First of all, I want to apologize for slacking off the last few days. See, I mentioned before that I have something that makes writer’s block look like eating a cookie. That hasn’t changed. It’s like a combination of writer’s block and depression. There’s also guilt, and anger; anger mainly because none of it makes sense whatsoever.
But this is a soccer blog. I think that I’m ready to talk about soccer now. So I’ll do that.
They’ve done three-quarters of the Round of 16 of the World Cup. So I’ll talk about that. Let’s go:
-The first game was a nice one. In case you don’t remember, Brazil and Chile drew 1-1, and then the host nation won on penalties. We were very, very close to seeing Brazil be knocked out of this World Cup before the quarterfinals–the same World Cup that they have enormous pressure to win. Normally anything less than a tournament win is considered a failure for the five-time champs, but due to being at home the pressure is magnified.
-Chile did very well. In other parts of the draw Chile would’ve made the Semifinals.
-My thoughts on Brazil? I have one. They aren’t that great of a team. I kind of noticed this before, but it would’ve been weird to say “this isn’t really a good team” after they thrash Spain 3-0 in the Confederations Cup final. But you know what? Thrashing Spain is apparently easy, now. And Brazil haven’t yet beaten a team that has made the knockout stage in regulation. They beat Cameroon, they dubiously beat Croatia, they drew Mexico, and they narrowly drew Chile in regulation, and beat them in penalties. They’re fair game to criticize right now.
-Let’s compare this team, player-by-player, to Germany:
ST: Müller vs. Fred – are you kidding? Germany 1-0.
AM: Götze vs. Neymar – at club level it’s probably even if not in favor of Götze, but Neymar is very good for Brazil and this is the World Cup. 1-1.
AM: Özil vs. Hulk – huh, both of these players have been booed by their own fans. Which teams’ fans only booed the guy because they’re pessimistic Europeans? Germany 2-1.
AM: Schweinsteiger vs. Oscar – it’s kind of hard to compare teams like this with different formations, but it’s what I’m doing. Oscar is probably Brazil’s 2nd best midfield/attacking player. But still, Schweini. Germany 3-1.
CM: Kroos vs. Paulinho – one of them plays for Bayern, the other plays for Spurs. Do I need to elaborate? Germany 4-1.
DM: Lahm vs. Luiz Gustavo – yeah, even out of position I’m taking Lahm over Gustavo. You can say that Lahm took Gustavo’s place at Bayern Munich, and it’s obvious why. Germany 5-1.
LB: Höwedes vs. Marcelo – this is Germany’s weakness, which could be fixed if they move Lahm to LB. But Marcelo isn’t the crème de la crème either. I’m in a generous mood, however. Germany 5-2.
RB: Boateng vs. Dani Alves – Boateng is better defensively, while Alves is better in the attack. This is a tricky one. Germany 5.5-2.5. Yeah, I did that.
CB: Hummels vs. Thiago Silva – Hummels is great, but I still say that Thiago Silva is probably the best defender in the world. Germany 5.5-3.5.
CB: Mertesacker vs. David Luiz – Mertesacker isn’t likely to pick up any “defender of the year” awards, but David Luiz is always a costly error waiting to happen. Germany 6.5-3.5.
GK: Neuer vs. Julio Cesar – yeah, Cesar plays in MLS (well, he did last half season–he’ll probably re-join QPR for next season) and he was the hero last game, but Neuer is probably the best goalkeeper in the world. Germany 7.5-3.5.
So…best team in the world? Not Brazil. Then how come they are still the logical favorites? Because at home, for the national team, they seem to perform. Neymar, David Luiz, and many of the other players do much better for the national team than their club. This is very rare (think Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney; all better for club than country).
Also, homefield advantage plays a role. If the Brazil-Chile game would’ve been played anywhere other than Brazil, I’m pretty sure that Chile would’ve won.
-Another note: in the national anthems, they made a mistake to cut the sound on the Chile one. Yeah, against any other nation we heard the sound of the Chile fans belting their national anthem, but against Brazil, with a majority Brazilian crowd, it was drowned out by boos. You can question the merits of booing another country’s national anthem, but still, FIFA messed up (what? No way!) by cutting the sound on Chile’s.
-Let’s talk about Colombia. JAMES!!!! Or, phonetically, HA-MEZ!!!! This guy is crazy good. I’ll talk about him more later, but this guy would win the Golden Ball for best player in the tournament if it was to end today. He’s done better than Neymar, better than Messi, and better than everyone else as well.
-You could certainly say that Uruguay would’ve had a much better chance if Luis Suarez was still there. And you’d be right. But I’m not sure if even with Suarez Colombia would have been beatable. I mean, Colombia are arguably the best team of the tournament so far.
-Before I continue talking about actual soccer stuff, I want to say this: I’ve had at least one page view from every continent except Antarctica (should I have more penguin-themed articles? Hmmm…). I haven’t had one from every Confederation though; I’m still missing an OFC view. New Zealanders? Tahitians? Fijians? I won’t bite.
-My thoughts on Netherlands vs. Mexico? Well, Mexico played very well. The Dutch are Colombia’s competition for best in the tournament, and Mexico looked like the better team for 87 minutes. The Netherlands attempted to play a possession style, because someone had to. Both teams have played a counter-attacking style for most of the tournament. Mexico stayed back and responsibly defended, and then hit hard on the counter attack.
-My thoughts on the penalty? It was probably the right call. Yeah, Robben looked quite floppy, but Marquez stepped on his foot. You can’t do that. And you know what? Earlier in the game there was a clear PK on Robben that wasn’t called. So complaining that the referees were biased is just whining for no reason.
-Watching Mexico is like a win-win situation for me as a US fan. If they lose I play the arch-rival card, and if they win I play the CONCACAF card.
-Costa Rica vs. Greece? The interesting thing in this one is that either way it’s a feel-good story. Yeah, Greece play defensively, but smart tactics is no reason for me to hate a team. Costa Rica play defensively, too (the Dutch will be forced into possessing the ball again in the Quarters). Costa Rica won on penalty-kicks, by the way. See, both teams already had a good World Cup by just making it out of the group stage. They’re playing with house money. And now Costa Rica will face the Netherlands in the Quarterfinals; while Spain, Italy, England, and Portugal were all eliminated in the group stage. The World Cup of unpredictability.
-Now, how about today’s first game: France vs. Nigeria. The Nigerians did well, although France forced two mistakes out of them which became goals. Watching Paul Pogba is like listening to a great song and then realizing that they haven’t recorded all of the parts. He’s only 21! He’s said that his weakness is heading. He just scored on a header in the World Cup. This guy is legit.
-Germany struggled against Algeria, needing to take it to penalties, but they came through in the end with Andre Schürrle and Mesut Özil goals. Algeria got one back, but it wasn’t enough to keep us from seeing Germany-France, an intriguing quarterfinals battle of Western European nations.
That’s all I’ve got. I’ll have a US-Belgium preview up fairly soon. And I’ll do other stuff as well.