Well, we soccer enthusiasts (and bunch of Liberal un-Americans if you believe a certain pundit) finally got to see what the best 16 national soccer teams in the world had to offer. Now we’re ready for the knock-out stage of the 2014 World Cup competition, and it looks to be very interesting.
First, we don’t have several of the top ten teams (according to FIFA rankings) in the running anymore. Spain, the defending champs, are gone. So is Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo, the best player in the world, according to most. Also gone are
soccer football powerhouses England and Italy. Seven of thirteen european teams are gone. So are upstart Honduras and the scrappy Japanese. In fact, Asia has no more representatives. Africa has two of five teams left while the South Americans only lost Ecuador, and North America has powerhouses Mexico and USA in the running with a surprising Costa Rica (who beat Italy and Urugay while drawing against England).
So here are my predictions for the second round of the World Cup.
In the round of 16:
Brazil defeat Chile, but barely. Chile came through the group stage very, very strong, with their game against Spain being the strongest. Chile do have one weakness, though. They attack so much that they leave their defense without much help. Australia almost took a game away from them. Oh, and the competition is happening in Brazil. For Brazil to lose in the round of 16 would mean rioting and all-out chaos in the country. Maybe.
Colombia defeat Uruguay, soundly. Let’s face it, Uruguay are nothing without Luis “Chewy Louie” Suarez. He inspired them to win the games they won, and they looked lost without him. On the other hand, Colombia have looked strong as a team, although they faced relative weak teams in Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan.
Nigeria surprises the world and takes out France. I know, right? Why do I say this? Because Nigeria are one of those teams that play to the level of their opponent. They’re strong. They’re fast. And I don’t think France’s defense can keep up with them. It will be a close game, but Nigeria wins maybe by one goal… Maybe by two.
Germany handily takes out Algeria. This one is a no-brainer. Germany are Germany, and they are looking really good. They’re one of my favorites to win it all, and they have two super players on their bench, ready to go in at any time in Schweinsteiger and Klose. It’s going to be a massacre. (Insert your tasteless jokes about the Germans and massacres here.)
Mexico shocks the world and eliminates the Netherlands, of course. This is a sentimental favorite of mine. Realistically, Netherlands are the runners-up from the last tournament. They qualified well for this tournament, and they went through undefeated in a group that included Chile and Spain. But I grew up cheering for Mexico. Mexico are in the round of 16 for the sixth tournament in a row, having missed going on to the quarter-finals in the previous five tournaments. It’s time for them to make that big jump, and they look good to do it.
Costa Rica defeats Greece. Let’s face it, Greece looked very weak. The only reason they’re in the round of 16 is because of a penalty call in the final minutes of their third game, the one against Ivory Coast. They tied against Japan and looked horrible against Colombia. Costa Rica, on the other hand, were very impressive in their group. They’re playing very well as a team together and out-played Italy, Urugay, and England. You’d be a fool to bet against them in this matchup.
Argentina barely defeats Switzerland. Argentina is nothing without Lionel Messi, but he is enough for them to win. Switzerland will make this game interesting, but they don’t have a way to counter Messi switched on and on the attack. He has a lot to prove to the Argentinian fans, so look for him to come through and take them to the next game.
Finally, Belgium defeat the scrappy Americans. The United States didn’t show good skill in their group games. They showed a lot of luck and a lot of weaknesses in the defense. Portugal revealed these weaknesses, and Belgium will surely make note of them. I’ll be incredibly surprised if the US win, and so will most of the world.
So there you have it. For the quarter-finals, I predict a South American “final” between Brasil and Colombia. (What if they get through to face Argentina? That’s for next week.) Nigeria and Germany will give us an entertaining game, but I won’t predict just yet who’ll win. Then we’ll have a North American “final” between Mexico and Costa Rica, and Argentina will have to face yet another European team in Belgium. Again, predictions next week, the day before the quarter finals.
Enjoy the games.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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