footy musings from a (relative) newbie

Archive for the ‘World Cup Group Stage’ Category

Farewell Group Stage

And what a thrilling Group Stage it was. Colombia, Chile and Costa Rica surprised. Luis Suarez showed both the positive and negative sides of himself. Team USA survived the Group of Death (thanks again, CR7!) And Algeria made history.

Among the things that stood out for me

John Brooks’ game winning header vs. Ghana: I’ll never forget the look of shock/disbelief on the 21-year-old American defender’s face. Priceless.

Concacaf REPRESENTIN’: The red-headed stepchild of confederations has three teams in the knockout round. We Concacafians have to stick together!

Mark Geiger: The New Jersey native has refereed two games at this World Cup. Go Jersey!

Knockout stages here we come!

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Love. Hate. Football.

For the past four days, I have hated Cristiano Ronaldo. I generally like CR7, both for his talent and skill and for the hypocritical pearl-clutching he induces in fans and pundits alike.

But last Sunday evening, he and Silvestre Varela combined to break my heart. With the U.S. a mere 30 seconds away from victory and advancement out of the Group of Death, Ronaldo – who’d done nothing all game – chose that moment to loft an excruciatingly beautiful cross onto Varela’s head. “Damn that Ronaldo” was the contents of a text I sent to my sister who was traveling but eagerly awaiting game updates. For the past few days, I’ve cursed the reigning World Player of the Year for putting that particular hurt on my team.

Today, I could kiss CR7 – even with the 12 layers of bronzer he’s no doubt wearing. His 81st minute goal against Ghana helped My USMNT move on to the round of 16. We survived the Group of Death, even though we lost 1-0 to Germany.

This Tweet from me summed up my feelings at the end of this wild group stage.

I Named This Blog for Days Like Today

Sigh.

So, we now know who will play whom when things kick off on June 12 in Sao Paulo. Here are my initial thoughts, keeping in mind that a lot can change between now and June 12.

Group A:

Brazil

Croatia

Mexico

Cameroon

Mexico edged into the tournament via a playoff win against New Zealand. Their reward? A meeting with Brazil, the team they bested in the 2012 Olympic final. It will be interesting to see the makeup of the Mexico team that takes to the field for the first Group game.

Group B:

Spain

Netherlands

Chile

Australia

I guess I’m still in that place where I assume everything will come easily for Spain, and looking at their competition in this group, it looks like I’ll be staying there for a while.

Group C:

Columbia

Greece

Cote d’Ivoire

Japan

The first of the wide open groups, IMO. Columbia, Japan or Ivory Coast could win this group, and we all know about Greece’s ability to spring an upset, so this one is difficult to call.

Group D:

Uruguay

Costa Rica

England

Italy

Looking at this draw, I can only ask what Luis Suarez will do to incite shocked pearl clutching from the English fans and media.

Group E:

Switzerland

Ecuador

France

Honduras

Another wide open group, though I wish people would stop sleeping on Switzerland. Am I the only one who recalls the Swiss beating Spain at WC 2010? Elsewhere, France’s chances are entirely dependent on which France team shows up.

Group F:

Argentina

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Iran

Nigeria

Argentina is my pick to win the whole tournament (so Spain & Brazil should be happy right now, because my prediction skills are abysmal). I don’t see how Argentina can lose this group – even with African Nations Cup champs Nigeria (who should finish second) in the mix.

Group G:

Germany

Portugal

Ghana

United States

Ah, the Group of Death. Every tournament has one, and Portugal, in particular, has made a habit of landing in them the last couple of international tournaments. As a USMNT supporter, I’m of two minds about this draw. On one hand, it will be hella awesome to watch my team on the same field with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil. On the other hand, my team will be on the field with Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil. Weeping and gnashing of teeth may now commence.

Group H:

Belgium

Algeria

Russia

Korea Republic

The last of the wide open groups, featuring the so-called hipsters’ favorite, Belgium. I’ve enjoyed watching this Belgian team mostly because it features Romelu Lukaku – one of my favorite players in the Barclays Premier League. But the team has caught many an eye due to its exciting young talent. In addition to Lukaku, it features Tottenham Hotspur’s Jan Vertonghen, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany, to name just a few. On paper, Russia and Belgium should go through, but I would not entirely count out Korea. Algeria is the only real minnow here, but on an off day for one of the favored teams, who’s to say they can’t spring an upset?

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