If you’ve made time to watch the World Cup this year, you’ve been rewarded for it. Everyone seems to agree that it’s been a great tournament so far – plenty of goals, exciting and competitive games, and some shocking results in the group stage. The pace has picked up this week, as the first round draws to a close with four games each day until Thursday. As the groups wrap up, I thought it made sense to look back at my predictions and see how I did, and to start looking ahead to the Round of 16.
Mexico seems to have purged the malaise that plagued them throughout CONCACAF qualifying, chalking up two wins and a draw to finish level on points with the hosts. I underestimated them, and they proved me wrong with a strong 3-1 victory over Croatia on Monday.
Meanwhile, the home team got the job done, although they stumbled a bit coming out of the gate, needing a generous penalty to overcome Croatia and never breaking through against Mexico. They finally delivered a convincing performance on Monday, and they won’t care that Cameroon were already eliminated. Questions remain, but only because expectations were (and are) so ludicrously high.
My most glaring miss of the whole tournament, I think, as Spain were out after two games and the Netherlands finished with a perfect record. It’s funny, because at half time of that opening Spain/Netherlands match, it really seemed like Spain were fine. They had scored first, and only van Persie’s stunning header kept them from taking that lead into the break. They looked comfortable enough, passing the ball around, creating chances… and then the wheels totally came off. Robben and van Persie ran wild, Iker Casillas made mistakes, and Spain seemed to come entirely unglued. The 5-1 final score may have flattered Spain – it felt like they could have conceded three or four more. They were never coming back after that.
I thought that Chile would knock out one of the European giants, but I picked the wrong one.
ROUND OF 16 MATCH-UPS (PREDICTED WINNER IN BOLD)
Brazil vs. Chile
Netherlands vs. Mexico
Chile have gotten quite a bit of deserved praise for the way they’ve played in this tournament so far, but failing to beat the Netherlands on Monday landed them a date with the hosts. They’ll put up a good fight, but Brazil’s not going out in the second round. 2-1 to Neymar & Co.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to see Mexico getting past a Dutch side that’s firing on all cylinders. Even with van Persie getting a day off yesterday, they still scored twice. Mexico only managed one goal against Cameroon (while each of Croatia and Brazil scored four), and they didn’t get any against Brazil. It was only in the last twenty minutes on Monday, when Croatia was attacking desperately, that they were able to break through. I don’t see them being able to stem the Oranje tide. 2-0 to the Dutch.