I intended to post this on Friday, but the time I had carved out on Friday for this unexpectedly became unavailable, and this past weekend (like most in England) was consumed by my lovely daughter.
This post is separated into two parts. First, a review of the predictions that I made on the 10th of June for the group stage. If you’re busy and don’t have the time for this entire post, the executive summary is pretty simple: I sucked. I only predicted 11 of the 16 qualifiers, and only three of the groups I forecast perfectly. There was one minor miscue that I’m pleased as hell to have got wrong (the USA), and one that’s just plain embarrassing (England). In the positive column, I predicted six of eight group winners (and six of eight group losers), and in going out on a limb to suggest that Italy would finish third in retrospect appears to be brilliant insight. Only if you’re drunk, because I did choose England to win that group.
In addition to England, I obviously blew Spain, having predicted them to be finalists (but not winners at least). I missed Holland, picking them third, Costa Rica, picking them fourth, and Algeria, whom I predicted fourth but qualified as second.
Prediction: 1. Brazil 2. Mexico 3. Croatia 4. Cameroon
Result: 1. Brazil 2. Mexico 3. Croatia 4. Cameroon
A good one for me, though I don’t think Brazil played as well as they should have done to be legitimate title contenders.
Group B (aka ‘sucks to be Australia’)
Prediction: 1. Spain 2. Chile 3. Netherlands 4. Australia
Result: 1. Netherlands 2. Chile 3. Spain 4. Australia
I watched the Spain v Netherlands match in the Green Dragon in Portland, Oregon as part of the celebrations surrounding my wife’s graduation from nursing school. The Green Dragon isn’t known as a soccer bar, but it’s most definitely an excellent beer bar (and it hosted our wedding reception three years ago). If you’re in PDX, check it out. The Spain goal was a very soft penalty, and then the Dutch came on strong and haven’t looked back since that penalty. I was pulling for the Dutch of course. I adopted Oranje as my second national side while living in the Netherlands for three years at the beginning of the last decade (and this through their disastrous qualification campaign for Korea Japan 2002), and was thrilled to see them destroy that bracket of mine.
Prediction: 1. Colombia 2. Ivory Coast 3. Greece 4. Japan
Result: 1. Colombia 2. Greece 3. Ivory Coast 4. Japan
I downplayed Greece, and had more faith in Ivory Coast. I did call the key match as Greece v Ivory Coast, which went 2-1 to Greece. Even a draw would have sent Ivory Coast through, so I was only one stinking goal from getting this group perfect. Of course, that doesn’t make up for the bucket of goals away from getting Group B perfect.
Prediction: 1. England 2. Uruguay 3. Italy 4. Costa Rica
Result: 1. Costa Rica 2. Uruguay 3. Italy 4. England
Nothing to see here. Move along, folks.
Prediction: 1. France 2. Switzerland 3. Ecuador 4. Honduras
Result: 1. France 2. Switzerland 3. Ecuador 4. Honduras
Nailed it. France were 17th according to FIFA’s flawed rankings system, and Switzerland 6th. France beat Switzerland 5-2. In my write up a couple weeks ago, I did say that I originally had the Swiss winning the group, but upon further reflection, had to go with the French. I also implied it would be close. The table says that France edged out Switzerland by a lone point. The reality is that the Swiss came three goals short.
Prediction: 1. Argentina 2. Nigeria 3. Bosnia and Herzegovina 4. Iran
Result: 1. Argentina 2. Nigeria 3. Bosnia and Herzegovina 4. Iran
Nailed it. Argentina did take all nine points as I predicted, but it wasn’t as easy for them as a perfect haul suggests. B&H were stronger than I thought they would be, and were only a goal away from qualification.
