There weren’t that many goals in the last 16 of this World Cup compared to the group stage but my god was there tense excitement. All but one of the games went down to the last minute, with nail biting action and scintillating extra times. Yes an incredible five (five!) games went to extra time and possibly even more incredible was that for the first time ever all eight of the group winners progressed to the quarter finals.
Personally I got 6/8 of the matches correct, with the two ties I got wrong oddly enough being the two games which went to penalties (Brazil-Chile and Costa Rica-Greece).
I thought Chile would take this because Brazil have looked mediocre throughout the tournament so far. I wasn’t wrong; another mediocre performance from Brazil saw them through. Yes you can sit and talk about the Hulk goal (which was a great decision) and the penalty that they should maybe have had but so far Brazil have shown nothing to say that they are good enough to win this World Cup. This game in particular showed that their over reliance on Neymar is critical, and if he doesn’t show up they struggle, they struggled mightily in this game. If he is injured (as it looks like he is) then you wonder how much of an impact he is likely to have in the next number of games. There is no doubt he will play but how well he plays is a different question.
Chile were unlucky, but that is the way of penalties. It is hard to criticise them because they put in a great performance but their penalties were piss poor. To miss 3/5 is inexcusable and two of those three were especially poor. You have to feel sorry for Jara though because his penalty is so close to being perfection, but those are the margins of winning and losing sometimes.
Colombia for me have so far been the best team of the tournament. I haven’t seen them play a bad game and they were the only team in the last 16 to win comfortably. They were my outsiders for the tournament and I have to say it looks like a great choice so far. Everyone seems to have shown up for them for this World Cup; Rodriguez, Martinez, Yepes, Cuadrado, Ospina, and heck I could name the whole team. They are real dark horses; let’s hope the moment doesn’t get too big for them.
Uruguay were poor, they clearly intended to defend the entire match and hope for penalties but a moment on genius scuppered that plan. I feel sorry for them because the whole Luis Suarez thing can’t have been ideal preparation for this match and I was not at all shocked when they put in a fairly limp display.
I think Holland have looked good so far this World Cup but once again they looked weak at the back. The shining light for Holland is that Robben is playing out of his mind so far; Robben is playing like a man possessed and has carried his team to an extent to this point. You also have to give it to Van Gaal who is playing out a tactical masterpiece, constantly changing personnel and formation yet still getting the required results. You can’t help but admire his decision to hook RVP for Huntelaar in this game, something that weaker managers wouldn’t have dreamed of doing, and it worked, Huntelaar scored the winner and set up the equaliser. The Dutch team isn’t anything special on paper (beyond a couple of stars) but Van Gaal has them playing as a team and with belief which if you add that with special talent you could see them going all the way. Costa Rica awaits…I’m sure the Dutch are pleased.
Poor Mexico they played so well in the first half and held on for so long after scoring but in the end quality prevailed. Mexico’s biggest mistake was not pushing for a second goal when the Dutch looked vulnerable, yes it is easy to say that now after they’ve lost but they ended up playing into their opponents hands by inviting pressure. Maybe Mexico will feel hard done to because a lot of people think the winning penalty was soft but at the time it looked like a stonewaller and Holland should have had a couple earlier on.
What I love about the Costa Rica story is that it says that a team like Scotland could go to the World Cup and get to a quarter final even if they are lacking in quality. Up until the red card Costa Rica were slightly the better side but they were very lucky to get through this tie. However sometimes you need luck rather than quality (the Greeks had neither) and the Costa Rican’s had barrels full of luck (especially in extra time) and defended like their lives depended on it (who knows maybe they did, it is Costa Rica after all). I can’ see them getting any further than the quarter finals but Costa Rica is your classic World Cup fairytale.
Greece will never get a better chance of getting to the quarter finals, after snatching a late goal to send the game to extra time they couldn’t find a way past Navas who played unbelievably. They deserved to win the game in the end but you have to take the immense chances that they were gifted by the Costa Rican defence. Mitroglou is the last minute in particular needs to do so much better than he actually did, he choked and scuffed his shot because he was too busy worrying about being clattered by the keeper.
