Took a little longer than I should have to get around to part two of my Mondiale journaling, but here we are. First let’s look at my calls so far.
A: I picked Holland and Ecuador due to Mane’s absence, and it looked like I was gonna be right until Senegal came through in the end. One out of two.
B: England, USA. Right teams and order.
C: Argentina, Poland. Right teams and order. Argentina gave us all a scare after that shocking loss to Saudi Arabia, but I thought that loss was more of a fluke than a sign of poor attitudes, organization, or play on Argentina’s part. Argentina got over it and advanced. Mexico was knocked out on goal difference, but if not for Saudi Arabia’s final goal, they would have been knocked out anyways on the garbage “fair play points” rule. I’ve ranted about that before.
D: France, Denmark. France was right, Denmark was wrong. Nice to see Eriksen in the tournament after the scare he had last summer, but nothing came of it. France looks good, is actively trying to win instead of merely defending their goal and title, and is one of my picks to win it all. Nice to see underdog Australia overcome the 1-4 embarrassment of their first match and advance anyways. Six picks in the right spots so far, two wrong.
E: This is where my picks start going wrong. I called Germany “a machine being reloaded,” and picked them to finish first over Spain. Whoops. Japan won, Spain placed. Japan has surprised me the most, beating two of the last three champions (while somehow losing to Costa Rica). The Asian teams in general have earned their acclaim this time around, but Japan’s win over Germany is my pick for best game of the first round. Germany attacked relentlessly, Japan played for counterattacks, and Japan’s plan worked. The Germans are rightly embarrassed to have been knocked out two group stages in a row, but like last time, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Over 60% possession against Japan and Costa Rica (nobody outpossesses Spain), out-shot all three opponents (both on and off target)… the shots just didn’t go in.
F: I picked Belgium and Croatia. Right about Croatia, horrifically wrong about Belgium. Morocco won the group. Belgium, who I thought was best in 2018 (except for when Brazil collectively stopped diving in the last 30 minutes of their elimination game), seemed to put on a soft recreation of France’s meltdown in 2010. Arranging last-minute separate flights home is a bad look.
G: Brazil, Cameroon. Brazil looks ready to win with or without any given superstar or superstars, which is great for them psychologically. The absence of Neymar and Thiago Silva against Germany in 2014 led to the 7-1 disaster. led to being on the wrong side of the 7-1 avalanche in 2014. This time around, I think they have more steel. Cameroon was a sentimental pick and got Africa’s first win against Brazil in the World Cup, but it was too little too late. Switzerland played well and finished second.
H: I picked Uruguay to win and Portugal to place. I was wrong. Portugal won, and Ronaldo looks to have eased any concern that the Manchester United fiasco might hurt him, but Uruguay was toothless. South Korea’s miracle against Portugal let them advance on goals scored, which is a sane tiebreaker. Uruguay should face major fines and suspensions for the fiasco at the end of their game against Ghana.
So, if I’m counting right: nine exactly right, one additional pick advanced but in the wrong spot. Not my best performance.
The next round, even though I wrote this after the first two R16 games:
I honestly had the US beating the Netherlands either in overtime or PKs, so my bracket’s already broken, and Argentina was an easy pick over Australia. Messi has looked like Messi, and I’ll comment more on the US departure later.
France should easily handle Poland.
Something about England doesn’t look right to me. They have finishers but they’re missing something in the other phases. I think they’ve advanced as far as they have in recent major tournaments due to favorable draws. I think they’re going to get caught looking ahead to France, and Senegal will slip past them.
Croatia should beat Japan, but it’s not a lock. I don’t know if Japan’s counters are going to work as well against a Modric midfield as it did against Germany’s or Spain’s.
Brazil and Spain should be locks against South Korea and Morocco, respectively.
Portugal should sneak past Switzerland. This is my pick for most likely to go to PKs, though. We’ll see.