Friday, June 25, 2010

Knockout Round - Five More Thoughts On The World Cup

While you wait for some of our more qualified experts to check in with their latest thoughts on the World Cup, here are five more thoughts as we head into the knockout round.

Run-Up Form Matters … In advance of the World Cup, experts were concerned about sides like Italy and France, and sure enough those two power countries are no longer with us. Meanwhile, sides like Germany and Spain had stumbles of their own in the group stage, yet were highly thought of entering the tournament and indeed wound up advancing with some comfort. Actually, look even at the U.S. and its run up – suspect defending but a feisty attitude and the ability to put some balls in the back of the next. That is pretty much what played out for the Americans.

Shock Semifinalist … It has been noticed in multiple places that the path to the semifinals for the U.S. can be considered workable. Regardless of whether it is the U.S. or not, though, that part of the bracket will deliver a surprising semifinalist. Remember, Uruguay only got into the tournament thanks to a playoff win over Costa Rica, while Ghana is without its best player. Then, while South Korea did advance to the semis in 2002, most chalked it up to being at home and some fortunate officiating. The other three semifinalists seem destined to be big names, but one will be a rank outsider.

Never A Breath For The English … First, there was the “embarrassing” tie with the U.S., then the calamitous draw with Algeria. Fabio Capello’s boys did advance through with a solid win over Slovenia, but then get the gift of a match with Germany. If the English should somehow win that match, Argentina likely awaits in the quarterfinals. It’s a bracket that allows English fans everywhere to relive their greatest footballing nightmares. It does add an extra dose of drama for those of us watching from the outside, not sure whether to cheer for familiar players on display every week in the Premier League or hope for a crashing defeat.

How About South America? … All five South American sides have advanced to the knockout stages, a first-time occurrence if the quick reference on the TV is to be believed. While some of the best South American players obviously play in Europe, I’m not sure the American soccer fan has quite caught on to the depth in talent that exists south of the equator. Obviously, Brazil and Argentina have stellar reputations and histories. But, how many would run out to see a Chile/Uruguay South American qualifier like you might a France/Greece matchup? With the next World Cup in Brazil, the South American sides might be setting up for an extended run of dominance.

And The Quarterfinals Will Be … U.S./Uruguay, Germany/Argentina, Netherlands/Brazil, Spain/Paraguay. Would those be fun or what?