It’s July 13. Back on June 13, we got excited about the World Cup starting. Brazil gave up an own goal early to Croatia, but bounced back, thanks to a dubious penalty call, to win 3-1. And that may have been the highlight of the tournament for the hosts.
After that, there was a scoreless tie against Mexico, an easy win over Cameroon, the worst team in the tournament, a win on penalties against Chile, a brutal win over Colombia, followed by horrific losses to Germany and the Netherlands. The Brazilians hadn’t lost two straight matches at home since 1940, when they lost the last game of the Roca Cup to Argentina 5-1 and then lost a Copa Rio Branco match to Uruguay 4-3.
But enough about Brazil. On to the teams playing for the championship.
There haven’t been two sets of countries that have played each other more than once in a World Cup final: Brazil and Italy squared off in 1970 and 1994. And Argentina and Germany did it in 1986 and 1990. So today is the third matchup, provided you don’t think West Germany is not the same as today’s Germany. (If you do, you’re wrong. The country didn’t change names. It was the Federal Republic of Germany in 1986 and 1990 and it still is today.)
Both countries have female heads of government. German chancellor Angela Merkel is supposed to come to the game. Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is not planning to attend, although she did meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Saturday. Kirchner says she has a very sore throat and she also wants to celebrate her grandson’s first birthday. But, she will be in Brasilia next week for a conference. Go figure.
Kirchner has had a rough few years. Her husband, who also had been President of Argentina, died in 2010. In 2011, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Then, doctors checked again and said she didn’t. She was reelected in 2013, but later that year doctors found bleeding in her brain from a head injury and she had to rest up. Now, her Vice-President is charged with corruption. Along with a lot of other people in Argentina. And the economy there might go into recession.
So, the end result is that Germany is likely going to win Sunday no matter what happens on the field. Because Argentina is going to need a loan. So they better be nice to Angela Merkel.
As for the action on the field, Germany looks unbeatable. Which hasn’t meant much in this tournament. Appearances have been deceptive. Argentina’s defense is too well organized to give up seven goals. The only team to score more than one in a game this tournament against Argentina was Nigeria, who managed to get to two.
The Germans probably have a good plan in place to neutralize Lionel Messi. They seem so well prepared and have been playing better as a unit than any other team. Brazil was hoping to beat Germany in the semis on emotion. Germany used talent and tactics. The latter won.
Argentina leads the all time series with 9 wins. Germany has 6 wins. There have been 5 ties.
I am predicting a 2-0 German win, preventing Brazilian fans from the humiliation of watching their noisy neighbors raise the World Cup in front of them.
The world’s biggest sporting event still has one of the more depressing events contested: a third place match.
As a kid, I remember the NCAA basketball tournament having a third place game. It was usually played early in the day before the championship game. This happened from 1946 to 1981. Until 1975, there were consolation games in the NCAA regionals. The reason for these was that the competing schools wanted as much revenue as they could get for making a trip out to some distant locale. But once the TV money got big enough.
The NFL had a third place game called The Playoff Bowl in the 1960s. The last one was played on January 3, 1970. The Los Angeles Rams beat the Dallas Cowboys, 31-0. The Detroit Lions won this game three times. The St. Louis Cardinals won it once.
The World Cup though clings to the third place game. The only time there wasn’t one was in 1930 (when the tournament was beginning and nobody thought about setting one up. If it had existed it would have matched the USA versus Yugoslavia) and in 1950, when the final round was set up as a round robin.
The Dutch are pissed off about playing this game. The Brazilians are not, even though they were humiliated in their semifinal loss. There should be a lot of reserves on the field. It’s time for everyone to get a certificate for participation.
Just hope that this match doesn’t end tied after 90 minutes. Because they’ll play extra time. And go to penalties if necessary.
The Golden Boot, given to the top goal scorer in the tournament, is still at stake. James Rodriguez of Colombia leads with six. It’s doubtful anyone in this match will make a run at it. The leading Dutch scorer is Arjen Robben with three and I have a feeling he won’t play. The leading Brazilian scorers who could play Saturday are Oscar and David Luiz who have two goals each.
The Dutch and Brazilians have beaten each other three times with five draws. They last played each other in a friendly in Goiania in 2011 and that was a scoreless draw. The Netherlands beat Brazil in the 2010 quarterfinals in Port Elizabeth by a 2-1 score. Brazil beat the Netherlands in World Cup matches in 1994 (but only on penalties) and 1998. The Dutch won in a World Cup match in 1974.