This was a weird game for France because although I have no doubt that they deserved to win, they very much struggled in doing so. A lot of the games followed the same pattern of the favourites struggling in the first 60 minutes but then taking control of the game as it went deeper into the game. I think France are looking good and they aren’t overly reliant on any one player which should put them in a good position going forward, their clash against Germany is set up to be a belter.
Nigeria will be pleased with their World Cup, making it through the group stages was their aim and they achieved that. I thought they put up a good fight against France and Enyeama in particular was outstanding. It is something for them to build on for the future.
First things first Germany more than deserved to win this match, not that you’d know based upon the biased media we get here in Britain. Beyond that Germany just had an off day, it felt like everything that they did just wasn’t going to come off but in the end their quality prevailed. I have a few concerns for Germany moving forward; why is Mesut Ozil still playing first team? He has been awful so far. The German defensive line worries me, they have now been ripped to bits by two African teams simply with pace, if Algeria had more quality about them they would have taken advantage of one of their many favourable counter attacks. Finally it concerns me that Germany have limited options up front, Klose can’t start and play a whole match so Muller is the only option, I think it was a mistake to not replace Reus with another attacking player (they called up Mustafi). Germany aren’t a one man team, they have several quality players who have been deep in tournaments previously, so it isn’t all doom and gloom but after struggling against Algeria you have to be concerned.
Algeria will have just been happy to have made it to the last 16 and they did themselves proud with a good performance against the Germans. I’m sure they will look back at this game and curse the amount of counter attacks which they wasted by not having enough quality in the final third. Beyond the first 15 or so minutes how many saves (not running off his line like a maniac clearances) did Neuer actually have to make? Not many.
Argentina won and probably deserved to win but my god are they a one man team. I thought Argentina would be so much better than this, they really look so poor. If Switzerland were more clinical they would have won this match, Argentina’s defence was far too open. I can’t see this team winning the World Cup unless Messi goes shit crazy and become the Leo Messi of a few years ago, the problem is Messi’s a small guy I’m not so sure he can pull 10 other guys along for an entire tournament.
Switzerland will be disappointed that they didn’t take their chances and will possibly be more disappointed with how poorly they defended the Argentina goal in extra time. It is one of those things where you don’t want to go out of the competition with regrets, Argentina were there for the taking, I don’t know how Switzerland can’t have any regrets.
So many of these games saw the more favoured team struggle to put the less favoured team to bed and this was another one. Belgium were a lot of peoples tip (I don’t think you can describe 5th favourites as an outsider) for the tournament, but I don’t see it. Yes they have good players, but their play seems too industrial, they seem to lack flair and creativity, which is odd when you look at some of their players. I actually think they will match up very well against Argentina but they need to be more clinical or they won’t be going any further.
USA USA USA USA….oh L…..Well it was a good run whilst it lasted and it lasted longer than I’m sure most people (myself included) thought it would but this American team of ordinary players can hold their head high and be pleased with their performance at this World Cup. Tim Howard was immense in this game but he was let down by Besler on the first goal, the guy sold the jerseys by getting mugged by Lukaku on the halfway line then playing like a six year old in the box and chasing the ball rather than facing up like he was supposed to. To be fair Lukaku when he came on looked like the equivalent of an 18 year old joining a game for 10 year olds; bigger, stronger and faster than everyone else on the pitch. USA should be pleased with their performance, who knows in twenty years they could be serious contenders.
So there it is eight games, all very close, five extra times and two penalty shootouts, yet no shocks which is very odd. That leads me to believe that we will receive a shock in the last 16, here’s the ties:
Germany v France
Brazil v Colombia
Holland v Costa Rica
Argentina v Belgium
I find it highly unlikely that there will be no shocks for two rounds running, so where do you think the first shock of the knockout rounds will occur? Leave a comment and share with the internet community!