A clever opening escapes me so on with the business.
BRAZIL v. CHILE
This is by a good margin the most intriguing game of the round. Brazil has gotten results with functional play interpersed with Neymar’s individual brilliance, but they have yet to inspire the aura of a prohibitive favorite. Chile, with it’s ten toes in commitment to pressure, is the tournament’s most idealistic tactical side and will take the game to the home side. Optimistically, this game will be the crucible by which Brazil’s championship credentials are forged, or it will render them exposed and insufficient. Pragmatically, this could be an ugly game decided by a dubious penalty or red card. May the glass be half full. Brazil 2-1 in extra time.
COLUMBIA v. URUGUAY
Columbia is undefeated through group play and highly entertaining though bereft of any pedigree to suggest they are full on contenders. They do present an uplifting underdog’s tale, which is in stark contrast to the Suarez-saddled Uruguayans. After a Suarez-less lost to Costa Rica and a Suarez-inspired win over England, it was possible, for at least a few hours, to consider the difference a goal-scoring genius brings to an otherwise mundane side of hacks, and to contemplate larger questions of our feelings toward greatness measured against the occaisional transgression, balanced by the thought that people mature and grow. Piss on all that as Suarez has again disgraced himself, and in equal measure, anyone taking his defense now. What is inescapable is that but for the tolerence of this crass, classless animal, Uruguay would not even be in this game. With due sorrow to the rest of the players on the team, I hope they get their ass kicked. Columbia 2-0.
NETHERLANDS v. MEXICO
The mere sight of Patrick Kluivert pretending to be an assistant coach stirs emotions in me dating back to the 1995 Champion’s League final in Vienna, when as a substitute, he came on to score the decisive goal against AC Milan for the AJAX team that formally introduced me to futbol. There are very few scenarios that will have me pull against this team, and as entertaining as they may be, Herrera’s sideline histrionics do not present one. That said this is an extremely dangerous game for the Dutch Masters as they have conceded goals in this tournament, and a fearless Mexico will undoubtedly produce a few chances. This will be a classic encounter. Netherlands 2-1.
COSTA RICA v. GREECE
Costa Rica is a wonderful story of improbably first round success, and Greece is a long tragic yarn of miserably, unentertaining futbol perpetuated by a truly gut-wrenching injury time penalty. Much like Columbia and Uruguay, the lines of morality are clearly drawn, but the viewing value of the game is unlikely to be noteworthy. Costa Rica 1-0.
FRANCE v, NIGERIA
The French have been the tournament’s most complete team, and Nigera seems hard-pressed to have a chance of beating them. For the sake of entertainment, an early Nigerian goal would be a gift and force the French to test their mettle. Viva Le France 3-1.
GERMANY v. ALGERIA
Germany has been good, but not great. Algeria has been wildly entertaining, and has a chance to torment the beleagured German defensive flanks. Again, an early goal to the North Africans would make things compelling. I expect, however, a German show of force and a comprehensive 2-0 win followed by the gloating commentary of Michael Ballack. I respected Ballack as a two way player at the peak of his powers and was sympathetic to his 2006 World Cup exclusion due to injury, but man is he great in the studio with his unique brand of gentlemanly arrogance.
ARGENTINA v. SWITZERLAND
There is something amiss with this Argentine side. It is visibly disconnected by levels of talent and the absence of cohesion, and their coach appears as pleasant as a prison camp guard, but Messi is delivering for his country in heroic terms. The Swiss are much like their cheese, substance (midfield) and holes (defense). Argentina 2-1.
UNITED STATES v. BELGIUM
We have history. The United States has fallen twice to Belgium in contemporary times, but there is a certain confidence that familiarity breeds. There will be no awe in US boots on Tuesday night. Belgium, for it’s part, has failed to live up to it’s billing, but has found decisive goals in the final quarter hour of all of it’s games which breeds a different kind of belief. The United States too often looks panicked in possession, and randomly inept in defense, but they are fighters and I am one of them….fuck it we win 2-1.