a surprise considering the quality of the Swiss, but some thought that Ecuador had the quality to get out of the group at the expense of one of the Europeans. I, though, clearly underestimated France. I thought the team would lose some confidence with the loss of Ribery, but clearly that was anything but true.

On the opposite end of Costa Rica's success was Honduras' poor performance. There were others, but with the other CONCACAF teams doing so well, Honduras seemed pale by comparison.

I, for one, was not at all surprised that Mexico got out of the group, nor was I surprised by them tying Brazil. I do think that Brazil has shaken off a sluggish start and will give Chile all they can handle tomorrow.

I don't even know what to say about Suarez and Uruguay, other than to say someone in his inner circle needs to find a way to get him some help. He is such a talented player, to see him act in such a way is more than disappointing. The conventional wisdom now is that Uruguay won't advance, and I can't disagree with that.

So let's get into the specifics.

Brazil-Chile ought to be a fantastic game, close enough that either team could win. Playing at home should help Brazil, but Chile has the confidence of beating Spain to lean on.

Colombia is on a run of games that is fantastic to behold. Playing a weakened Uruguay side should work to the Colombian's benefit.

France should not have much trouble with Nigeria and Germany should beat Algeria, setting up a fantastic quarterfinal match.

Holland-Mexico ought to be a great match. Both teams come in with bags of confidence, although I think most would say Holland is more talented. Do not, though, doubt a Mexico side feeling strong.

I hope Costa Rica can get a result against Greece. Considering how the Eastern Europeans have fare so far, that isn't out of the realm of possibility.

Argentina has not looked real good, but Messi sure has. If Argentina can get past Switzerland, they will probably also get past the Belgium-USA winner (which I will discuss separately), setting up what I expect to be a fabulous Holland-Argentina semifinal match.

Because Germany and France would likely face off at the quarterfinal level, I am leaning towards the Argentina-Holland winner to win it all, with Brazil third if they get through (unless they get on one of those Brazil runs which is entirely possible - I just don't see Chile and Colombia going very quietly).

Either way, it ought to be a continuation of the greatness that we have seen to date, which is fantastic.

No comments: