Ooh, the knockouts! No more margins for error, no more settling for second best. It’s win or go home from here on, be it through the magic up front or the dreaded penalty shoot out, someone’s gotta come out on top.
Penalty shoot outs… both the best and worst entertainment in the game. Unbearable when you’ve got a stake in it, unmissable when you don’t. The thing is, every team left has at least one great finisher, but in a shoot out you need 5 of them. Plus a keeper with Go-Go Gadget arms. I’m not saying I’m looking forward to seeing someone booted out via penalties, but I know I won’t be able to look away when it happens. They’re the Red Wedding of football.
I’m gonna miss the group stages though. Footy every morning, replays all day. Watching the lesser teams battle away knowing that they won’t go further, yet still giving the top dogs all they’ve got. I’m hoping Enner Valencia ends up at a Premier League club, because it’s tearing me up to think that I may never see him leap 12 feet up in the air for a header again. I think that on the whole, all the most entertaining and deserving teams made it through. Belgium had to sneak in but their ability to win tight games is only gonna become more crucial. USA were lucky, let’s be honest, though it was nice to see football/soccer getting prime time media coverage in the States (and mostly without any lameass japes over diving or being pansies – take note New Zealand). That game could be a thriller. You’d assume Argentina will have too much for the Swiss, and Germany for the Algerians, but you never really know. And Brazil vs Chile and Netherlands vs Mexico, given what we’ve seen from those four, are shaping up to be potential classics. There’s no shame in losing at this stage (unless you’re Brazil). Not with the overall quality this tournament has given us. The best compliment I have to offer is that I still, after months of this (or does it just seem that way because I can’t recall a time before the World Cup anymore?) I still have no freakin clue who’s gonna win!
Mystery Doc's Word
Bypass the Luis Suarez drama for a second if you can and there's still enough drama to fill up a few tabloids. Most notably Mario Balloteli still seems to get a lot of hatred from Italian fans and has been the subject of the usual attitude questions. Even Gio Buffon took some subliminal shots saying that the blame shouldn't fall on the older players who had their head screwed on right instead of the younger guys. Ghana on the other hand had a verbal altercation between Kevin Prince Boateng and their coach while Sulley Muntari got in to an apparent physical altercation with a Ghana official. Everyone's getting amongst it, I guess while the footy on the field is decent and entertaining there's gotta be some sort of drama.
I reckon you can draw some comparisons between the Suarez biting saga and that geezer Donald Sterling and the NBA. The whole world basically crushed Suarez and the whole situation forced FIFA to take action quickly and efficiently, much like the NBA. The outcry from those around the world meant that FIFA couldn't do what you would expect organisations like them to do - take their time and be dumb, instead they knew that the World Cup had to be the focus so they did what they had to. Hats off to them, for once.
Round of 16? I'm excited, that tingle has turned in to a full fledged umm... But yeah Belgium vs U.S.A will be awesome, as will Columbia vs Uruguay. The key for me is that we know who the big dogs are - the Dutch, Argentina, Brazil, France and Germany. The best teams in a knockout situation is the reason we all love the World Cup, I'm picking an all European final to be a bit of a ballsy dude - France vs Holland. Go me.
Best of Social Media
Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland) – Scorer of the FIFA World Cup’s 50th ever hat-trick, and the second of this tournament (Thomas Muller vs Portugal). Plus it got his team into the next round, so you can’t doubt his (Swiss) timing.
Lionel Messi (Argentina) – With four of his team’s five goals, Messi is taking Argentina on his (tiny) back. Thanks to that incredible left foot of his, Argentina have cruised into the knockouts despite never looking overly convincing. You don’t really need to with Messi up top.
Algeria – Into the next round, despite a team full of no names and that guy from Fulham. And they deserve it too. With Nigeria also through, this is the first time ever that two African nations have advanced to the second round!
Fabio Capello (Russia) – Uncle Fab looked like he really needed one.
Sleep Deprived Fans – We get a few days off every now and then from here on in, but it’s not like there are anymore Iran vs Nigeria’s to sleep through. Make sure that alarm clock is working.
Ghana – All the drama over the players getting their bonuses was a hige distraction before and even during the tournament, and on the eve of their must win game vs Portugal, stars Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari were sent home after Muntari verbally abused the coach and KPB had a go at a team official. It’s all alleged and been denied by the players but it’s still a horrible look. Ghana lost 2-1 and are out with just a single point in 3 games. They could have been so much more.
Igor Akinfeev (Russia) – Take away his two goalkeeping howlers at this tournament, and Russia woulda cruised through.
Golden Boot Watch
4 – Neymar (Brazil)
4 – Lionel Messi (Argentina)
4 – Thomas Muller (Germany)