|Wanna catch a flight together?|
So we've been going at a speed of four games per day this past week and it's proved a lot for me to keep up with seeing them, never mind writing about them. But I will do a quick round-up together with my predictions for the last 16 round, as the most important reader of this blog is none of the 50 or so viewers, at least half of which I suspect are bots looking for keywords, but myself in 4 years' time. No disrespect to anyone, and I'm really grateful you're reading this, but come on, we both know there's better coverage out there. What we won't know, come Qatar 2022, is how I was feeling about these games 4 years ago.
Group A: Whatever Russia does, it feels dodgy. After playing amazing against Saudi Arabia and Egypt, they were totally outclassed by an Uruguay that was rather unconvincing against those same opponents. Saving money on the refs? Drugs ran out? No idea, but a 3-0 scoreline is not in line with what we've seen in the first two games. This is the kind of shit a computer would red-flag. Anyway, not much difference whether you play against Spain or Portugal in the next round, so there you go. In other news, the brilliant Mo Salah goes home without a point and beaten by a very poor Saudi team, leaving us to wonder what was Egypt doing at this World Cup in the first place.
Group B: In line with the whole round, Group B has also been, in many ways, a festival of incompetence. You would've thought Iran, needing to beat Portugal to qualify, would really give it a go. Not the case, and they were as lucky as their opponents were incompetent for getting a draw. Penaldo missing a penalty and Quaresma... did you know Quaresma is still playing? I would've thought he retired sometime at the beginning of the decade. Meanwhile Spain needed a last-minute equalizer against mighty Morocco. But hey-ho, last time they had such trouble with Morocco they wrote El Cid, so maybe some good literature will come out of it.
Group C: Oh, God, Australia! Beat Peru and hope for a favor from France, this is how you do it! I was hoping there's more fight in the Aussies, there usually is, but when you're 2-0 down and your only idea is to bring 38yo Cahill in, you probably don't deserve to go through. Neither did Denmark, but France chose the path of 'just enough' to go through this otherwise very poor group.
Group D: How spectacular would've been for Argentina to go home! And out of the many ways in which to achieve this, exactly 0 materialized. Croatia minded their football, and Iceland's bravery was only enough for the first game, as their last two came to nothing, while the Super Eagles crashed in front of a rather lucky shot from Rojo. I'm really happy for Rojo, but I don't think Argentina deserved to go through after a meek display against Iceland and presenting the Croatian tornado with the strength of a damp cloth. Croatia to win the World Cup? They seem cocky enough.
Group E: Beating Brazil is always a tough call, but I feel like the Serbs got a bit too scared of the reputation more than anything else. Specially with this Brazilian team, that's got more flair than substance. Neymar is always up for a trick, but hardly ever in a mood to help the team. Could someone maybe tell him that the other 10 dudes in similar shirts are there to work with him? Serbia had a few good chances, but you are playing Brazil, and you do need a win, so it's gotta be the match of your life. This did not feel like the match of their lives, as convenient as excuse losing to Brazil might be. Switzerland goes through thanks to a lucky Shaqiri shot against Serbia and a half of anti-football against Brazil after the Zuber header.
Group F: Oh, wow! Talk about the festival of incompetence! No idea what happened to Germany, but more than that, whatever happened to Mexico? Only saw Germany's first half against South Korea and none of the Sweden-Mexico game, but it feels like the results have been swapped somehow. So now we know: the Germans don't always win and certainly they won't win this tournament.
Group G: Hyped as a race to the bottom, in which allegedly both Belgium and England wanted to lose just so they won't play Brazil sometime in the tournament. Well, if you wanna win the goddamn thing you're gonna have to either play Brazil or some dudes that beat them. So that's irrelevant for everyone but the English media. Never mind how disrespectful to the game is starting a match you're not trying to win - why bother showing up then? As for cold calculations... would you rather play Colombia or Japan?
Group H: This was always bound to be an interesting, but the poor Polish display as well as Japan's miraculous win against Columbia made it unpredictable too. Hard to say who was the more deserving to qualify, harder still to say who should've won. Japan's display of 'whatever, we've got less yellow cards' was dreadful and earned them no sympathy from the neutrals, while Senegal's loss, what with the penalty cancelled (correctly) because of VAR and all, made me sad as it sealed a knock-out round without any African team, first time since 1982. Pele's prediction of an African team winning it by 2010 looks awkwardly out of place now, what with new colonialism attracting all African talent towards European teams. Yes, Boateng, including you.
Spectacular and unpredictable so far, this World Cup, highly enjoyable in unexpected ways, though lacking sometimes in that sort of willpower that makes up for lack of skill. See Costa Rica 2014, Ghana 2010, Turkey 2002 and so on. And because I got 11 out of the last 16 teams right, I'll try my hand at the quarter-finals predictions:
France - Argentina: Clear call for France. Argentina's been poor, while the French seem to still have the breaks on. About time they come off, the confidence and the skill are there.
Uruguay - Portugal: One of the toughest. I'll say Uruguay because, if nothing else, Portugal couldn't beat Iran while Los Celestes might be led by a guy needing help walking, but they can call on all 44 limbs on the pitch.
Spain - Russia: Hosts going through would not surprise me in the least. Tough one, but I'll risk a few quids on the underdodgies here. Sorry, I meant underdogs.
Croatia - Denmark: Not only do I think Croatia will fly through, I hope they'll smash Denmark to pieces. No sympathy for the Danes, as they deserved maybe one of the 5 points they got in the group stage.
Brazil - Mexico: Uhh... I'm feeling it for the underdogs, looks like. I mean, it's hard, but wouldn't it be nice?
Belgium - Japan: Yeah, they'll run around you, try to get into space, but so do mosquitoes. And Lukaku ain't having any of that mosquito shit.
Sweden - Switzerland: Swoosh! Whoever wins will wonder how they got thus far, specially with England lying in wait. I'm going for the Swiss, they actually have footballers in their team.
Colombia - England: Just joking, El Tigre is in need of a new contract, looks like. Bet you'll regret that weakened side against Belgium after you'll lose this one, eh, Gareth?