Congratulations to Germany. After a month of soccer involving the top sides of the world, the Germans have emerged victorious. They might not have the star power of Argentina or Brazil, but they have the more complete team, which made all the difference in the knockout stages.
And the stars are coming.
Having been overshadowed by the scoring prowess of Muller and Klose, Ozil and Schurrle finally emerged on the world stage as the tournament wound down. Fans of Chelsea and Arsenal are already familiar with the abilities these two possess, but others that might not follow the EPL (English Premier League) have surely taken notice as well. It will be interesting to see how they react to defending the crown as opposed to seeking it.
Of note: This is Germany’s fourth World Cup crown, their second at the expense of Argentina. Italy also has four championships. Only Brazil has more with five.
After the debacle that took place between Germany and Brazil, it was nice to see a tightly contested match between Argentina and the Netherlands. In the end, it came down to superior keeper play by Argentina’s Romero.
So now we have an intriguing matchup between two of the titans of World Cup soccer. Messi vs. the machine. This game has all the makings of a classic. At the least, it should be vastly superior to Germany’s last match.
Of note: Germany has won it all three times, Argentina twice. The two teams have met in the final twice before, splitting the two matches. No South American team has ever won a cup final on European soil and no European team has ever won the cup when the tournament took place in South America. Point to Argentina.
Can Columbia and Costa Rica continue to crash the party?
The round of sixteen concluded with many of the usual suspects surviving, but all the matches were close and no truly superior team emerged. This makes me wonder, can Columbia and Costa Rica continue their magnificent runs.
Columbia will be up against an old rival, even though these two squads will present fresh faces to a traditional rivalry. Brazil will have the home crowd, but will that be enough to overcome the potent scoring machine they will be facing? The hosts have shown an inability at times to score, only coming through in a penalty shootout against Chile. The Columbian defense has looked disorganized against lesser competition in this tournament but survived. They will have to improve to have any chance of advancing.
Costa Rica has been a surprise, but not undeserving of where they find themselves. They have the talent, it just seems to have matured so quickly, before our viewing eyes, in Brazil. And the Netherlands themselves have seemed unbeatable at times and then very beatable at other times, trailing Australia in the group stage and requiring two late goals to best Mexico. It will likely be a game of mistakes and opportunities. Whichever side cashes in efficiently on those opportunities will advance.
Argentina vs. Belgium, or should I say, Messi vs. Hazard, will be fun to watch. France vs. Germany is a blue chip matchup that is nearly guaranteed to entertain.
Of note: Five of the eight matches in the Round of Sixteen went to extra time to decide the victor. Two of those went through the extra period without a score and required a penalty shootout. Parody has arrived at the World Cup.
Italy only needed a draw with Uruguay to advance to the knockout rounds. They couldn’t produce it. First, they lost Marchisio to a red card and then they lost the match. Today’s 1-0 defeat was enough to send them packing.
Costa Rica’s stunning run through the so-called “Group of Champions” left only one former champion standing. And it was the squad that looked least likely to advance after the opening round of games, Uruguay. But, as I said a couple of weeks ago, you never know, in the first matches of a World Cup tournament, if what seems like an upset really is one. Sometimes what appears to be a powerhouse stubbing its toe turns out be a young team coming of age against an aging , overrated team. We should all see now, Costa Rica is for real.
Columbia advanced with its first ever three victory group stage performance. But it was a different story for the Ivory Coast. German coach Joachim Loew once said playing Greece was “like biting a rock.” When the Greeks scored in added time, even the magic of Didier Drogba (already subbed out) couldn’t keep the Elephants from biting down hard on that rock. If it is any consolation to the Ivory fans, many good teams are finding it hard to survive the group stage. Spain, England and Italy are already gone. They will soon be joined by either Portugal or Ghana or both.
Of note: Of the eight teams that have advanced so far, only two are from Europe. The others are from either South, Central or North America. Africa and Asia have yet to advance a team in this year’s tournament. Costa Rica won Group D, matching them with Greece in the next round. That means one of those two will make it to the quarterfinals. Either Greece or Costa Rica will be one of the eight remaining teams still playing while 24 of the world’s best squads are at home licking their wounds.
Portugal is hanging by a thread. Spain and England have already bowed out. Costa Rica and Chile have secured their advance into the round of sixteen. And the U.S. has a fighting chance to win the Group of Death.
If these are not the winds of change, then they are, at the least, the dusty breeze that precedes such a storm.
We might well end up with two European powerhouses vs. two South American behemoths in the semis. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise at all. But every slot taken by an Ecuador or Nigeria is one less place for a Russia or Italy to land. Surely, there will be more upsets to come and more giants will fall. Even the Netherlands and Germany appeared nearly ordinary in their second matches.
Scoring has dropped off dramatically since the flurry of goals in the opening days of the tournament. And the third set of matches will only become tighter, as each squad learns exactly how many points they need to secure to advance into the knockout stages.
Tomorrow will be a defining moment for both the U.S. and Portugal. Is that a breeze I feel coming from Manaus?
Of note: Iran came within two minutes of securing a second point without scoring a goal in the tournament. Australia has scored three goals but has zero points to show for it. Which team has the best goal differential so far? Germany? The Netherlands? Actually, it’s France, with a +6 margin.