Two weeks ago yesterday, I started The Corner Flag to blog about the World Cup and its teams, and I started with a group-by-group preview that included my predictions.
Prognostication is fun, but let’s be honest: It’s mostly guesswork. It’s a lot like picking the NCAA basketball tournament – you can spend all the time researching and looking over stats and metrics, but in the end, your nine-year-old daughter is going to win your pool no matter what you do. (True story! She won $120 and bought a ginormous LEGO set.)
So, because I rarely take myself seriously, let’s look back at my pre-World Cup group stage predictions and see how I did.
Predicted: Brazil, Mexico
Actual results: Brazil, Mexico
Well, okay, FINE, but this was a relatively easy one to predict. Brazil is, well, Brazil, and Mexico has qualified out of its group every time for the last 16 years. Croatia made a good go of it, but I mean, predicting this group wasn’t exactly rocket science. I’m giving myself a small pat on the back, but nothing more.
Predicted: Spain, Chile
Actual results: Netherlands, Chile
One out of two ain’t bad. Chile lived up to my pre-Cup expectations, and they looked very good while dispatching Australia and two-time defending champions Spain. While I like the Dutch, I didn’t think they had the quality to hang with what I considered to be a World Cup title-contending Spain. Boy, was I wrong. The Netherlands looked as solid as any team in this tournament and ended up with three convincing wins in group play. This is a dangerous looking team that could go very, very deep in the tournament… but first it has to get past Mexico. Chile’s reward for two group stage wins and a solid performance? Brazil. D’oh.
Also, back in my group previews, I stated that if Spain didn’t win the group, I’d eat my Malaysian-made counterfeit Spain jersey I purchased off eBay. Well, I always try to keep my promises, but when rifling through my closet I discovered that to my dismay that particular jersey had made its way to Goodwill a while ago! What to do? So instead, here’s a photo of me gnawing on my (genuine!) circa 2006 Costa Rica jersey, about whom I was equally wrong. ¡Delicioso!
Predicted: Colombia, Japan
Actual results: Colombia, Greece
Greece. GREECE. Why did it have to be Greece? A team that scored only one goal in two matches turned up and actually played football against a team I thought would mop the floor with them. Never mind the winning injury-time penalty kick was, in fact, Georgios Samaras tripping over his own feet. Never mind that a Greece-Costa Rica match is probably the most un-appealing (unless you’re a Tico fan) match in the next round.
I don’t mind being wrong. I mean, I was wrong anyway -- I picked Japan as the dark-horse out of this group instead of Côte d’Ivoire. I do mind being wrong and having it be GREECE. I hope the Ticos pura them in the vida.
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Predicted: Italy, England
Actual results: Costa Rica, Uruguay
It’s in some small way comforting to realize there’s no way I could have possibly gotten anything more wrong than I did for this group. I suggested Costa Rica wouldn’t earn a point. Moreover, I suggested Joel Campbell wouldn’t make the field, and he started every game. I predicted Italy would blitz through the group, and I predicted England would show why it’s one of the better young teams in Europe.
For the record, I adore Costa Rica and am beyond thrilled that it won this group. The team also has a very winnable game against Greece in the next round. What I didn’t predict was that Uruguay and Liverpool striker Luis Suarez would get a mite peckish during the Italy match and would get himself suspended for nine Uruguay international matches plus four months of all footballing activity. Oh, Luis. You are crazy, but you are indeed so hilarious. (And to think they say you can’t get good Italian in Brazil.)
Predicted: France, Ecuador
Actual results: France, Switzerland
I was half right on this one. I didn’t think the Swiss had it in them to win the group, and I was proven right. Switzerland had a ludicrously easy qualifying group, and while the team looked impressive, something didn’t quite add up. Unfortunately, I overestimated Ecuador’s ability to win away from the sky-high climes of Quito. It wouldn’t shock me if the Swiss punch Argentina in the nose, though.
Predicted: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Actual results: Argentina, Nigeria
Sob. I really liked Bosnia and wanted the team to do well. Not only was it Bosnia’s first World Cup, but it tended to play a crazy, ultra-attacking style of football that was a lot of fun to watch. Instead, we get Nigeria, which performed capably, if not impressively. This was a Nigerian team that the USA dominated in a pre-Cup friendly. I’d be surprised if it can hang with France in the next round.
Predicted: Germany, Portugal
Actual results: Germany, USA
Yeah, I was wrong. And you know what?
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
Predicted: Belgium, Russia
Actual results: Belgium, Algeria
I have to say, I’m pleased to see Algeria progress to the Round of 16. The Algerians are the second best feel-good story in this World Cup (behind Costa Rica), and they did it by playing technical, surprisingly good football. Sure, they’re going to get obliterated by Germany in the next round, but that doesn’t matter, does it? This is the best showing Algeria’s ever had in the World Cup, and the team is the only African side ever to score four goals in a single World Cup game. Way to go, Fennec Foxes.
Final Results: 8/16 – 50%
Let’s be honest. Even grading on a curve, this is a failing grade. What conclusions can we draw from this? Well, for starters I clearly don’t know a damn thing about football. Why are you even reading this?
Second, and more importantly, I have been paying attention to World Cups since Italy 1990, and this is by far the most exciting, most entertaining and most fun World Cup I can remember – not only because of the high-scoring matches, lack of scoreless draws and number of exciting finishes, but because of the unpredictability of the advancing teams. Too often World Cups fall into patterns where the best teams advance without a whole lot of drama. This Cup has had more of an NCAA tournament feel to it, where a couple of mid-majors have surprised the field and made some runs to the Sweet 16. Sure, we all know that bloody Kentucky is probably going to win the whole thing in the end, but the journey is what makes it so watchable.
We get a day off today from matches, but the Round of 16 begins on Saturday, June 28, with Brazil v. Chile at noon and Colombia v. Uruguay at 4 p.m. Thanks for reading, and keep watching the beautiful game.
Dustin George-Miller is a life-long soccer fan, a sports blogger and a Goshen College staffer. His community blog on The Elkhart Truth, The Corner Flag: World Cup 2014, will cover the 2014 FIFA World Cup.