Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Belgium 2 - United States of America 1

Argentina 1 - Switzerland 0

Argentina and Switzerland met up in a Round of Sixteen affair in Sao Paulo today.

Off a Shaqiri cross back into the box, Dzemaili had an open header inside the six-yard box. His header smacked the near post and then ricocheted off Dzemaili and went out of bounds. Argentina escape to the quarterfinals by the thinnest of margins via a 1-0 victory in extra time. Argentina left back Marcos Rojo picked up a yellow card and will miss the quarterfinal.

Angel di Maria 118

Match Reports:


Monday, June 30, 2014

Germany 2 - Algeria 1

Porto Alegre was the site of the knockout stage clash between Algeria and Germany. Algeria had defeated Germany in their only previous meeting back at Spain 1982.

Regulation time ends with the score knotted at 0-0.

The overtime period was absolutely amazing. Germany hold on in spite of the late goal to win by a scoreline of 2-1. They move on to face France in the quarterfinals.

Andre Schurrle 92
Mesut Ozil 120

Abdoulmoumene Djabou 120+1

Match Reports:


France 2 - Nigeria 0

Nigeria faced off against favorites France in Brasilia with a quarterfinal berth on the line.

France win 2-0 to move on to the quarterfinals.

Paul Pogba 79
Joseph Yobo 90+2 OG

Match Reports:


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Costa Rica 1 - Greece 1; Costa Rica advance on PKs

Photo by Paul Gilham
Recife was the site of the unforeseen knockout stage battle between Costa Rica and Greece.The first half ended as a disappointing scoreless forty-five with just the one clear chance for Greece.

Handball in the box by Greek player not called a penalty the minute after the Ticos scored. Navas made the initial save, but the rebound fell on the doorstep for Sokratis Papasthatopoulos, who picked an excellent time to score his first international goal. Regulation time ended soon thereafter with the teams tied at one goal apiece.

Costa Rica were now tasked with navigating extra time with only ten men.

Costa Rica and Greece play to a 1-1 standstill, so they had to go to penalties to determine which team would survive and advance.

Los Ticos win the penalty shootout after all five kickers held their nerve well. They next face Netherlands in the quarterfinals.

Costa Rica
Bryan Ruiz 52

Sokratis Papastathopoulos 90+1

Penalty Shootout
Costa Rica (kicked first)
Celso Borges - goal
Bryan Ruiz - goal
Giancarlo Gonzalez - goal
Joel Campbell - goal
Michael UmaƱa - goal

Greece (kicked second)
Kostas Mitroglou - goal
Lazaros Christodoulopoulos - goal
Jose Holebas - goal
Theofanis Geka - saved

Match Reports:


Netherlands 2 - Mexico 1

Photo by Lars Baron
Fortaleza was the site for the Round of Sixteen clash between Netherlands and Mexico. The Aztecas were in this round for the sixth straight tournament, but have been eliminated before the quarterfinals in all those tournaments. They hoped to end their curse today. This match was the first of Brasil 2014 to feature water breaks scheduled before the match began.

At the end of the half, Mexican centerback Hector Moreno had to be carted off the pitch due to a broken leg he sustained in a tackle. The first half ended scoreless.

Netherlands win soon after the debatable penalty by a score of 2-1 to advance to the quarterfinals.

Giovani Dos Santos 48

Wesley Sneijder 88
KlaasJan Huntelaar 90+4

Match Reports:


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Colombia 2 - Uruguay 0

Photo by Clive Rose
Group C winners Colombia and Uruguay were standing in each other's way as they played their Round of Sixteen fixture in Rio de Janeiro today.

Colombia win convincingly 2-0 and will next face Brasil in the quarterfinals.

James Rodriguez 28, 50

Match Reports:


Brasil 1 - Chile 1; Brazil advance on PKs

Photo by Paul Gilham
The first knockout match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup featured finals hosts Brasil and continental rivals Chile.

The first ninety minutes ended with the score even at one goal apiece.

No goals were scored in extra time, so the match ends as a 1-1 draw. The teams would go to a penalty shootout to determine which team would go on to the quarterfinals. Brasil win the shootout 3-2 over five turns and move on to the quarterfinals.

