Saturday, 28 June 2014

World Cup Brazil: Review and Round of Sixteen Picks

The first round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil has wrapped up and having watched several of the matches I feel a bit more confident in my selections going forward.  I've been very impressed with the skill level, particularly of many of the Worlds top players like Lionel Messi from Argentina, Christiano Ronaldo from Portugal, Neymar Jr. from Brazil, Robin Van Persie from the Netherlands, Jackson Martinez of Colombia and Thomas Muller of Germany.  It's going to be a close battle for the Golden Boot, which goes to the highest scorer during the World Cup.  I believe that Messi, Neymar, Muller and perhaps one other player are tied for the top spot with 4 goals through 3 games.

Here's how I did on my Group Play selections and how I think teams will do in the Round of 16.

*editorial note: The Brazil/Chile match has already taken place prior to the publication of this but the quick turn-a-round from group play to the elimination rounds made it difficult for me to post this before the first match.  I have no knowledge of the outcome of the match though, so I stand by my prediction and if it's right on the money you'll just have to take my word for it. haha

Group A Review: Brazil and Mexico advance

I picked Mexico 3rd in this group and they surprised me a little bit.  I knew they'd be tough, but I did not expect them to draw Brazil, after a brilliant performance from their goal tender against the host nation gave them belief and hope for a deep run.  I picked Brazil and Croatia to advance.  The Croats were a bit disapointing and couldn't quite put enough together to get out of the group.

Group B Review: Netherlands and Chile advance

I picked the Netherlands and defending champion Spain to advance.  I don't know that I would qualify Spain as the biggest disapointment of the tournament yet because I think a lot of people knew their run of international dominance was tettering on the edge.  I think being the first team eliminated though was a bit of a surprise to most and for my part I thought they had enough to win this group and get to the round of 16. >.<  So I was 50/50 again in my picks for group two.  I saw Chile play and was very impressed with their amount of ball possession. 

ROUND of 16 Group A vs. Group B match ups:

Brazil v. Chile

Netherlands v. Mexico

Predictions: Brazil has a tough, tough match against Chile who has looked like one of the best teams overall thus far.  I think being the host nation and having the magic of Neymar is just enough to carry Brazil past Chile in the knock out round.  An early Brazilian goal will win the day as they face a number of challenges and close misses from Chile the rest of the match.   Brazil 1 Chile 0

I doubted Mexico's resolve after their gift entry into the tournament but they have proven to be a very deserving entry with their advance to the round of 16. The Netherlands have star power on Offense that will be a difficult challenge for the Mexican goalie who thus far has been up to the test.  Another close contest sees Mexico fall to the Nethlerlands who have just enough offense to push them into the Round of 8.  Netherlands 2 Mexico 1

Group C Review: Colombia and Greece advance

YAY!  I finally picked a group 100 percent correctly.  I had Colombia advancing atop a group that they ultimately dominated and I had Greece as my sentimental favorite to advance.  Greece pulled off a minor miracle to get themselves out of the first group and proves that sentiment sometimes wins out over plain old common sense!  The Ivory Coast and Japan had their struggles but should hold their heads high for having made the tournament which is no easy feat in its own right.

Group D Review: Costa Rica and Uruguay advance

Well, the one team in the tournament that I summarily dismissed as having a chance in Costa Rica went on to show how much Jon Bear knows about International Football by winning this group handily.  >.<  *the scrunchy face has many meanings and this time it's embarrassment*.  So not ONLY is Costa Rica a beautiful country to visit, but they have very talented soccer players as well.  They also join The U.S.A. and Mexico as one of a record 3 CONCAF *hope I'm spelling that right* teams to make it out of group play.  GO Central and North America!  At least Uruguay salvaged some personal pride for me by advancing and keeping at least one of the two teams I predicted to advance alive in the tournament.  Italy kind of got a raw deal I thought and poor England probably underachieved a bit.

Round of 16 Group C vs. Group D match ups:

Greece v. Costa Rica

Uruguay v. Colombia

Predictions: Greece and Costa Rica may have been the two biggest surprise entrants to the round of 16.  Considering that both teams are new to the fan fare and hoop-la surrounding the event at this stage, I could see a bit of "stage fright" coming into play for one or both of them.  Greece as my sentimental favorite was nice enough to come through for me against all odds.  I believe Costa Rice played better football in advancing out of their group.  With that said, I'm sticking with my sentimental favorite in an unlikely high scoring affair.  Greece 3 Costa Rica 3 with Greece winning on free kicks after extra time.  Oh, and Costa Rica is a nice place to visit. >.<

Uruguay advanced amidst much controversy when one of their players Luis Suarez decided to take a bite out of the shoulder of one of his opponents.  Suarez was a major offensive juggernaut for Uruguay and apparently the only thing that rivals his skill on the pitch is his hunger for human flesh.  Suarez was suspended from International play for 9 games I believe, which should ultimately end his tournament.  Colombia looked to me to be one of the most impressive teams in the opening round.  I like their style of play and their confidence.  Without Suarez, in an ironic twist, it's now Uruguay who's "snake bitten".  Uruguay's bad karma results in a blow out.  Colombia 3 Uruguay 0

Group E Review:  France and Switzerland advance

 I thought that the WHINE from 2010's World Cup would leave France with a major hang-over going into this years tournament and I could not have been more wrong.  France played a dominant game in easily securing this group and the 2014 version of French football seems to be of a premium vintage.  Ecuador and Honduras both looked overmatched in group E as the Swiss took an easy second place in the group.  Once again I finished 50/50 in my selections.  I should have known better than to doubt the wine and cheese combination and I will not make the same mistake in 2018.

