Three-time World Cup champions Germany hope to progress to their sixteenth straight (!!!) World Cup quarterfinal. Standing in their way in this Round of 16 match are the Desert Foxes of Algeria, who played bravely, powerfully, and skillfully to deservedly qualify from a tough Group H. Interestingly enough, Algeria have beaten the Germans every time they’ve played each other. That’s only twice. Still, these two national teams happen to have a World Cup history that’s deeper – and darker – than the statistics reveal.
Today’s two matches (France vs. Nigeria now, Germany vs. Algeria later) follow an interesting pattern that has developed in this World Cup’s Round of 16. Saturday’s matches were both South American only: CONMEBOL vs. CONMEBOL. Sunday’s were both UEFA (Europe) vs. CONCACAF (North and Central America). Today’s are both UEFA vs. CAF, and UEFA sides will be almost as heavily favored to win as CONMEBOL sides were on Saturday.
Another pattern: the team that earned more points in the group stage has won each of the four Round of 16 matches so far. Group winners Brazil (7 points), Colombia (9), Holland (9), and Costa Rica (7) have respectively seen off Chile (6), Uruguay (6), Mexico (7), and Greece (4). All of that favors France and Germany today.
Costa Rica vs. Greece is the surprise matchup of the second round. Few expected Greece to qualify from a decent group C, and even fewer thought Costa Rica might survive England, Italy, and Uruguay’s Group D, the “Group of Champions.” Tonight should be a real scrap between one team punching above its weight (Costa Rica) and another team just plain punching; the Greeks, who failed to score in their first two matches, famously have a penchant for physical play and for soccer’s dark arts.
After a thrilling first day of Round of 16 matches, the Netherlands and Mexico do battle this afternoon for the right to join Brazil and Colombia in the quarterfinal. I’m looking forward to this one; Mexico often dazzled as they escaped Brazil’s Group A with an undefeated 2-0-1 record, while the Netherlands won all three of their Group B matches, including a 5-1 demolition of defending champions Spain.
It’s the second all-South American affair of the day, and yet another (with hosts Brazil) awaits this evening’s winner in the quarterfinal. Uruguay, of course, are without
the Mental Dentist I mean the Dental Menace I mean lunatic striker Luis Suarez. Ol’ Ratface has been banned from all football for four months and from Uruguay’s next nine international matches following his attack last week on Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini (Chiellini, for his part, executed a world-class troll on Suarez by claiming to believe the punishment is too harsh).
The rest of Oscar Tabarez’s men march on without Suarez, though not for much longer. Colombia have been the most impressive team of the World Cup so far, bar none.
The knockout round of World Cup 2014 begins today with two all-South American matches. Thrilling Colombia take on Uruguay this afternoon, but first it’s the hosts Brazil against rising stars Chile in Belo Horizonte. Chile have met Brazil three times in World Cup play and been knocked out each time: twice at this very stage (South Africa 2010, France 1998) and once in the quarterfinal (Chile 1962).
The Yanks of the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) enter their final group stage match needing only a draw to progress. The problem? We’re facing three-time World Cup champions Germany, the second-ranked national side in the world, against whom we’ve never drawn (W3, L6). Still, the Americans have already surpassed expectations by beating Ghana and drawing Portugal, we now count several truly top-level players among our stars, and we beat Germany 4-3 the last time we played them. Let’s do this thing.
Italy vs. Uruguay is certainly the match to watch in Group D’s final round. Four-time World Cup champions Italy will hope to progress to the knockout stage, but their South American opponents have pedigree (two World Cup victories) and one of the best players in the world in Luis Suarez (pictured above).
The first two matches of the last round kick off simultaneously at noon. Each group will play its final two games concurrently to minimize the likelihood that any match should be meaningless by the time it begins. Also because this happened.
In this match, undefeated Holland (who have a goal difference of +5) meet undefeated Chile (+4). Buckle your seatbelts.
HEEERRREEEE WEEEEE GOOOOOO!
The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) is back in action today against Portugal and the best player in the world. The Yanks would progress to the second round if they won today, and, with the Europeans missing several players through injury and suspension, they have a real chance to do so.