David Luiz 18

Alexis Sanchez 32

Penalty Kick Shootout:
Brasil (kicked first):
David Luiz - goal
Willian - miss
Marcelo - goal
Hulk - saved
Neymar - goal

Chile (kicked second):
Mauricio Pinilla - saved
Alexis Sanchez - saved
Charles Aranguiz - goal
Marcelo Diaz - goal
Gonzalo Jara - miss

Friday, June 27, 2014

Preview: Round of Sixteen

After having completed 868 matches, the knockout stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup is finally upon us. Brasil have only played three matches to get to this point, but the other fifteen remaining teams have all gone through long and often tumultuous journeys to make it through to this stage. Uruguay had to fight through twenty-one matches to reach this stage, the most of any side. This truly has been a tournament of the Americas, with five South American and three North American sides getting through to the final sixteen, both record totals. Two African teams join in the fun, and only six European teams have survived the journey here. Greece and Algeria are both making their debuts in the knockout stage after their surprising performances in the group stage. Colombia have gone from a team few believed would even qualify for Brasil 2014 when qualifying began to a team favored to reach the quarterfinals.

In the first match, Brasil face Chile for the second consecutive time in a Round of Sixteen affair. Brasil have gone undefeated throughout their short appearance in this tournament, but they did win the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in convincing fashion last summer and have put their poor 2011 Copa America well in the rearview mirror. They find themselves in the CONMEBOL quarter of the bracket. Their first challenger is La Roja, a team that ended Spain's run with a solid 2-0 victory, but a team that could not find the inspiration in their final group stage matchup with Netherlands, a 2-0 loss. Chile have an element on controlled craziness that is a joy to watch, with both fullbacks (Eugenio Mena and Mauricio Isla) always blazing up and down the flanks while Arturo Vidal is bossing their midfield. Brasil did not deal masterfully with a soft group, but they did win the section and Neymar is on a goal-scoring tear. Brasil smacked Chile around in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, defeating Chile all three times they played them by multiple goals, including 3-0 in the knockout stage. Expect Brasil to advance.

In the next match, tournament darlings and superstar midfielder James Rodriguez ride their wave of momentum into their first Round Sixteen appearance since 1990. They have also danced their way into our hearts. Plus, they have the two oldest men playing in the tournament. Basically, they win over the neutral fans using many different angles. However, they have never won a match after the group stage of a FIFA World Cup. They take on Uruguay, the 2011 Copa America champions and returning semifinalists from South Africa 2010. Will the lack of big-match experience come into play and haunt the Colombians? Uruguay will be without Luis Suarez, who was suspended for the remainder of this tournament and beyond for biting an opponent in the previous match, but Uruguay have already won crucial matches without him. Suarez was suspended for Uruguay's 1-0 road victory away to Venezuela. Had they lost that match, Venezuela would have qualified for the intercontinental playoffs at Uruguay's expense. Uruguay defeated Colombia 2-0 in their most recent matchup during this very tournament, meaning the teams each won once and lost once against the other during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. La Celeste will be ready, but something tells me that the upstart Cafeteros will defeat an Uruguay team suffering from disciplinary problems and a lack of form from the brothers Diego (Forlan and Lugano). Colombia are the pick.

The juggernaut Netherlands team has returned from its run to the final match of South Africa 2010 with a vengeance. They smacked Spain around 5-1 in the rematch of that final match, and though they have slowed down a bit, they have taken the full nine points available to them this tournament. The absences of Kevin Strootman and Rafael van der Vaart have not hurt the Oranje one bit. Their three-man back line has been stout, and they look poised for another deep run. Their opponents Mexico have overcome a nearly disastrous 2013 to make it back to their sixth straight appearance in the Round of Sixteen. Defensive midfielder Jose Vasquez is out via a suspension for this match, but the team is nevertheless full of belief. Hector Herrera has been playing some inspired football as their midfield maestro, and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa has at times looked like an impenetrable wall, holding opponents to one goal over three games in the group stage. However,  Mexico are currently saddled with a five-game losing streak in the Round of Sixteen over the past five tournaments. This will not be the time Mexico breaks the curse, for Netherlands are simply too strong in attack at the moment with Arjen Robben in particular looking deadset upon going one step better than at South Africa 2010 and winning the tournament.

In an absolutely shocking matchup, Costa Rica are favored to defeat Greece. Greece have never before made it to the knockout stage, but they have followed up their quarterfinal run at UEFA Euro 2012 nicely at this tournament, resolutely refusing to lose to Japan despite being down to ten men and not quitting on themselves in the final group match against Cote d'Ivoire in spite of conceding an equalizer deep into the second half of a match they had to win and did. Greece are the ultimate in counterattacking technology, which actually makes them incredibly frustrating to watch. Their are a team only their own fans can love. On the other hand, Costa Rica have the flair up front with Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz dazzling the crowds as they went unscathed through the toughest group at Brasil 2014. Their back five has been fantastic, and their goalkeeper Keylor Navas looks like the netminder of the tournament so far. Greece really do not provide much of an attacking threat, so if Costa Rica can avoid leaving too many openings on the counterattack, they should be fine. Los Ticos will make it to their first ever quarterfinal.

