I don’t think the US played well against Belgium. Tim Howard is rightly getting his due, and the defense in many cases did well to force Belgium into low-probability shots. But I thought we were poor in transition and offense until the last few minutes of regular time and the second half of extra time. I realize that part of the offensive surge at the end was due to Belgium falling back and defending a lead, but it was also due to greater aggression, better decision-making, and better touch on the passes– all of which were missing for most of the previous 105 minutes. I lost track of how many times our mids either didn’t play the ball through, or tried to play it through and kicked it right at a defender. Oh well.
I like what Klinsmann has done with the team, and I loved watching him sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” during pre-game. We’ll always wonder about his decision to leave Donovan off the roster, but keep in mind we advanced out of the so-called “Group of Death” without him. In fact, if not for a defensive lapse at the end of the Portugal game, we would have clinched advancement after two games. Yes, Wondo missed at the end of regulation, and we can wonder about whether Donovan would’ve buried it. But Donovan’s comments and attitude throughout qualification made Klinsmann question his desire and commitment, and that was that.
Hopefully our guys will build on this (we had a young team, this was a good experience), and MLS will build on this (though I won’t hold my breath), and we’ll breeze through qualification, and we’ll draw an easier group in 2018, and go even further in the knockouts.
My predictions from the last post:
“Brazil over Chile. Chile was better than expected, but Brazil is hitting its stride and there’s no way the tourney/refs will let Brazil lose this one anyway.” Yes and no. Yes, Brazil won, but no, they didn’t get any help from the refs this time.
“Colombia over Uruguay.” Easy pick.
“France over Nigeria, Germany over Algeria, Netherlands over Mexico, Argentina over Switerland… those winners have looked strong and played positive games.” Three of these were nail-biters. I’m most impressed with Holland. They have fallen behind in three of their four games– once at halftime to the defending champion, once in the second half against an upstart, once with two minutes left in regulation of a knockout game– and all three times they won. It’s not like they’re barely eking out one-goal victories with early goals and packing the bus. They’re playing high-flying, attack-first games and winning.
“Costa Rica will beat Greece…” Yes…
“…and I think the US will beat Belgium.” No. Someone had to pick them, and I didn’t care that it might cost me my bracket. Seven of eight isn’t bad. Odd that all eight winners were the group winners.
My quarterfinal picks: Brazil over Colombia. Messitina over Belgium. Holland over Costa Rica.
France v. Germany. This is a really tough call. France has thoroughly impressed throughout the tournament, but I have Germany in my bracket, and I’m sticking with them. Germany’s had its scare and had its mettle tested, France hasn’t. I say that’ll be the difference. We’ll see.