World Cup South Africa 2010, Part Six.

So much for “clinical and calculating.” Brazil’s second-half collapse today was one for the ages. They had a second-half lead against a flailing, desperate Holland until Felipe Melo had the mother of all meltdowns. We probably shouldn’t lay all the blame at one person’s feet, but when you block out your own keeper on a cross and knock the ball in your own net, get caught flat-footed on a corner kick and watch the guy you’re supposed to mark head in the game-winner, and then get red-carded for stomping a prone Arjen Robben, all in less than 20 minutes, then you probably shoulda stayed in bed that morning. Good for Holland that they came back against mighty Brazil, who typically doesn’t blow leads, but I still think the winner is coming out of the other half of the bracket.

Back to the previous round: June 27th was my favorite day of the tournament. Ze Germans’ 4-1 beatdown of England was my favorite game of the tournament so far, even though it turned into a blowout. Plenty of history, plenty of shots, level possession, lots of early action instead of a “settling in” period, a fierce comeback by the English, two perfect counterattacks by the Germans… great game. Yes, England got screwed out of a clear goal (at least clear to everyone except the ref, the linesman who couldn’t possibly have caught up with the ball in time to make an accurate call, and most of the players), but there were two silver linings to that cloud: first, it avenged the debatable goal Geoff Hurst scored against West Germany in 1966, and second, it might lead to more officials on or around the field, or some form of instant replay. (A third would be that it helped Germany win, if they’re your favorites.)

Later that day, the Argentines beat Mexico in another controversial but thrilling game. Tevez’s first goal rightfully drew a lot of complaints because it was clearly offsides. It was the height of absurdity to watch the refs carefully averting their eyes from the stadium’s jumbotrons as they showed the offsides goal over and over again.

FIFA could afford to ignore the two US goals that were disallowed in group play because (A) it was against the US, so they don’t care that much and (B) we won our group anyways, so it was moot. They could ignore the Italian goal that was disallowed against Slovakia because Italy was horrible in this tournament. But they can’t ignore these two blown calls, one that shouldn’t have been a goal and one that should, because they forced Mexico and England to keep playing from behind in an elimination game, and allowed the Argentines and Germans to rely on counterattacks. They’ve got to put more officials on the pitch/sidelines/goallines, or find some way to incorporate replay.

That said, Tevez’s second goal was spectacular. Watch.

I think the winner of tomorrow’s Argentina-Germany match is going to win the whole thing. Both teams have very good offenses and transition, but both defenses are prone to letdowns. I think Argentina has the advantage tomorrow because their letdowns haven’t cost them (or nearly cost them) any games, but who knows? As long as it’s an awesome game, I’ll be happy.

Portugal is gone, deservedly so. They beat up North Korea, but didn’t manage to score against anybody else. Shut out in three of four games. Pathetic. Spain should’ve beaten them a lot worse. Speaking of Spain, they still look like they have yet to wake up in this tournament. They’d better do it soon, because if they get past Paraguay as expected, they’re facing either Germany or Argentina.

Ghana and Uruguay are about to go into extra time. More later.

[Updated 5:45 PM]: Uruguay needs to knight Luis Suarez for that handball, or give him the key to the country, or whatever. It was illegal, it was red-worthy, it was unsportsmanlike, but it saved them. If only Gyan had buried that PK.

[Updated 12:07 PM, July 3, 2010]: GER 4:0 ARG! Not quite the kind of awesome I was hoping for, but good Lord, Germany’s got the counterattack down. So much for Argentina’s letdowns not costing them any games.

I would say I’m going to stick with this morning’s winner as the eventual champion, but my predictions seem to be no better than coin flips.

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