We have indeed seen the last of Luis Suarez in this World Cup. FIFA handed him a suspension that covers the next nine international matches, as well as a four-month ban from “all football-related activities.” According to the announcement, he won’t even be allowed to enter a stadium during that time. Inconvenient not just for Uruguay, but for Liverpool as well – he’s going to miss almost a quarter of the Premier League season, as well as part of the Champions League group stage. They could decide to sell him, but it remains to be seen if Barcelona or Real Madrid will still be willing to meet Liverpool’s asking price. It also depends on their ability to come up with a replacement. If this saga interests you, I suggest you start reading the English newspapers, where all of it will be discussed ad nauseum for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, the World Cup goes on – two more groups were decided on Wednesday:
Hey! I finally got one of these right! This always looked like one of the easier groups to predict, and it played out the way that most of us expected. France won it easily, which isn’t suprising in light of their extremely favorable draw. Ecuador gave the Swiss a tough time, but couldn’t quite pull it off.
So, how far can France go? There seems to be a lot of optimism in their camp, and given the way they’ve been scoring goals, it’s not without basis (only the Netherlands (ten) and Colombia (nine) scored more than France’s eight in the group stage). I’m still not quite sold on these guys, though. I feel like we need to see how they react to a bit of pressure, and no one in this group managed to apply any. The degree of difficulty is about to go up.
There was a sense that Argentina labored a bit more than they should have here (particularly against a surprisingly tough Iran side), but at the end of the day they won all three of their matches, and Messi is the tournament’s joint-top scorer so far (he and Neymar each have four goals). Can’t really ask for much more than that, right?
The second spot was effectively decided when Nigeria eked out a controversial 1-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Edin Dzeko had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside, and Bosnia were livid at what they perceived to be an uncalled foul by Nigeria in the buildup to the lone goal. This one could have gone either way; luck was with the Nigerians.
ROUND OF 16 MATCH-UPS (PREDICTED WINNER IN BOLD)
France vs. Nigeria
Argentina vs. Switzerland
For the first time in the Round of 16, I’m going out on a limb here. France will get there first taste of pressure from a Nigeria side that will feel good about their positive performance against Argentina. Unfortunately for France, they have no Lionel Messi to bail them out. 2-1 to Nigeria.
After having to come back from behind against Ecuador and getting blown away by France, Switzerland seems to righted the ship. Unfortunately for them, it won’t be enough to get them past all of the talent that Argentina will throw at them. A fairly comfortable 2-0 win for Messi and friends.