Well, that Round of 16 shot holes all through my bracket!
I was wrong with Brazil, Colombia and Belgium. I should have just picked group winners to advance and I’d have been fine (for the first time ever, all 8 group winners advanced).
Here’s what I got wrong: Brazil v. Chile (I had Chile to win); Colombia v. Uruguay (I had Uruguay to win); and USA v. Belgium (I had the United States advancing).
I conceded up front that Brazil and Colombia could very well win their games. It was tough to know how Uruguay would react without Suarez (and I didn’t expect them to crumble). Chile took Brazil to PKs, so I was justified in thinking they might go, but Julio Ceasar was great (and got away with coming off his line during the PK shootout).
The other one I got wrong was the USA v. Belgium game, and let’s be honest, I couldn’t be an Alexi Lalas and go against my country. Besides, I really did think we would beat Belgium, even though I acknowledged that they are an outstandingly talented team.
Here are my predictions for the Quarter Finals:
France v. Germany (7/4 at noon est):
France have been great through the World Cup. They’ve scored a lot of goals and done really well. If you’re a French supporter, you have every reason to have belief and be excited.
Brazil v. Colombia (7/4 at 4 p.m. est):
You don’t want to miss this game! This should be great. Colombia are riding a wave of confidence and storybook success. Can they do it? Can they make it to the final? Probably not. They’ve played Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan and Uruguay. If the USMNT had this path, we’d be in the quarter finals, too.
Brazil, meanwhile, should be the absolute favorites for this World Cup. They are unquestionably one of the top footballing nations in the world, consistently producing some of the greatest players every generation. And this team in particular has huge skill. But something about Brazil just doesn’t feel right to me. They don’t seem to be connecting the way they should be. Brazil will go out before the final, and Colombia may do it to them. It will be a good, close game. Ultimately, I think Brazil advances, but they have been so unconvincing in all their previous matches that it’s possible for a big upset.
Argentina v. Belgium (7/5 at noon):
Argentina have Messi, but the question I’ve been asking through this whole World Cup is whether or not Messi is enough. Sergio Aguero, who is a top goal scorer for Manchester City, has been suffering through injuries and hasn’t been there for Argentina.
As I said before the Ro16 game against the US, Belgium has immense talent. Barring unforeseen events over the next four years, I see Belgium winning the next World Cup in Russia. These guys are a young and hugely talented team. I thought their youth would be a disadvantage against the US and we could get through them, but the fact is the Belgians had great composure and saw that game through to the end. Late substitutions with fresh legs in extra time (Rom Lukaku) helped, but the few threats the US offered were dealt with. Can Kompany stop Messi? Maybe not. But can Messi score enough to compensate for Belgium’s offense that is sure to hit the back of the net?
This will be a good game. I give it to Belgium.
Netherlands v. Costa Rica (7/5 at 4 p.m.):
Costa Rica came out tops from the Group of Champions. They helped to send Italy and England home. Then they bested Greece in the Ro16. But let’s be honest about it. Italy weren’t all that great. England were awful. And Costa Rica beat Uruguay before Suarez returned. And Greece in the R016? I didn’t think Greece should have made it to the Round of 16 anyway.
Netherlands looked shaky against Mexico, and it came down to a controversial call at the end of the game for the Dutch to get a PK and win. Nevertheless, Holland came into this World Cup with something to prove after losing to Spain in the finals four years ago, and they are proving it. 5-1 v. Spain. 3-2 v. Australia. 2-0 v. Chile. 2-1 v. Mexico.
I like Costa Rica and have enjoyed watching them play, but I suspect the composure of the Dutch will overcome.
Look for Netherlands to advance.
While my bracket has been chipped away here and there, I have said all along this goes to Germany and the Netherlands in the final. I’ve picked the Netherlands to win it, but I’m starting to lean toward Germany. The Dutch were shaky against Mexico. They lacked pace and purpose for much of the game.
But through the World Cup, with a lot of games in a few days, top teams are going to have bad games. The best teams are the ones that win bad games in the knockout stages. The Netherlands did that.
I still see Germany and Holland at the end with an Oranje victory.