Saturday, June 26, 2010

Knockout Rounds Begin (Soccer again)

Well, the US is out of the World Cup, losing to Ghana for the second World Cup in a row. I can't say I'm surprised - if I wanted to, I could say I called it, since I did, after Ghana's first game - they hadn't been so sharp in the last couple games, but this time looked quite good. It was a great game - tense and close and active throughout - the US screwed up on D again, though, and Ghana made them pay. Fun to watch, anyway, and I can't really feel too bad - I am glad to see an African team playing well, getting deep into the tournament, after the continent's bad showing in the groups. I wish the US had gone on, but it's not a heartbreaker.

I think Uruguay will handle Ghana fine in the next round - they would have handled the Americans maybe even easier. That was another nice game to watch - Uruguay's forwards are so slick, they make you pay attention - and for a defensive minded team, they seem to play a relatively watchable brand of soccer. The commentators kept mentioning Inter Milan, with their great defense and flashy scorers, striking fast and sure - that's a comparison that occurred to me too. Uruguay seems to be playing the part of the good Italy in this world cup - defense and slick, counter-attack oriented offense. I suspect Portugal will play the part of the bad Italy - defend and dive...

The rest of this round? I think I'd stick with the quarterfinalists I predicted before the groups were done: Argentina, Germany; Brazil and Holland; Paraguay and - I think the Iberian cup (so to speak) is a lot harder to predict than I let on. Spain has a boatload of talent, but they still don't seem to be entirely in synch. Portugal may or may not score another goal from the run of play - but they don't seem likely to give much up and are exceedingly opportunistic. And, I have to admit - what I've seen this time, as well as 2006, they are completely shameless about how they get their chances. Last time out, they played Holland in the second round, in what I thought would be a very pretty game - it ended up being a disaster. The game against Spain might not be any better. An overmatched ref and it might be unwatchable. For all that - they are almost a home team, for my neighborhood (they were definitely the home team last time, Portuguese flags everywhere - but I've moved, back to a more Brazilian part of town) - and as annoying as they can be, I can't help wishing them well... Spain winning would make for prettier soccer later on - and if they do win that game, it could be the hurdle they needed to clear to reach their potential - but I suspect Portugal will take the game....

Anyway - I am looking forward to quite a few of these upcoming games - Paraguay and Japan could be an interesting contest - the Japanese played some very solid soccer in the group stages, as did Paraguay - that could be a well played, closely contested game. Holland Slovakia might be fun - might be the Dutch's chance to finally get the offense running (especially is Robben plays). Though Slovakia deserves some kind of reward for getting rid of Italy, bless their souls. And Chile might give Brazil some jitters - if they can keep their players on the field. Oh well - onwards!

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