Had the semifinalists (Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Holland) right from the beginning, though there was a bit more squeaking-by than I expected. My original picks, as documented in this august journal and in my ESPN bracket, were Brazil over Germany and Argentina over Holland. If those picks turn out right, I will gladly accept congratulations, accolades, and cash from the world over. But I no longer believe that’s how the semis will go.
Germany’s been pretty consistent. They flailed a bit against Algeria in regulation, but that aside they’ve been strong on offense and defense, they’ve attacked consistently, and they’re due to get back to final. The loss of Neymar and Thiago Silva puts Brazil in a lot of trouble. Hulk’s played hard and sorta well; now Oscar and Fred et al need to turn it on. The Brazilians still have more than enough talent to win it, but this whole tournament they’ve over-relied on Neymar to the point that I wonder whether they think they can win without him. I now have to take Germany over Brazil.
Argentina is still getting by on talent without being properly organized, and that’s not going to work much longer. Di María is out just as Argentina is running into its toughest, best organized, most fearless opposition so far. Yes, Aguero is coming back, and yes, Messi is still Messi, but no di María means no playmaker in the midfield. Meanwhile, Holland looks awesome. True, they needed PKs to get past Costa Rica, but I think the Dutch were unlucky not to blow the Ticos away in regulation. And hanging on to that last sub juuuust in case you want to change out your keeper for the PKs? That’s insane, but it worked, and that’s what counts. Between that gamble, and the amazing comebacks, and that epic whupping of Spain, and their generally dominating play throughout the tournament, I now think Holland’s going back to the final.
So, am I going back on my original calls? Yes. Could you say I’ve picked all four teams to win? Yes. Will I backtrack on this blogpost if my new predictions turn out wrong? Certainly. But Germany and Holland are more impressive, Brazil and Argentina are hobbled by key injuries, and so: Germany over Brazil, Holland over Argentina, Holland over Germany in the final. No coin flipping this time.
About Robben: the guy doesn’t dive. He does embellish, no doubt. It’s embarrassing to watch, but the reality is he’s super-fast, he can use either foot, and so the bad guys foul him. A lot. Twice he was fouled badly enough in the box in the first half against Mexico that he should’ve gotten a PK. Against Spain four years ago, two defenders were hacking the bejeezus out of him on a breakaway and he didn’t go down. He doesn’t dive. He plays hard, non-stop, and I no longer want to run a power sander over his face.
Dr. Hmnahmna tells me that his daughter saw a picture of Lionel Messi in the paper today and asked if it was me. Me! But of course it wasn’t me; I’m right-footed.