Another short breather before the quarter finals and the standard of football continues to be high, and the games that have been played have turned out to be mostly exciting. There have been no major upsets but there have been a number of close run games. Five of the games have gone to extra time and two were finally settled on penalty shoot outs. I have managed to see parts of all of them and have been able to catch up on the highlights and some of the analysis by the pundits so, based on these things, this is what I think concerning the second round games that have just been completed:
Brazil vs Chile (1-1, 3-2 on penalties) – possibly the most exciting match of them all so far. Chile gave as good as they got and might feel aggrieved to losing out to Brazil on penalties.
Colombia vs Uruguay (2-0) – Colombia’s raw but exciting talent outmatched a solid but rather lack-lustre Uruguayan side, missing their star turn, Suarez.
France vs Nigeria (2-0) – another exciting game and very close, with France just edging it.
Germany vs Algeria (2-1) – while Germany came out on top, they were far from convincing and a spirited Algeria side did well to match them until Germany’s extra time winners.
Holland vs Mexico (2-1) – an exciting match and with a splendid Mexican side exposing flaws in the hitherto impressive Dutch side. But for two late Dutch goals, Mexico might have deservedly edged it.
Costa Rica vs Greece (1-1, 5-3 on penalties) – the exciting attacking play of Costa Rica was nullified by the well organized defence of an otherwise ordinary Greek side. But on balance justice was done and we can expect more excitement to come by the Costa Ricans, the find of the tournament.
Argentina vs Switzerland (1-0) – despite doing most of the pressing, it took until extra time for an expectant Argentine side to break down a well organized but limited Swiss side.
Belgium vs USA (2-1) – USA were a revelation and anything they lacked in skill and talent was made up by their spirited effort to match their fancied and formidable opponents, heroically withstanding a continual onslaught on their goal, led by their amazing goalie, which they managed to do until extra time.
All the teams who have qualified for the quarter finals also won their groups. Except perhaps for Colombia and Costa Rica, those who did qualify were expected to do so. Also, as in days of old, those teams are either from Europe or South America (4 from each continent). While many neutrals would have liked to see Nigeria and Algeria qualify, and if they had they would have been worthy of their place, it was not to be and we still await a World Cup winner from Africa.
The quarter final line-up is Brazil vs Colombia, France vs Germany, Holland vs Costa Rica and Argentina vs Belgium. Given my “fancied” sides were Brazil, Germany, Holland and Argentina, I feel I should stick with these and expect them all to win through to the semis, but nothing can be taken for granted and all must improve in order to progress. I predict a Brazil vs Holland final, with Brazil coming out as winners, but then predicting winners is not my forte