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.
Brazil – Getting the job done. Spain, not so much.
After a rocky start, Brazil did what they had to do, gaining 3 points and +2 in goal differential. With Croatia dispatched and Cameroon apparently mailing it in (Samuel Eto’o appeared to be playing with ten guys he met in the parking lot) Brazil should be able to see their way through the group stage, even if Mexico forces a draw.
Spain, on the other hand, might be in deep trouble. They lost their first match in 2010 as well, but this team appears a bit more weary, a bit less hungry. In this magical run that has seen them win two Euro Cups with a world title sandwiched in between, they have been able to impose their will on other teams. It never appeared to be that way yesterday, not even when they were up 1-0.
And I tip my hat to the Netherlands. If anything, I expected them to look tired at the end of the game. Sneijder and Robben have logged a large number of kilometers on those legs, but they both were both energetic throughout the second half, Robben dangerously so. As much as this game bodes poorly for Spain, it has to be a giant boost for the Netherlands.
I try not to read too much into first games. Sometimes what appears to be a bad loss just turns out to be a blip or perhaps the case of an up and coming underrated team against an overrated team, on the downturn but still dangerous. Spain’s next match, against Chile, could be more telling than this one. There is a very good chance they will make it through the group stage, but now it would almost certainly be in second position, making the likelihood that they will face Brazil in the round of sixteen a distinct possibility.
Today I look forward to Italia vs. the Three Lions and whatever other surprises the next four matches bring us.
The following is a cloud I created containing all of the countries from which someone viewed my blog during the last year. Larger names indicate more visits. My only question, where’s Norway? Uff da! Well, there’s always next year. My thanks to every visitor, near and far.