Day three of this stage opens with France taking on the 2013 African Cup of Nations champions Nigeria. Nigeria were fortunate to get the refereeing assistance they needed to defeat Bosnia in the group stage, and they looked very pathetic in their scoreless draw against Iran. However, their attack awoke from its slumber in the Argentina match, and now the Super Eagles look ready to become world-beaters. Nigeria have become a very mentally-strong side over the past two years, and the return of forward Peter Odemwingie to the fray has been a boon. France disgraced their Swiss rivals 5-2 in a very impressive victory in the group stage, and they will not be too bothered by their most recent outing, an underwhelming draw to Ecuador, a game in which they looked rather bored to be quite honest. Karim Benzema has regained his scoring touch, and the French have not been hampered by the loss of star midfielder Franck Ribery pre-finals. No one player is standing out for the French, evidenced by the fact that five different men scored in their demolition of Switzerland. Nigeria are the undisputed kings of Africa with the eliminations of Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire, but that does not change the consensus about this matchup. France should win, but it would surprise no one if the often overlooked Super Eagles find themselves in the quarterfinals. Nigeria are the pick here.

Germany had one bad outing in the group stage as they suffered mightily before drawing a Ghana team that lost its other two matches. However, Die Mannschaft is always a difficult task for any opponent, much less one making its debut in the knockout stage. Who can forget their 4-0 demolition of supposed group rivals Portugal in their opener? Philipp Lahm has been moved into the midfield and has done a fantastic job, and aside from the Ghana game their back four have looked impregnable. Yet another semifinal at a major tournament appears to be in their destiny. Algeria, a team that only qualified ahead of Burkina Faso on the away goals tiebreaker in a home-and-away series where they had to save a penalty kick in the first leg, is amazingly still alive in this tournament. After a timid performance in their opening match against Belgium, they have relaxed and played the attacking football for which the Fennec Foxes are renowned. They ran rampart over a weak South Korea side, and they held their nerve well in a draw over Russia, securing the result they needed from that match to advance. They are looking to repeat the 2-1 upset their forefathers sprung on West Germany at Spain 1982. Germany have other plans, however. As great as the storyline is for Algeria, Germany simply have too much talent and should win this match without too much trouble.

On the final day of the Round of Sixteen, the final South American nation plays. Argentina, winners of all three group matches by one-goal margins, have looked less than spectacular in every outing thus far, yet they have yet to drop points. Lionel Messi has carried the scoring burden by himself, netting four teams, with goals in every match so far during the finals. Argentina have lost only once with Messi playing during this tournament, and that was back in October 2011. Their opponents are Switzerland, a team that have a stoppage-time winner in their first match against Ecuador to thank for their berth in this round. Their heavy loss to France did not keep them down for long as they took Honduras to the woodshed in their group finale. That France loss was their only loss in thirteen matches during this tournament, and they are a dangerous side as they are the most recent team to have defeated Brasil. Xherdan Shaqiri is riding high after a hat trick his last outing, and the class of the numerous overseas imports featuring on the team is readily apparent to the casual viewer. This match should be rather close and should make for an entertaining affair, but somehow Argentina will sneak through and find themselves in yet another quarterfinal.

Belgium were perhaps the least impressive team ever to amass the full complement of nine points from a group stage. Still, they amassed the full nine points are a fancied to make a deep run at Brasil 2014 after a twelve-year absence from the finals of a major competition. Their supposed weakness, inexperience on the international stage, is undermined by their players' vast experience playing in huge matches at club level. Steven Defour is out via a red card suspension for this match, but he was never likely to factor into a knockout stage match anyhow. Belgium managed to eke out all three wins in the group stage by one goal, the third victory completed with only ten men on the field for the second half. Talismanic winger Eden Hazard has largely been invisible but has a tendency to pop up when it counts the most, as he did to score a late winner against Russia. United States of America are into the Round of Sixteen for a second straight tournament. They have plenty of positive experiences in knockout stages, having made it to the finals of six international tournaments since 2005, winning three of them, most recently the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. They navigated the second toughest group decently well, defeating nemesis Ghana and then having victory snatched away with the last kick of the match by Portugal. A lackluster effort in defeat to Germany in the group finale and an awful tournament from focal point midfielder Michael Bradley are causes for concern as is the injury to forward Jozy Altidore, but the attitude and effort are not. Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman have been fantastic at the defensive midfield positions, and the Yanks are certainly more battled-tested from their group stage than are Belgium. Les Diables Rouges walked all over United States 4-2 in a friendly last year. Even so, the pick here is United States. Why, you ask? Surely, all that experience on the international stage must count for one upset victory over a team with only one player with any prior tournament experience as a member of his national side.