Prediction: 1. Germany 2. Portugal 3. USA 4. Ghana
Result: 1. Germany 2. USA 3. Portugal 4. Ghana
Well, cool. I was one goal from getting this one right, and it was close in the end. It shouldn’t have been close in the end, of course, had the US not allowed that stoppage time equaliser from Portugal to get in. When Altidore went down early in the Ghana match, I thought, that’s it, any chance we had just went out the window. This is what I wrote two weeks ago:
Well, shit. I’d have taken Donovan, as a sub, but it wouldn’t have made a difference. Germany win this tough group, and if things break just right, the US can come out of it. It would take another 2002-style surprise against Portugal, however, and I don’t think that will happen. Progressing out of this group would be to me more impressive than the 2002 run or the 2009 Confederations Cup. In the positive, the three warm up friendlies went OK, including beating both Turkey and Nigeria. If Portugal suffers an injury, if the US finally beats Ghana, and remember that Portugal had a mediocre qualifying campaign. There’s a chance. Maybe a one in three chance that the US makes it out of the group.
Key Match: for the USMNT, all of them. We need all three off of Ghana, and all three off of Portugal, to ensure progression. If a strong Ghana side emerges to take points off of Portugal and possibly Germany, four points could get us through. I don’t see us taking a point off of Germany. Or scoring a goal. I don’t see Ghana being strong enough to help us, either. At least I think we’ll finally beat Ghana, who did us in the Group in Germany and the knock out round in South Africa.
On balance, that was more right than wrong.
Prediction: 1. Belgium 2. Russia 3. South Korea 4. Algeria.
Result: 1. Belgium 2. Algeria 3. Russia 4. South Korea.
This one I whiffed on a bit badly. Not only did I have Algeria finishing fourth, I also said “Russia might win it, but the distance between those two and South Korea and Algeria is pretty severe.” Where I got it wrong is that I should have included Russia in the pool of mediocrity with South Korea and Algeria, instead of placing them closer to Belgium in terms of capability.
Now, for part two. Two weeks ago, this is what I said:
In order to clean up after the wreckage that reality will mete out to my predictions above, I’m going to revisit the following after the group stages are complete. For now, it’s just for fun.
Knockout Stage: Brazil > Chile; Uruguay > Colombia; France > Nigeria; Germany > Russia; Spain > Mexico; England > Ivory Coast; Argentina > Switzerland; Portugal > Belgium.
Quarters: Brazil > Uruguay; Germany > France; Spain > England; Argentina > Portugal.
Semis: Brazil > Germany; Spain > Argentina
Final: Brazil > Spain
I’m going to limit myself to cursory notes here given we’re already 30 minutes into Holland v Mexico, but I’ll include how I would have honestly predicted the two that were played yesterday.
Brazil v Chile. This one will be closer than originally anticipated, as Chile are stronger than I thought (or, perhaps, they benefitted from an unexpectedly bad Spain) and Brazil less consistent. I still see Brazil winning this by a goal. Of course, it went to pens . . .
Colombia v Uruguay. Easy, Colombia. Uruguay without Suarez isn’t the same. And it wasn’t.
Netherlands v Mexico. Oranje. I have to hand it to Mexico, and CONCACAF more generally: our association qualified three of four.
Costa Rica v Greece. I’m not going to underestimate Ticos again this tournament. On paper, they played in a more difficult group, only dropping points int he final match against England, when England were already eliminated and Costa Rica only required a draw to guarantee topping the group. Greece were somewhat fortunate to make it out of Group C, and did so with only four points and a goal differential of -2.
France v Nigeria. France were simply more impressive. Nigeria’s best match was the 2-3 defeat to Argentina, and they could only draw against Iran. France dominated Ecuador, and swept a theoretically strong Switzerland aside, only dropping point in the final match, when their position in the group had been all but settled.
Germany v Algeria. No contest.
Argentina v Switzerland. I’m liking Argentina more for the title than I was at the beginning. The Swiss won’t pose a serious challenge.
Belgium v USA. Shit. Belgium by a goal, but this US side has played better than I thought they would, and Klinsmann has proven in this tournament to be better at preparing the side for the given competition, and better at making tactical adjustments on the fly. He’s still not perfect, but I feel better with him going against Belgium than Bradley.
Quarters: Brazil > Colombia, Germany > France, Netherlands > Costa Rica, Argentina > Belgium.
Semis: Germany > Brazil, Netherlands > Argentina
Final: Germany > Netherlands
Yes, a replay of 1974, with the same bothersome result.