World Cup 2014 – Round of 16

Can Columbia and Costa Rica continue to crash the party?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 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.

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World Cup 2014 – Days 10 – 13

Italy was down, and then out.

Italy only needed a draw with Uruguay to advance to the knockout rounds. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey 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.

World Cup 2014 – Days 6-10

The tournament begins to take shape. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Don’t Cry For Rush, Costa Rica

When Rush Limbaugh recently threatened to “leave for Costa Rica” if health care reform passed, many of his critics mistakenly thought he was pledging to move there. In actuality, he was answering a caller’s question about where he would seek health care, not citizenship.  

Rush gets marooned by the truth.

  

Now that health care reform has passed, Limbaugh has been forced to defend his statement. Ironically, the true quote contains no less hypocrisy than the one erroneously attributed to him. The healthcare system in Costa Rica is a combination of government and private insurance coupled with public and private hospitals, paralleling what the reform bill will create here. If the public option is eventually passed, the two systems will be nearly identical.  

The Costa Rica system is paid for by an 11% tax on workers (a daunting figure until you discover the per capita cost, which also includes a mandatory pension plan, equals only about $100 a month). This tiny country of 4.5 million has figured out how to pay for universal health care and social security at a cost to the economy of less than $1200 per person, per year.  

I am sure most of Rush’s listeners would be surprised to discover that given a choice of any health system in the world, the “government takeover” Costa Rica model is the one he chooses to support. It sounds very similar to the proposals he has railed against for years in this country. Of course he rails against entitlements, even though he has accepted them. He rails against leniency for drug offenders, although as a drug offender himself, he begged for mercy from prosecutors.  

Rush might want to review his facts on climate change before he springs for that beach condo.

  

So, after closer examination, this hypocrisy is not so baffling. In fact, it’s completely understandable, once you discover that, in Costa Rica, many drugs can be purchased legally without a prescription. I wonder if Oxycontin is on that list? Sure beats having your housekeeper drive around Puntarenas looking for a Denny’s parking lot where she can score some “baby blues”.