What a wild group stage of the World Cup it has been! Two huge power houses have gone home in France and Italy. Spain was facing an early exit today as well (which would have been a much bigger upset), but did what they needed to and move on as a still heavy fave. But of course the big story of the the final group games was the incredible USA finish! It may all be house money now, but we have a real chance to beat Ghana and keep the train rolling.
The power rankings for the final 16 were a bit harder, especially down towards the bottom. But I had to look at match ups and who was likely to advance. I’ll break it down after the list. Again, numbers are my rankings from the last go around.
1. Argentina (1)
2. Netherlands (3)
3. Spain (4)
4. Brazil (2)
5. Uruguay (7)
6. Germany (6)
7. USA (8)
8. Japan (15)
9. Portugal (6)
10. Mexico (17)
11. England (13)
12. Paraguay (10)
13. Chile (9)
14. South Korea (18)
15. Ghana (16)
16. Slovakia (28)
Uruguay vs. South Korea – Uruguay is one of only 2 teams to not allow a single goal in the group stage (Portugal being the other). The South American teams are rolling and I see Uruguay continuing the trend with their great defense and goal scoring duo of Forlan and Suarez just starting to heat up. South Korea is a well organized team but they looked less than dominant in their 2-2 draw with Nigeria. I don’t think they have what it will take to beat Uruguay – but I’d rather have USA face them than Uruguay in the Quarters, so go South Korea!
USA vs. Ghana – Who would have thought the USA would win our group and avoid Germany? Ghana is fast but they are young and I think our experience will get us through the round. But Ghana has the x-factor of having all of Africa behind them (lotta good that did the African teams in the group stage). Anything can happen, but USA wants it every bit as much if not more than Ghana.
Germany vs. England – Germany looked so dominant in their first game but then fell way off. They barely beat Ghana on the strength of my new favorite German Mesut Özil. Lucky for them, England has been less than stellar as well. All either team needs is one of their incredible super stars to heat up and it will be lights out. Will it be Rooney, Gerard, Lampard or Klose, Podolski, or Muller? I’m giving the nod to Germany but it could be in PKs.
Argentina vs. Mexico – Mexico is playing well and I can’t wait to see Javi Hernandez playing for Manchester United, but they have the unfortunate task of facing Argentina who tops my power rankings for a second time after another dominant performance over Greece. It makes me happy that new guns like Hernandez and Vela are bringing a positive face to our southern border rivals (Blanco can choke on a Tecate can and die) but I won’t be too sad to see them exit at the hands of the Albiceleste. But come on Messi, let’s see some knockout round magic!
Netherlands vs. Slovakia – I didn’t give Slovakia any credit (had them at 28) but their showing against Italy was awesome. Vittek is playing lights out. However they are going up against The Netherlands who are the only team other than Argentina to finish the group stage with a perfect 9. Guess what, they didn’t drop a point in qualification either. The Dutch ain’t losing – especially to Slovakia. Robben even saw the pitch Thursday which means only good things for the Oranje as they look toward a tough Quarter final against Brazil.
Brazil vs. Chile Question… What happened to that beautiful samba football? I couldn’t even stay awake during that snorefest versus Portugal. Maybe Dunga is a brilliant tactician but the boys gotta play if they are going to win. Chile was just as unimpressive in their draw with Spain – wait they lost..? whatever – no one even tried in the last half hour. Chile came in second in CONMEBOL qualifying but lost both their matches with Brazil. I imagine they’ll lose this one too unless they get some serious inspiration before Monday.
Paraguay vs. Japan Wow! Hello Japan! The Blue Samurai are playing incredible football right now and Keisuke Honda might be the hottest player in the tourney. All three of their goals against Denmark were great but that Honda free kick was something else. Paraguay looked great in their first 2 games, but the 0-0 draw with New Zealand was unimpressive. If Japan plays the way they did yesterday, then P.guay doesn’t stand a chance.
Spain vs. Portugal A Round of 16 Iberian derby is an exciting prospect but neither team has been playing to their full potential. Yes I know Portugal put in 7 against North Korea but their draw with Brazil was lackluster and Ronaldo seems to be out to lunch. Spain has so many good players that they should win every match 6-0. Even with Torres cold as ice (I say bench him… and then sell him to Chelsea for half their squad), they should be able to easily put down the pretty boys.