Europe 2 : Africa o.
That was the score line after today’s two round of sixteen matches where we saw France and Germany progress and Nigeria and Algeria fall and jump on the aeroplane and head home.
Today was all about the goalies, with four superstars on show. We all know about Hugo Lloris and Manuel Neuer who, as a pair, seem to be almost re-inventing the way the position is played. Against the Algerians Neuer popped up all over the place, at right back, centre half and even, occasionally, in his own six yard box.
For Vincent Enyeama and Rais M’Bolhi, in nets for Nigeria and Algeria respectively, it was all about the shot stopping. They pulled off save after block after stop to keep their sides in the game. Neither really deserved to lose but that’s what happens in knock-out football.
Don’t get me wrong, both Germany and France deserved their victories as they were the better sides but Nigeria and Algeria gave hope to Pele’s famous quote all those years ago about an African side winning the World Cup. It won’t be happening in 2014 but it’s getting closer. There were also plenty of question marks about the two victors. Honestly, are either of them good enough to win this World Cup? I guess if they keep finding ways to win then the answer could well be yes.
We also saw one of the worst, or almost one of the best, free kick routines as Thomas Muller’s stumble drew jeers from the crowd followed by an under-hit chip from Toni Kroos. Now, if he’d just got that chip right it could have been a master stroke.
So far in the knock-out stage we’ve seen all the favoured sides progress and in the history books it will all look so predictable. But that barely describes how close some of the other sides have come. Chile and Mexico can feel particularly hard done by, but it hasn’t killed them so it’ll make them stronger.
Tomorrow we see the final two group winners, Argentina and Belgium, come up against potentially tricky opposition. These are the two sides who probably have the most room to improve, certainly based on what we’ve seen so far, but will the have what they need when they face Switzerland and the USA? I think the Argentinians will but I wouldn’t be surprised if the USA does a number on the Belgians.
What that probably means is the Argies will get dumped out and Belgium will sail through, such is my record with predictions. We’ll see.
Score picking update
Nothing changes here. I’m still motoring along ahead of the family pack in the BFWCSPC.
Picks for Day 20
Argentina 2-0 Switzerland, Belgium 1-1 USA.