I fear a Game of Thrones ending for this World Cup.
The heroes, the good guys, Brazil, the team most of us want to win at what as been an almost perfect World Cup, appear to trusting and naïve. They are the Ned Stark of this tournament. In a football sense, they are great going forward and in Neymar have a solid gold star, but that defence, those full-backs, those strikers (Neymar excepted)…
Someone much better than anyone they’ve already played is going to figure them out. I wouldn’t be surprised – at all – if it’s Chile. They have the players to push the Brazilian full-backs back into their own half and make them defend more than they’d like. That’s something Alves and Marcelo don’t appear to be all that good at. Chile also has the mentality to do a number on Neymar. And if they can do a number on Neymar then they’ll win.
Seems strange, really, to be so critical of a side that has just won 4-1. But it was a 4-1 win over Cameroon and Cameroon were in it until Fred scored his off-side goal to make it 3-1 (I wonder if there will be any petitions set up about that one…?). Cameroon have been awful.
Anyway, Brazil are through, along with Mexico who finally, exuberantly overcame Croatia. I honestly thought the Croats would make it but the Mexicans are a lot of fun to watch and they have the most entertaining coach on the planet so I’m actually pretty glad they’re there. They’ll give the Dutch a good run because they’re so difficult to score against. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the first knock-out game to go to penalties.
The early games weren’t nearly as intense as there wasn’t all that much riding on them. The Dutch left it late to beat Chile and avoid Brazil in the next round. While that would have been the plan it’s probably not as big of a deal as it could have been. It’s been pretty comfortable so far for the Netherlands but they’ll need to lift it against Mexico. We’ll see if they can.
Today’s footnote was the Spain v Australia match. It was a fairly routine win for the ex-World Champs but it’s clear they didn’t really want to be there. The Aussies did, but without Tim Cahill they didn’t really have anything apart from a pretty good bunch of fans. Both countries are at fairly important junctures in their football development and I’m sure both sets of fans are a little nervous about what’s going to happen next.
As an aside, I read a New York Times article today about the viewership of yesterday’s USA-Portugal match. The numbers in the USA were far bigger than what the most recent World Series (baseball) and NBA Finals (basketball) received. It’s short, so have a read. It’s pretty staggering stuff from a country that contains so many ‘sports fans’ who still think football/soccer is tiny. The Americans do care and that can only be a good thing.
If football can break through like that in the USA then there is hope for us here in NZ after all.
Score picking update
I got a couple of results right to maintain my lead at the top of the BFWCSPC. Theo, my youngest son, picked all four winners so grabbed a nice haul of points.
Picks for Day 13
Costa Rica 1-1 England, Italy 2-1 Uruguay, Greece 0-2 Ivory Coast, Japan 0-1 Colombia.