Brazil is 2-1 in third place matches. They beat Sweden 4-2 in 1938 and Italy 2-1 in 1978. They lost to Poland in 1974 by a 1-0 score. The Netherlands have played for third place once, in 1998, and they lost to Croatia 2-1.
(This was supposed to post in the morning, but I hit the wrong thing. This makes up for the one that I posted after a match was over.)
So we all saw that 7-1 win by Germany coming didn’t we? I know I did. (Tries to go back and change prediction.) Likely no one except diehard German supporters thought they would see that. And they probably thought that Germany would win 3-0.
Today, Germany’s opponent in the Sunday final will be determined. Also, Brazil’s opponent in the Saturday consolation game will be determined. And I love me some consolation game action.
The Dutch have been dominant in this series, winning four of the eight matchups. The Argentines have won only one. Unfortunately for the Dutch, that was a 3-1 win in extra time in the 1978 Final in Buenos Aires.
In the past, I’ve actively rooted against Argentina. Even though Maradona was unbelievable in his prime, he was the most annoying superstar in soccer’s history. And soccer has had a lot of annoying superstars.
Argentina now has the supposed successor to Maradona in Lionel Messi. Messi has a lot less baggage than Maradona and is easily the most popular active soccer player. (If you like Cristiano Ronaldo more than Messi, what is the matter with you?)
Argentina is the only team left in the World Cup that has no losses or ties on its record. Argentina hasn’t needed much scoring to win its first two knockout round matches, beating Switzerland and Belgium by 1-0 scores each time.
The Dutch needed two late goals (including a dubious penalty) to beat Mexico 2-1 and then played 120 scoreless minutes against the offside trap masters of Costa Rica before winning on penalties 4-3.
The big story in the Costa Rica match was Dutch manager Louis van Gaal removing his starting goalie, Jasper Cillessen, right before time ran out and replacing him with Tim Krul. It is hard to tell whether this move was some brilliant tactical maneuver by van Gaal or simple mind games. But, it worked.
I can’t believe that van Gaal thought Krul was better. I’ve seen Krul play a lot with Newcastle. He’s not that great.
I don’t think you’ll be seeing such shenanigans again from the Dutch. They could pick a designated penalty stopper against Costa Rica because they had a fairly good idea that the Ticos were going to play for penalties. (Playing for penalties does not seem to sit well with the American cognoscenti. Not manly enough I guess.) The Dutch could hold back their final sub for the goalie.
Against Argentina, the Dutch are going to be facing an opponent who is going to go toe to toe with them. The Dutch will likely need all three subs for outfield players.
I really don’t think this match will be a rout. I don’t see either team falling apart after conceding a goal like Brazil did. The Dutch have come from behind in three of their wins (Spain, Australia, and Mexico). Argentina has never trailed in its first five matches.
Argentina will be without Angel de Maria because of injury. Robin van Persie is questionable for the Dutch because of a stomach ailment.
Although I own an orange Dutch jersey, I would like to see Argentina win just to see how Messi would fare against Germany. The Germans will likely be huge favorites in the final. But, this World Cup has taught us that we really don’t know anything even when the great teams win.
It’s time for the final four. But unlike the Final Four (TM), the two semifinals of the World Cup on different days in different cities. And Jim Nantz isn’t there. Which is nice. And the players are getting paid.
Two teams with eight combined World Cups are meeting in the World Cup for just the second time ever. Their only previous meeting was in the 2002 Final in Yokohama, which Brazil won 2-0, on a pair of goals by Ronaldo.
In the all-time series, Brazil has won 12 times, Germany 4 times, and there have been 5 draws. Their last meeting was in 2011 friendly in Stuttgart, which Germany won 3-2. (You can watch the goals here.) They haven’t met in Brazil since when Brazil won 3-1 in Porto Alegre.
Germany’s Miroslav Klose comes into the match with a total of 15 World Cup goals in his career. If he gets one today, he surpasses for Ronaldo for the most in tournament history.
The biggest story of this match though will be about someone who isn’t there: Neymar. Brazil’s top scorer is out with a back injury. Brazil will also be without captain Tiago Silva, but he is just out because of a suspension for two yellows and he can play in the final or consolation match.
Brazil has not been the Brazil that people expect. They are not a team dashing up and down the field pouring goals in. This team grinds out goals (except for Neymar, and he’s not playing, see above). Brazil was whistled for 31 fouls in its quarterfinal win over Colombia. For comparison purposes, Germany committed 15 fouls against France in its quarterfinal.
