We’ve all endured two long, hard weeks (for some) of World Cup football by now and, as promised, it’s time for me to give you my thoughts on the knockout stage of the competition.
Now, we’ve seen a few shocks so far – albeit not quite the main one I was expecting (that being Germany going out at the group stage, but Spain and England more than made up for that in their own unique ways) – and I’m speculating that will continue from here on. I think on reflection people will look back at this World Cup and wonder why they marveled at such entertainment when the only reason it has been so entertaining is because even the better teams seem to have forgotten how to defend. Spain conceding five in their opening match really set the tone, but I think the signs were there from the moment a shaky Brazil side kicked off the tournament – and then proceeded to help kick Croatia out of the tournament with help from an amateur referee.
Personal grievances aside, I too have enjoyed seeing a fair few of my opening predictions go up in smoke, and for that reason I’m not going to go into too much detail on this part of my 2014 World Cup overview. Rest assured I have put a decent amount of thought into these score predictions; I’m just not motivated enough to divulge the reasons why for all of them. Of course if I turn out to be right about everything, I’ll soon change my mind and talk about how I got my method so watertight for the next year or two. But it’s probably more likely that I’ll just give up trying to second guess this game altogether.
Round of 16
Brazil (1) v. (2) Chile
Colombia (3) v. (0) Uruguay
Netherlands (1) v. (0) Mexico
Costa Rica (1) v. (1) Greece – Greece to win on penalties
France (2) v. (0) Nigeria
Germany (0) v. (1) Algeria
Argentina (2) v. (1) Switzerland
Belgium (3) v. (1) USA
Brazil and Germany join some of the other big nations in crashing out relatively early; Brazil to (I believe) an all-round better team and the Germans to an Algeria side that will be out for the extra spice of revenge for that incident from 1982 which only the older among us will remember. I also get the feeling that Greece will sneak past Costa Rica thanks to the organisation that got them here in the first place. I did warn all of you that they were an underrated team heading into this tournament, and they’ll be buoyed by squeezing out of a group they really were given no chance of escaping from.
Chile (3) v. (2) Colombia
France (3) v. (1) Algeria
Netherlands (2) v. (0) Greece
Argentina (2) v. (1) Belgium
I’m afraid by the time we get to the quarter-finals I can see some of those smaller nations tailing off as they realize how well they have done at this World Cup. Chile and Colombia, should they both get here, could be the match of the round, while Algeria also have significant political history with France which would make their match very interesting.
Chile (1) v. (1) France – Chile to win on penalties
Netherlands (2) v. (3) Argentina
This is where we get to the real business end. As much as I’d love to see the Netherlands go all the way again – and actually complete the journey this time – their tournament trajectory looks set to take them into a clash with Argentina, for whom Messi has been showing signs of resurgence. It should be an entertaining semi-final if we see it, but with this match taking place in Brazil as well, I think Argentina will do anything they can to make it through. Chile and France meanwhile would be a typical match between two sides who probably didn’t expect to get this far and would be uncharacteristically conservative. I think that would suit Chile and help to give us a very interesting final…
Chile (1) v. (2) Argentina – Argentina win the World Cup.
Probably no real surprise in the end, but the route I take to get to Argentina as my winners will, I expect, surprise some people. My predictions never fail to do that. Unfortunately, they frequently fail in other ways. Only time will tell if I have worked some weird voodoo on this occasion.