28 June 2014
Chile at Brasil 11:00 Belo Horizonte
Colombia vs. Uruguay 15:00 Rio de Janeiro

29 June 2014
Netherlands vs. Mexico 11:00 Fortaleza
Costa Rica vs. Greece 15:00 Recife

30 June 2014
France vs. Nigeria 11:00 Brasilia
Germany vs. Algeria 15:00 Porto Alegre

1 July 2014
Argentina vs. Switzerland 11:00 Sao Paulo
Belgium vs. United States of America 15:00 Salvador

Algeria 1 - Russia 1; Belgium 1 - South Korea 0

Photo by Matthias Hangst
Belgium needed only a draw to clinch the group title against South Korea today in Sao Paulo. South Korea needed a victory plus either a draw or a Russian victory in the other game plus a superior goal differential in order to advance.

Belgium win 1-0 despite having only ten men on the pitch for the entire second half. They win the group; South Korea are eliminated from the tournament.

Russia needed a victory over Algeria to make it to the knockout stages (save for South Korea overcoming them in the goal differential department). Algeria needed only a draw in Curitiba in order to find themselves in their first ever berth into the second phase of a FIFA World Cup finals.

Algeria see the tie through to the finish. The 1-1 result sends Algeria to the promised land and Russia crashing out of the tournament. Their next appearance in the FIFA World Cup will be at the next finals, which they will be hosting in 2018.

Belgium IN 7 pts
Algeria IN 4 pts
Russia OUT
South Korea OUT

Jan Vertonghen 78

Aleksander Kokorin 6

Islam Slimani 60

Match Reports:


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Germany 1 - United States of America 0; Portugal 2 - Ghana 1

Photo by Michael Steele
United States of America needed a win to overcome Germany and steal the Group G title from their opponents on this day in Recife. Germany needed just a draw to wrap up the group title. If this match did not end in a draw and the other group match also did not end in a draw, two teams would be tied on four points and the goal differential tiebreaker would come into play. Germany were in the best shape, followed by Ghana, United States, and lastly Portugal.

Germany hold on to win 1-0 and advance as group winners.

Portugal and Ghana both needed to win and get help in order to survive the group stage. The scene for their clash was Brasilia.

Portugal win 2-1, but the result is not sufficient to save them. Both Ghana and Portugal are out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. United States of America go through as group runners-up on goal differential.

Germany IN 7 pts
USA IN 4 pts 0
Portugal OUT 4 pts -3
Ghana OUT

Thomas Muller 55

John Boye 31 OG
Cristiano Ronaldo 80

Asamoah Gyan 57

Match Reports:


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

France 0 - Ecuador 0; Switzerland 3 - Honduras 0

Photo by Phil Walter
France needed only a draw against Ecuador in Rio de Janeiro to clinch the Group E title. Ecuador needed to equal or better Switzerland's result in order to survive the group stage.

The two teams play to a scoreless draw. Therefore, France win the group and Honduras are eliminated.

Switzerland faced Honduras in Manaus in their final group game. Honduras needed a victory by many goals to avoid elimination coupled with a heavy loss by Ecuador. Switzerland needed to record a better result than Ecuador to go through. If both Switzerland and Ecuador were victorious, Switzerland needed to win by two goals more than did Ecuador.

Switzerland waltz to a 3-0 victory, knocking Ecuador out of the tournament and sending themselves onward into the next phase.

France IN 7 pts
Switzerland IN 6 pts
Ecuador OUT
Honduras OUT

Xherdan Shaqiri 6, 31, 71

Match Reports:


Argentina 3 - Nigeria 2; Bosnia and Herzegovina 3 - Iran 1

Photo by Alex Grimm
Bosnia and Herzegovina were looking to take a good memory from their first ever FIFA World Cup finals as they faced off with Iran today in Salvador. Iran, on the other hand, needed to defeat the Dragons and get help from Argentina to advance to their first ever knockout stage.

Bosnia win 3-1 to record their first win at a FIFA World Cup finals. Iran are eliminated by the result. Nigeria are guaranteed to advance due to this result.

Argentina look to sweep the group with nine points as they took on a Nigerian team fighting for its life in Porto Alegre. Nigeria needed a result to secure their spot in the knockout phase.

Argentina win the match 3-2, but Nigeria go through thanks to help from Bosnia.

Argentina IN 9 pts
Nigeria IN 4 pts
Bosnia OUT
Iran OUT

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Edin Dzeko 23
Miralem Pjanic 59
Avdija Vrsajevic 83

Reza Ghoochannejhad 82

Lionel Messi 3, 45+1
Marcos Rojo 50

Ahmed Musa 4, 47

Match Reports: