The last four teams booked their place in the Round of 16 today. Brazil tied Portugal, which allowed both teams to advance from Group G. Then, Spain defeated Chile to win Group H, but Chile still finished second on goal differential.
So, the brackets are all filled out, and we now know every team that will advance to the Knockout Stage. I’m going to give the complete list of matchups and my predictions in a moment, but first let’s check back and see how bad I did with my group stage predictions.
I said: 1st place Mexico, 2nd place-France
What Actually Happened: 1st place-Uruguay, 2nd place-Mexico
I said: 1st place Argentina, 2nd place Nigeria
What Actually Happened: 1st place-Argentina, 2nd place- South Korea
I said: 1st place-England, 2nd place-USA
What Actually Happened: 1st place-USA, 2nd place England
I said: 1st place- Germany, 2nd place- Serbia
What Actually Happened: 1st place- Germany, 2nd place- Ghana
I said: 1st place-Netherlands, 2nd place-Cameroon
What Actually Happened: 1st place- Netherlands, 2nd place- Japan
I said: 1st place- Paraguay, 2nd place- Italy
What Actually Happened: 1st place- Paraguay, 2nd place- Slovakia
I said: 1st place- Brazil, 2nd place- Portugal
What Actually Happened: 1st place-Brazil, 2nd place- Portugal
I said: 1st place- Spain, 2nd place- Chile
What Actually Happened: 1st place- Spain, 2nd place- Chile
Of the 16 teams still alive, I predicted 11 of them would be there.
I only picked 8 of the 16 finishers in their correct positions.
I have no idea whether this is good or bad.
On to the next round!
My pick: Uruguay 2-1
Aesthetically, I like what I’ve seen from South Korea’s play, but I think Uruguay is a sneaky-tough team to beat. I’m more impressed by Uruguay’s win over Mexico than I am by anything the Koreans did in their group.
My pick: USA 3-2
This one could go either way. It could be argued that Ghana, without Michael Essien, aren’t as good as they were four years ago when the U.S. faced them (despite Asamoah Gyan’s continued development), and I would certainly argue that this U.S. team is better than the side we sent to Germany in 2006. Ghana has struggled to finish at times, but they’ll certainly create chances. This will come down to whether the U.S. can handle Ghana’s speed, and I think Maurice Edu will be key if he can control the midfield.
My pick: Argentina 3-2
This could definitely be a good one. Mexico has shown itself to be a very dangerous team, but they also revealed some vulnerability in their loss to Uruguay. Barring a total meltdown, Argentina has the talent to see them through this match.
My pick: Germany 1-0
I’ve seen nothing so far in this tournament to suggest that England is better than Germany. Germany finished first in one of the tournament’s toughest groups. England finished second in one of the tournament’s easiest. It’s certainly possible that the English could discover a nice run of form (probably through Rooney) and win this one, but I just don’t see it.
My pick: Brazil 2-1
Chile has shown some flashes of brilliance, but they’ll also be missing three players on suspension from card accumulation. Brazil, despite facing Portugal and Ivory Coast, haven’t really looked threatened yet. I’ll be sad to see Chile go, but I just can’t see them taking down the Brazilians.
My pick: Netherlands 2-0
Netherlands has picked up momentum as this tournament has continued, and, most importantly, Arjen Robben looked very good in his return from injury in the win over Cameroon. Also, I think Slovakia’s group ended up being a pretty easy one.
My pick: Japan 1-0
This is my upset pick, although it’s not exactly a huge one. I love watching this Japanese team, and I think they’ll find a way to score against Paraguay’s stiff defense.
My pick: Spain
On paper, this is probably the best match of the first round. It’s the best offense in the tournament against one of the best offensive players in the tournament (Christiano Ronaldo). Despite Portugal’s 7-goal explosion against North Korea, there’s no way they’re beating Spain in a high scoring game. That means it’s up to the Portuguese defense, which hasn’t allowed a goal yet, to hold off the Spanish attack. I don’t think that’s happening, and, in the end, Spain is just a better all around team. Their passing and speed will expose Portugal, and David Villa looks like a man on a mission.