Even though American interest in the World Cup has surely dropped nearly to nothing now that the United States has gone out of the tournament, anything worth doing is worth following through completely. While the U.S. team might not have made it as far as we all wished they could have, they certainly did the country proud with their effort and there is reason to be excited about the state of American soccer as they begin preparations for the 2014 World Cup.
In four days of play at the 2010 FIFA World Cup the Knockout Round of 16 has sent eight countries home and left eight countries still vying for the ultimate prize in international soccer competition. Now, for the first time since the tournament began on June 11th, South Africa will take a break from hosting soccer matches until the first Quarterfinal game on July 2nd. Before we move on to the stories and predictions for the Quarterfinal Round, here’s a quick recap of action in the Knockout Round, along with the predictions I made (for better and for worse):
- Predicted: Uruguay 2, South Korea 0 — Actual Result: Uruguay 2, South Korea 1
- Predicted: United States 2, Ghana 1 — Actual Result: Ghana 2, United States 1 (Extra Time)
- Predicted: Germany 2, England 1 — Actual Result: Germany 4, England 1
- Predicted: Argentina 3, Mexico 1 — Actual Result: Argentina 3, Mexico 1 (Exact score pick!)
- Predicted: Netherlands 2, Slovakia 0 — Actual Result: Netherlands 2, Slovakia 1
- Predicted: Brazil 3, Chile 0 — Actual Result: Brazil 3, Chile 0 (Exact score pick!)
- Predicted: Japan 3, Paraguay 2 — Actual Result: Paraguay 0, Japan 0 (Paraguay 5, Japan 3 on Penalty Kicks)
- Predicted: Spain 2, Portugal 1 — Actual Result: Spain 1, Portugal 0
My World Cup Knockout Round of 16 Prediction Results: 6-2 (.750 %)
Now, onto the previews and predictions for the upcoming Quarterfinal Round games at the 2010 FIFA World Cup:
Games on Friday, July 2nd, 2010
Winning teams play each other on Tuesday, July 6th, 2010 at 2:30PM ET.
Netherlands versus Brazil
The first game of the Quarterfinal Round at the 2010 World Cup features two teams who would make for a solid “dream match” if they had been slated to face each other in the World Cup Final itself: the Netherlands and Brazil. Both teams had painless victories in the Knockout Round of 16, with the Netherlands winning 2-1 over Slovakia and Brazil competently putting away Chile by a 3-0 score line. It would seem a safe bet to say that neither team will have it so easy on July 2nd when they face each other for the right to move on to the Semifinal Round. While the Netherlands have yet to lose a match at the World Cup so far—picking up four wins in as many opportunities—their path to this stage of the tournament so far was much easier than the path Brazil has taken. Though it is true that a team need only conquer the opponents put in their way, Brazil would seem in a better position to advance as they head into this Quarterfinal match. With that said, all eyes will turn to Brazil should the Netherlands tally the first goal; Brazil has yet to play from behind in this tournament, and having to try it for the first time at the Quarterfinals might potentially set up an unexpected end to the Seleção run. For the sake of my predictions, I’m going with Brazil in a high-scoring but close and hard-fought match.
Prediction: Brazil 3, Netherlands 1.
Uruguay versus Ghana
2:30 PM ET
Uruguay and Ghana both make it into the Quarterfinals by virtue of 2-1 victories over their opponents, though Ghana’s win over the United States required 120 minutes of play with extra time. Both teams have to be considered an even match for one another, although Uruguay had a much stronger showing in the Group Stage compared to Ghana. Of the four Quarterfinal Round match-ups, this one would have to be the one most lacking “star power” from the nations involved, and the winner of the game will face the unenviable task of playing the winner of the Netherlands-Brazil game. Ghana will be well-supported by the home fans in South Africa—since they are the last African nation still in the tournament—but the pressure will be even greater now than it was heading into their Knockout Round of 16 match. Uruguay has been so consistent so far in the tournament that it’s difficult to predict against them at this point in time. The game will likely be a close one, but expect a one-goal differential to send the Uruguayans through to the Semifinals and a major task from whoever they’re set to play.
Prediction: Uruguay 2, Ghana 1.
Games on Saturday, July 3rd, 2010
Winning teams play each other on Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 at 2:30PM ET.
Germany versus Argentina
In some World Cup years, this match-up would be hoped for as the final teams remaining in the championship game of the World Cup. Thanks to the shape of this year’s draw, perennial powerhouses Germany and Argentina will instead face each other much earlie—in the Quarterfinals. While Argentina has certainly had a smoother road in the tournament to this stage—especially considering that the Germans lost a 1-0 decision to lowly Serbia—both teams staged high-scoring performances in the Knockout Round of 16. Interestingly enough, each team was also subject to controversy in those matches; England scored a goal that was ruled not to have gone in against Germany and Argentina’s first goal against Mexico came on a fairly cut-and-dry offside that went uncalled. Even with that controversy, Germany and Argentina were still my picks to move on, and I feel as though each side would’ve moved on even without the presence of such controversy aiding their advancement. This should be a very tight game to start, with these powerful sides feeling each other out, but scoring could come in droves if the game opens up and the teams realize that they’re making a legitimate push for the Semifinals. A coin flip would be just as useful in predicting this match as any sort of statistical analysis; I’m going to go with the hotter squad in South Africa and predict a victory for the Argentine.
Prediction: Argentina 3, Germany 2.
Paraguay versus Spain
Paraguay has advanced to the Quarterfinal Round by virtue of a win over Japan in the first match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup to require penalty kicks to determine a victor. To some degree, it’s hard to blame either team for not pushing for a win during normal time, given that a victory in this game would set up a match in the Quarterfinals against either Spain or Portugal. If Yuichi Komano of Japan hadn’t missed his kick—the only miss of the penalties—we might still be reporting on a game with an even score line. On the other side of the match-up, Spain was tested in a Knockout Round of 16 match with Portugal which could have made a suitable final—how often has that been said of matches in the draw so far!—but they were able to prevail to head into the Quarterfinal Round. It would seem as though Paraguay’s only hope in the match would have been to have Spain on the ropes with a quick turn-around between games; unfortunately, their opponents will have the same amount of rest and the same Semifinals goal in mind. Barring an amazing performance from the Paraguay squad, there should be no doubt that Spain will move on here. Given the level of play from each team in their separate games on the final day of the Knockout Round of 16, it’s hard to imagine anything but a blowout once they both share the same pitch on July 3rd.
Prediction: Spain 3, Paraguay 0.
Well, there you have it; another round of my picks for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Here’s hoping that Americans who were captivated by the U.S. national team’s run in the tournament keep watching when action resumes heading into our Fourth of July weekend. The stakes will be the highest they’ve been in the World Cup so far this year as Uruguay, Ghana, the Netherlands, Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Paraguay, and Spain all make their cases for advancing to the Semifinal Round; one step closer to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final!
As always, be sure to leave your thoughts and comments below.