Group F Review:  Argentina and Nigeria advance

 Another 50/50 for Jon Bear in this group.  Argentina, or should I say, Lionel Messi was the class of group F.  Without "Messi Dependance" I'm not sure where the Argentines would have finished in this group.  A las, they won the group of the foot of the best player in the world.  The Argentines will need a stronger "team" performance going forward if they hope to advance to the finals as many expected them to at the start of the FIFA World Cup.
Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iran both played admirably and provided a real test for Argentina and Nigeria.  The Nigerian footballers had to deal with some horrible tragedies do to the disgusting bombings which killed innocent people in their home country during two World Cup matches. Their play in light of the tragedies their countrymen and women have faced is inspiring and I hope that they will continue to do well in the tournament and that those who organized and carried out the bombings will be apprehended and punished.

Round of 16 Group E vs. Group F match ups:

Argentina v. Switzerland

France v. Nigeria

Predictions: As a neveux football fan I have been completely blown away by the dominance of Messi.  It's always fun to see someone excel in anything and especially in athletics played on such a high level.  I have enjoyed watching the Swiss play and I think that as a team they've played better than Argentina has.  With that said, I want to see Messi play more football and I'm giving his teammates the chance to catch up to his performance and not be entirely "Messi Dependant". I think this is the best game for Argentina thus far and they beat the Swiss without having to sweat things out too much.  Argentina 3  Switzerland 1

France looked like the best team along with Colombia to me in the opening round of play.  Nigeria has played wonderfully and especially so under some very trying circumstances.  I have to admit that I would like to see Nigeria advance here.  I do NOT think they will let the bombings at home distract them on the field of play.  I think France will get it's biggest test of the tournament so far but survive and advance.  France 2  Nigeria 2 France wins on free kicks following the extra time.

Group G Review:  Germany and United States of America advance

 I predicted Ghana and Germany to advance out of Group G and in all honesty I think they both played the best football of the teams in the "Group of Death".  With that said, I am happy that the U.S.A. proved me wrong and advanced in this group to once again put me at 50/50 in my selections.  I think that the U.S.A. played well against Ghana but had their best game in the tie against Portugal no thanks to Ronaldo's amazing pass to set up the tie scenario with 3 seconds remaining. Ideally the U.S. would have advanced a top the group if not for that tie with Portugal, but Ronaldo also became our savior in the match against Ghana when his rebound goal in the 80th minute of that match pushed the U.S.A. into round 2.  Germany played great against the U.S. and Portugal, but look a bit vulneralbe in their tie with Ghana.

Group H Review: Belgium and Algeria advance

Once again Jon Bear proved his International Football predicting prowess by correctly selecting BOTH Belgium and Algeria out of Group H.  So in all I predicted 10 out of 16 teams correctly to advance to the round of 16.  In what was a particularly topsy turvey first round I think that was pretty good.  *pats self on back*.  I think that this group was one of the weeker groups in the tournament and Belgium and Algeria didn't even stand out as head and shoulders above the competition until the last games were played.  I DO think that Belgium and Algeria have better play ahead of them though and will be tough outs in the elimination rounds.

Round of 16 Group G vs. Group H match ups

Germany v. Algeria

Belgium v. United States of America

Predictions:  Algeria has a quality team and Germany showed some weaknesses against Ghana that Algeria would be smart to exploit.  The question is can they?  I think the Germans rebounded nicely against the U.S.A. and showed that they are in it to win it.  I think Algeria may also take a bit from the U.S.A.'s performance against Germany and play something of a defensive style, hoping for a draw that brings the game down to free kicks.  A lot of what Algeria will do will work, but the German's will have just enough to squeak by without having to face the dreaded coin flip that is the free kick.  Germany 1 Algeria 0

Belgium has a pretty strong football history and even though no team played great in group H, Belgium was definitely deserving of the top spot in the group.  The U.S.A. has played smart and kept things close by alternating their style to counter their opponents biggest strength.  I think that works in the group stages but will not work going forward.  I think the U.S.A. realizes this though and try to open things up a bit more now that they are in the knock out stage.  For better or worse, I'm sticking with my home country now.  They've always had my support, but not always my confidence and belief.  Now I believe that we will win.  But it ain't gonna be easy! >.<  USA 2 Belgium 2 USA wins on free kicks after extra time (thanks Mr. Howard)

So there you have it!  A full review of my first round predictions and prognostications for the second round.  Here's to hoping I've learned a thing or two by watching most of these teams play.  As always Go Team U.S.A.!  

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