Friday, June 27, 2014

The sixteen best in the world

It has been an exciting group stage of the 2014 World Cup, full of drama, entertainment and passion. We have sixteen nations left. For the first time ever three of these are from the Concacaf after USA qualified in their dullest match of the tournament, where it did seem they relied on Portuguese and German largesse. It is also the first time ever two African sides qualified: Nigeria and Algeria. The latter were a great surprise, holding a poor Russia to 1-1. I guess we all expected Ivory Coast to be there, but they have been another of the tournament's great disappointments.
Five teams from South America have progressed, but we are certain to see at least two eliminated in the next round, as they will face one another. There are six teams from Europe; where Spain, England, Italy and Portugal have been disappointments, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and France are all candidates for the title, while Greece upset everyone by progressing.
We are thus looking at the following matches:
  • Brazil-Chile: Two of the most exciting teams of the tournament. This could have been Brazil-Spain, but Chile is an outstanding replacement. While Brazil are favourites, Chile will be no pushover, and the pressure on the Brazilians will be enormous from now on. Alexis Sanchez said today he was most nervous about the referee, which is a real worry indeed.
  • Netherlands-Mexico: Mexican coach Miguel Herrera has won many friends with his charisma, but he has also built up a great side. The Dutch have been outstanding, but also shown vulnerabilities against Australia. However, the Dutch remain most likely to eliminate Mexico in the last-16, and I think they will.
  • Costa Rica-Greece: Two of the surprises of the tournament and they could hardly be more different. While Costa Rica has won many supporters, Greece are a more controlled and tactically clever, not to say defensive and boring. Costa Rica will have all the support, but I think that the Greek will again upset everyone, and be the biggest surprise in the quarterfinals (where they are likely to face the Dutch).
  • Colombia-Uruguay: This will be an intense South American clash. The Uruguayans are upset, seeing themselves as victims after the whole Luis Suarez affair. Colombia have been outstanding both on an off the pitch, and are considered outsiders for the title. Colombia defeated Uruguay 4-0 in Bogota in qualification, but doubt they can do the same again. At the same time, Uruguay grows with the tournament, but will miss Suarez. I think Colombia will win a narrow and dramatic match. The winner will probably face Brazil in the next round, so this is the start of the fall of the South American domino.
  • France-Nigeria: France were strong in their first two matches, and looked to be saving themselves in their final group match against Ecuador. In the meantime Nigeria made it through despite a loss to Argentina, where they nevertheless played well. I do believe that the French winner mentality under Didier Deschamps will prevail and France will be in the quarterfinals.
  • Germany-Algeria: The winner of this match will probably face France in the quarterfinals, so no matter what, that quarterfinal will be historic. This match will be historic as well: in 1982 Algeria defeated Germany - the first time ever an African side defeated a European in a World Cup. But Algeria were eliminated when the Germans cheated their way to the next round with a "fixed" 1-0 victory over Austria. The Algerians will be hungry for revenge. But this German team is looking as potential champions, and while the Algerians will fight their heart out, Germany will, as always, prevail.
  • Argentina-Switzerland: All Argentina's success comes down only to Lionel Messi. And this will be their doom, as other players, who are supposedly good, do not perform. Higuain and Lavezzi, besides playing poorly, have not put their heart into the matches. Di Maria cannot hold an entire match, while Argentina's defense continues to be a joke. Switzerland had a terrible match against France, but their striker Shaquiri has proven to be deadly. I think he will make a feast of the Argentine defense, and if they can control Messi, the Swiss will win, as Argentina has nothing else to offer.
  • Belgium-USA: Belgium progressed with three victories but without impressing. The USA were both physically well prepared and organized, but also somewhat lucky to make it through. They were very bad against Germany, but could still upset anyone who does not respect them. This includes the Belgians, who I nevertheless think will win. This would make the quarterfinal a fight between Swiss and Belgian chocolate!
Wow! Fantastic matches ahead of us, and more excitement! I think at least three European teams will make it to the semifinals (Switzerland/Belgium, France/Germany, Netherlands/Greece) and one South American (Brazil/Colombia). I hope I am wrong.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you are a bit too pessimistic on behalf of Argentina, Erik - you will not be dissapointed in the first match. But the next one against Belgium will be very tight.

I generally agree with your predictions, but I really hope that Mexico can do something about the Netherlands. If Mexico cannot do it, then I for some strage reason hope that Greece will win over Costa Rice - just to see how the Ducth will play against a team that is more defensive than themselves. There is a chance/likelihood that the Netherlands when looking at the oppenents in the next two matches will start talking about who they will meet in the semi-final already now - that could easily happen (just think back two years, where they in the first game lost because their focus was on the second game against Germany) - this I think will be the best chance for Mexico, Greece and Costa Rica.

In terms of surprises - I think that I will be most surprised if neither France nor Germany make it to the semi-finals. Hence, I would be highly surprised if Nigeria or Algeria make it past both France and Germany.

good matches ahead - skål