The Greatest Month in Sports is back. I don’t own any video game that might help me simulate the World Cup, so I had to rely on thinking and stuff. Here are my slightly belated predictions for 2014 (group winners listed first):
Group A: Brazil, Mexico. Brazil is Brazil, in Brazil. Mexico was lucky to get through (thanks to the US showing mercy, in fact), but their poor play is probably behind them. Although I love Cameroon for what Omam-Biyik did to Argentina in 1990, and for Roger Milla’s performances in ’90 and ’94, they’re too inconsistent. Croatia will fold, especially after today’s match.
Group B: The Netherlands, Spain. They’re both too good for Chile (despite its ranking, higher than Holland’s) and Australia. But I think Spain is waning, and it’ll start to show in the group stages.
Group C: Colombia, Ivory Coast. I don’t have a good feel for this group, so… yeah.
Group D: Italy will win the group because I said so, and because they’re going to bounce back from 2010. Uruguay will build on its recent success and advance. England will continue to disappoint.
Group E: France will return to form, even sans Ribery, after their nightmarish performance in South Africa. Switzerland will also advance. They’re more mechanical and consistent than Ecuador or Honduras; it will pay off.
Group F: Messi et al will win the group easily. Nigeria will also advance despite being the lowest-ranked team in the group.
Group G: Germany will win the Group of Death, and the US will finish second. In the first set of games, the US will finally get past Ghana, and Portugal will be beaten and beaten up by Germany. Ronaldo’s nagging injuries will get the better of him, and I think Portugal’s a paper tiger without him in good health. We’ll tie or beat Portugal in our second match, Germany will beat Ghana and secure passage to the second round. Then we’ll tie Germany in the third match and advance with five points. I hope.
Group H: I flipped some coins to make my calls here. I think South Korea will win the group and Belgium, despite high acclaim, will finish second.
Second Round: Brazil over Spain (Some will proclaim tiki-taka dead, which will be nonsense. If that style suits your players, then play it. Spain has the players, but they’re aging and the world is onto them). Uruguay over Colombia. France over Nigeria. Germany over Belgium. Netherlands over Mexico (Mexico’s good fortune runs out). Italy over Ivory Coast. Argentina over Switzerland. US over South Korea.
Quarterfinals: Brazil over Uruguay. Germany over France (who will finally miss Ribery). Netherlands over Italy (not enough offense). Argentina over US.
Semifinals: Brazil over Germany (despite what happened earlier today, this is the game in which home-field advantage will be most obvious). Argentina over Netherlands.
Final: Brazil over Argentina, hopefully in an insanely high-scoring game. Like, 7-6.
Perhaps I’m a bit optimistic regarding the US, but somebody has to be.
Earlier today I told someone that Brazil would win the whole thing. They have enough offense, I thought they’d be organized enough on defense, and too many other contenders are dealing with big injuries. That, plus home-field advantage, plus the threat of the entire team being crucified if they don’t win, should be enough to put them over the top.
About the penalty vs. Croatia… I asked my brother if I was the only person who thought the ref’s call wasn’t that bad. Apparently I wasn’t. No question Fred embellished it, but Lovren put both hands (actually a hand and an arm) on a guy who was turning towards goal with the ball. A slight bump or tug in that situation can put you off balance. It might’ve been soft, but PKs have been given for less.