by Christopher Beard
Brilliant goals, ridiculous saves, and surprising results—it’s been a beauty thus far. To get us ready for the next round of games, here are a few first impressions:
England, Portugal, and Spain are the front-runners for the Traditional European Power Most Likely to Not Win a Single Game [TEPMLNWASG]. It’ll need a better name. Like Italy and France in 2010, each team has high expectations coupled with fading, injured, or questionable talent. Maybe Spain rises from the grave that was the Netherlands game and wins their next two, but they looked slow, old, and punchless last Friday in Salvador. England played well at times Saturday– but the more lasting memory, is the one of their disinterested crosses, corners, and passing. They look sloppy, and have two tough games against desperate teams remaining (against a hungry Costa Rica, and an embarrassed Uruguay). As for Portugal—we learn a lot more about them and the USMNT on Sunday—a huge match for both teams.
The replay of the Iran-Nigeria game is being studied as a viable cure for insomnia. A goalless draw can be riveting though.
Brazil can be beat. All you need is an incredible goalkeeping performance, and one good finish. They aren’t beaten yet, but both games they’ve played seem to suggest flaws.
Germany always scores a ton of goals and looks amazing in its opening game. Dating back to 1994, Germany is 6-0 in its opening game, with a goal differential of +21. In the second game, however? One win, three draws, and a loss (1-3-1), with a goal differential of +0. Unfortunately, the USMNT plays them in their third game, and Germany tends to win their group anyway.
The role of South America’s dark horse is up for grabs. After Uruguay’s messy loss to Costa Rica, and Argentina’s ugly win against both Bosnia and Herzegovina, one begins to consider which other CONMEBOL teams might make a run for the semis. No one expected Uruguay to play the maximum number of games in South Africa, but they clawed their way to the third place game against Zee Germans. This year, both Chile and Colombia looked brilliant in their opening matches, and Colombia has the added benefit of being in the second-weakest group in the tournament. Keep an eye out for either one to go deep into the knockout stage.
‘MURICA!!!!!!!!! Holy crap we beat Ghana! FINALLY! In Dallas, there are a few good spots [pubs] to end up at for the USMNT games. The even better spots are the bars down the street from those pubs, where everyone who shows up late goes to actually get a seat and see the game. I was at one of those places, Stan’s Blue Note on Greenville, for Monday afternoon’s nail-biter. I was genuinely shocked by both US goals, and not at all shocked by the Ghana goal I spent 83 minutes worrying about. I think we scored the second goal, I went 5 for 11 on my high-five attempts.
Today (Wednesday, June 18th) should be the best day of matches this week. While there tends to be at least one great game each day, today, each match carries some interest. Who wouldn’t watch Netherlands after what they did last game? Can Spain regain control of second place in their group against Chile? Can the Indomitable Lions earn the first half of their moniker against a tough, and likely angry Croatian side? If you’re working today…I feel you have a cold coming on…