The Germans scored a lot early, scoring six in its first two matches, but since then, the goals have dried up. Germany won 1-0 in its final group match against the USA. They needed 120 minutes to finally get two goals against Algeria in the round of 16. The Germans scored early against France and held on for a 1-0 win.
The goalkeepers are an interesting contrast. Brazil’s Julio Cesar plays for FC Toronto, after his English club team, Queens Park Rangers, stopped playing him. It’s possible that QPR may take him back after the World Cup, especially after his performance in the penalty shootout win against Chile. Or maybe not. QPR is a weird team. Also, Brazil’s defense has only required Julio Cesar to make six saves in five matches.
Germany’s keeper is Manuel Neuer, who starts for one of the best teams in the world, Bayern Munich. Neuer loves to come off his line and wander out of the penalty area to function as a sweeper. He is among the best in the world. He’s only had to make 17 saves in the whole tournament
(Unsurprisingly, Tim Howard has made the most total saves in the tournament, with 27 in four matches.)
The Germans are slight betting favorites. But, Brazil has one of the most formidable home field advantages in the world. Their last loss at home in a competitive match (not a friendly) was in 1975. 1975! They lost to Peru, 3-1, in the first leg of a Copa America semifinal in Belo Horizonte. Brazil won the second leg 2-0 to finish 3-3 on aggregate. Peru advanced to the final by drawing lots.
It’s not unprecedented for a host country to lose in the semifinals. The Germans lost to Italy in the 2006 semifinals in Dortmund. South Korea lost to Germany in the 2002 semis in Seoul. Italy lost to Argentina at home in the 1990 semis.
Germany looks to have enough to win this match. Except I don’t think they will. I think Brazil will find a way through to the final. I wish I could explain why. The margins at this point are so narrow, that it won’t take much to catch a break and get a winning goal.
Can’t wait to see it.
This time, I think I have the right time on the post. It’s the last quarterfinals. And yesterday, the royalty of soccer was served as Germany and Brazil advanced to the semifinals, although Brazil lost Neymar for the rest of the tournament with an injury.
Today’s matches are “countries where people (at least some of them) speak Dutch against countries where people speak Spanish)
These two countries have faced each other just four times and Argentina has won three times, losing only in the 1982 World Cup opener in Barcelona, 1-0.. Their first meeting was in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. Argentina won that 6-3. They last played in the 1986 World Cup semifinals in Mexico City and Argentina won 2-0. So these two countries tend to play just when it’s important. (They played one friendly in Brussels in 1984 which Argentina won 2-0.)
Like just about all the teams expected to be great in this World Cup, these teams have won, but have never overwhelmed anybody. But, if you’ve watched their matches, you’ve never really thought they were going to lose. (Unless you are a member of the Steve Wondolowski Marching and Chowder Society.)
Argentina is considered by many to still be Leonel Messi and ten other guys. But, that’s quite unfair to that roster, which is loaded. The oddsmakers have Argentina as a slight favorite.
Since most people here have now watched Belgium (for two full hours), you know that they are incredibly good. The Belgians are technically skilled and loaded with speed. They should be able to run with Argentina.
Do they have a defense that can contain Messi? The Belgian goalie, Thibaut Courtois, was just as good as Tim Howard on Tuesday, but he didn’t have to work as hard. But he’s awesome. And very big.
The Belgians strength is their youth, but others will think that it’s a weakness. Will the younger Belgian players fall apart if they fall behind early? Probably not, as they came from behind in their first two matches. Belgium has scored all of its goals late.
I would hope that this is the best match of the quarterfinals. But I only know that I know very little.
This is the first ever matchup between the two nations. Which is not too surprising. Costa Rica is the last Cinderella team left in the World Cup and nearly everyone expect that there will be a lot of pumpkins on the pitch at the end of this match. Costa Rica is around +600 to win. The Dutch are around -190 to win.
Costa Rica does not have the talent to go directly at Netherlands and must hope that they can sit back and pray for a counterattack chance. The Dutch have actually been giving those up as they are not an overwhelmingly disciplined side.
The Dutch do have a lot of talent. They may have annoying talent, like Arjen Robben, but that’s still way more than Costa Rica. The Dutch should win this easily.
They probably won’t. So far (not knowing the Argentina-Belgium result) no match from the Round of 16 on has been decided by more than two goals.
I would love to see Costa Rica win. I really don’t think that will happen. But I have a jersey for both countries. So I’m covered.
Today’s winners play on Tuesday in a semifinal at Sao Paulo.