World Cup Preview (Knockout Round)

So, half of the teams have been eliminated by group play, and now we have the remainin 16 teams vying for the ultimate prize, in the ultimate pressure-cooker format: one-and-done.  Here is the BSB preview:

A1/C1 Quadrant
A1-Uruguay vs. B2-South Korea
C1-United States vs. D2-Ghana

The original BSB picks were hit and miss here.  BSB has been all over Uruguay all tournament, correctly picking them (in a big surprise) to win Group A.  South Korea has been a dark-horse, but has definitely earned their spot in the Round of 16, even though we had them not making this round.  The USA won Group C–a bit of a surprise, and not predicted by BSB, though we did have them qualifying, just not winning the group.  Ghana got through a really tough Group D, as predicted by BSB.

We are going to continue to ride Uruguay through to the quarterfinals, as we think they should be too much for the upstart South Koreans.  The other game is probably the most difficult of the entire Round of 16.  The USA has been playing inspired ball lately, but Ghana is the only remaining African nation, so this might be much like a home game for the Black Stars.  Because of that, BSB is going to go against the home boys and pick Ghana to get to the quarterfinals for the first time in their history.

In the end, we like the ancient soccer power to knock off the future soccer power.  BSB is taking Uruguay to reach the semifinals out of this section of the draw.

B1/D1 Quadrant
B1-Argentina vs. A2-Mexico
D1-Germany vs. C2-England

BSB correctly predicted Argentina to win Group B with ease.  We did not have Mexico getting out of Group A–we actually thought the French would survive.  BSB did correctly pick Germany and England to make it out of group play.  We had Germany correctly dubbed as the Group D champs, but we thought England would win Group C when, in fact, they actually finished second to the USA.

We are going to continue to ride the Argentina bandwagon and pick them to get past Mexico and into the quarters, setting up a classic match with whomever survives the battle of ancient powers.  Our pick is Germany to knock off the Brits and advance to face Argentina in the quarters.

Lionel Messi and company have been just too good all tournament to go against them just yet.  BSB is going to take Argentina to beat Germany in a classic match to advance to the semifinals.

E1/G1 Quadrant
E1-Netherlands vs. F2-Slovakia
G1-Brazil vs. H2-Chile

BSB nailed three of the four of these placements here.  We got Netherland winning Group E and Brazil winning Group G.  We also hit on Chile as a bit of a surprise to get out of Group H as the second-place finisher.  Neither us nor pretty much anyone else had Slovakia qualifying over Italy, but they did.  We actually had Paraguay in this spot, with Italy winning the group.

The first game of this segment is probably the easiest to pick.  We are taking the Netherlands to beat Slovakia and make it to the quarters.  I thought the Netherlands was the tournament’s most impressive team (considering they cruised without even playing their best soccer) in the group play.  So, watch out.  The other game is actually a lot tougher than it may appear because I have LOVED Chile all tournament.  But, Brazil is too good and should be able to get by their continent-mates and move on to a brutal quarterfinal test against Holland.

And, here it is–the big upset pick.  You heard it here first, the Netherlands are going to beat Brazil in the quarterfinals to advance to the semis to take on Uruguay.  Yes, we like the Dutch to pull the massive upset here and knock off the #1 team in the world.

F1/H1 Quadrant
F1-Paraguay vs. E2-Japan
H1-Spain vs. G2-Portugal

BSB did pick Paraguay to get through Group F, but not to win it.  We did not have Japan in Group E–we actually took the bait on Cameroon to finish second to Holland in this group.  However, we did nail the other qualifiers, as we had Spain winning Group H and Portugal finishing second to Brazil in Group G.  They weren’t exactly gutsy picks, but we did get them right.

Paraguay was not incredibly impressive, but they did what they needed to do in, what turned out to be, probably the weakest group.  Now, they get a Japan team that played well, but also benefitted from some unimpressive performances in their group (namely, Cameroon and Denmark).  This might be a matchup of the two weakest teams to get through group play.  We are going to go with Paraguay, who actually looked good in qualifying and any win in a group in the World Cup is good, regardless of who is in it.  The other game is a bloodbath between two bitter, bitter rivals.  They share the same little corner of the world, and they both pride themselves on their football abilities, despite combining for ZERO World Cup titles.  It is going to be a war, but we like Spain to prevail and knock out Portugal.

We like Spain to continue on to the semifinals, in their attempt to win their first ever World Cup, and an attempt to become the first team ever to win the World Cup after losing their first game.  The Spaniards will have a semfinal war with Argentina.

The Final Four
Uruguay vs. Netherlands
Argentina vs. Spain

The semifinals might be a referendum on the best soccer-playing continent as Europe takes on South America in each of the two matches.  Europe has had a nightmarish tournament, but they still have their best team standing here in the semis.  South America has been utterly dominant throughout the tournament, but their best team was eliminated in the quarters.  This should be interesting.

The first semifinal pits two teams that BSB has been riding all tournament.  But, this is where is ends for Uruguay.  We think the Netherlands is just too good and will move on to the World Cup finals.  The other match is going to be fantastic.  The pre-tournament favorites, Spain, versus the pre-tournament enigmas, Argentina.  This match is incredibly tough to figure out.  In the end, it just came down to the dominance of the South Americans in this tournament, and I just couldn’t bring myself to pick two European finalists in a tournament where Europe struggled so mightily.  We are saying that Maradona is going to be one win away from running through the streets of Buenos Aires naked, as Argentina is our pick to beat Spain and move to the finals.

And, in the finals, here it is.  You heard it here first–the Netherlands is the official BSB pick to win the World Cup, beating Argentina in a classic final.  The Dutch will grab their first World Cup title, and a little bit of vindication will be brought upon the European Football Federation, as despite the embarrassments of France and Italy, the underachievement of England, and yet another heartache for Spain, Europe does win their second straight World Cup.

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