The World Cup Knockout Round

Like lots of people, I am no everyday soccer fan.  But it’s the WORLD CUP people!!  Despite the relatively miniscule size of the trophy itself (come on, it looks like an Oscar, not a WORLD CUP) – the passion and pageantry are hard not to get swept up in.  For those who pooh pooh soccer – I offer this defense.  This is world class soccer, the games last 2 hours, the halftimes are not filled with idiotic pop singers, and while some of the matches are boring – that describes baseball and the NFL.  ANYWAY, now that the group stage is set, we have ourselves the bracket to consider.  We label the quarters A through D going from the top of the bracket to the bottom.

Quarter A:

Uruguay vs South Korea: South Korea is probably the worst team in the field.  They got smoked by Argentina, survived a tie with a very flawed Nigeria side and beat a pretty horrendous Greek one.  Uruguay is workmanlike and showed strong defense in their group.  Uruguay should win.

United States vs Ghana: The United States has a very winnable game.  Ghana is young, athletic and will have the home field effectively.  That said, if the United State has its shape and keeps its discipline, there will be chances to finish.  The US D was disorganized early but the replacement of Onyewu might have helped a lot.

Really anyone who wins this quarter will be a truly stunning final four participant.  I cannot pick the team I root for to win this quarter – so with that in mind, I think URUGUAY has enough to make a shocking semifinal appearance.

Quarter B:

Netherlands vs Slovakia: Have to give Slovakia full marks for stunning Italy and getting out of the group stage.  However, the Netherlands are another kettle of fish, despite their history of heartbreak.  Hard to see Slovakia’s ride going much further though.

Brazil vs Chile: A South American grudge match, between the most wide open team in the tournament (Chile) and its most talented (Brazil).  Rare is the match where Brazil is the less dynamic side, but that is the case here.  But Chile might not have the manpower to score with Brazil, and Brazil has the defense to suffocate in the middle.

BRAZIL has been the favorite all along, no need to pick otherwise.

Quarter C:

Argentina vs Mexico: A great latin futbol clash – and a horrible matchup for Mexico.  Argentina wants to do the same things Mexico does – possess and attack – but Mexico is just not as good.  Leonel Messi is absolute magic – the best player in this tournament.

Germany vs England: Without Michael Ballack, this is a pretty fun, up tempo Germany team.  The second half against Ghana revealed some real un-German flair, as did their destruction of Australia.  England has the names (Lampard, Gerard, Rooney) but they have just not played well.  Germany could dominate this.  England could also put their shit together – but I just don’t see it.

Argentina is the class of this field – easily the hardest quarter.  Anything could happen, and the social experiment that is Diego Maradona as coach could finally explode.  Hey, no guts no glory, GERMANY.

Group D:

Paraguay vs Japan: Maybe the least sexy final 16 match.  Japan showed some surprising positivity in their win over Denmark – Honda is a terrific striker.  Paraguay is a very stodgy team.  Japan might be able to get to the quarterfinals here.

Spain vs Portugal: You want your grudge match?  Here it is.  Two countries sharing a border.  One country speaking a language that seems like a mangled version of the other.  Two elite futbol sides.  Spain is the 2nd best team in the world – and I think clearly better than #3 by a solid margin.  However, rivalries are rivalries.

This contains the best matchup of the round of 16.  A team that can win it all will get eliminated here.  SPAIN has been targeting this moment all along – and I’ve used my bold pick for Germany.

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