Sunday, June 22, 2014

World Cup 2014 analysis : - an account thus far

With the Group stage matches nearing end  now, Sunday allows me more time to analyse results & try my hand at predicting the shape of the next round of 16, from where its direct eliminations.

In Group A, Brazil look good to move next stage as toppers, with a game against Cameroon, who are already out of contention. However, mathematically, they can still be eliminated if they lose badly to Cameroon, which looks highly improbable for even a discussion.The other spot is a fight between Mexico & Croatia, & whoever wins will move ahead, though even a draw will take Mexico ahead on points difference.

Group B already has clear qualifiers in Netherlands & Chile & the last match between the two will decide who would top the table. That calls for a good contest, as the loser of the game will most probably face hosts Brazil in the next round. The winner gets to play the 2nd team from Group A which should be either Mexico or Croatia. Spain & Australia have been eliminated & will be playing for pride in their inconsequential match.

In Group C, Columbia has already qualified with two wins. Ivory Coast would need to win or draw their last match against Greece, which looks quite possible. Only a miraculous win by Japan & Greece & that too by a sizable margin can see them through to the next round, which is only a mathematical possibility. The winner of this group will face the 2nd team from Group D, which could be either Uruguay or Italy. I see it as Columbia taking on Uruguay....both Latin American teams up for a wonderful contest !!

Group D was touted as the Group of Death & it has lived up to its dubious name. England, whom many thought will do well are already eliminated, despite good performances in both their games. Italy, always a title contender are in a precarious position along with Uruguay, another power house of football, with world class players in their ranks. They both face each other in the decider match, with Italy holding slight advantage of goal difference. This means, Italy can go through with a draw, while Uruguay will have to win. Going by current form & mental health, Uruguay should use the familiar Latin American conditions to win & move up. The biggest surprise of the group has been Costa Rica who have qualified with two wins & should top the group, unless the loss badly to England, who play for pride in their final match. I see Costa Rica, as group toppers play Iory Coast in the next round.....again a fabulous match between tournament underdogs.

Group E has a clear leader in France, with two facile wins & even a near impossible loss to Ecuador in their final match will not prevent them from qualifying. They have a fantastic goal difference to back up as well. Its going to be a toss up between Ecuador & Switzerland, who have one win each. Ecuador have a tough scenario as they face France & the Swiss play a relatively easy Honduras, who are almost out of contention. So Ecuador, though having a better goal difference, will need to depend on how the Swiss fare in the final match..... I will like to believe that Ecuador may spring a surprise against France... just a gut feel, as France having almost qualified, may just ease.

In Group F, Argentina has already qualified with two wins & are looking good to top the group. Nigeria, with a win & a draw look better placed to qualify as the 2nd team. However, Iran, who lost to Argentina, in a heart wrenching injury time goal ( many thought, they played good enough to get a draw, if not a win!!), may still qualify, if they can beat Bosnia handsomely in their last match & Nigeria loses to Argentina. Both strong possibilities, & worth waiting for. Bosnia has already been eliminated.
However, in the next round Argentina looks assured to meet either Switzerland or Ecuador. Ecuador would be tricky for sure, though cutting through Swiss ranks should not be a problem for Messi & Co. The 2nd team, that is either Nigeria or Iran would meet France, which looks like the end of the road.

In Group G, another tricky group, Germany looks good to advance into next round with one win & one draw. They play USA in their last game & should record at least a draw if not win. USA with a win against Ghana need one more win from their two remaining matches & would definitely want to secure it against a struggling Portugal tonight. Ghana on the other hand have a tough job on their hands. With just one point from two games, they need to defeat Portugal by at least two goals to assure a place in the next round, assuming USA stumble. Its an interesting scenario, & its difficult to predict the 2nd team from this group, including Portugal. If they can record wins in their remaining  matches, they certainly move ahead.... & they certainly have the firepower...what is required is the belief in their abilities.

In Group H, Belgium, the pre tournament dark horse team, is looking good to advance with a win from their only game. They should win at least one game from Korea or Russia. Of the others, its a scratch between Russia, Algeria & Korea, though I believe Russia should prevail because of the talent they have & their ability to convert crunch matches. They have drawn against Korea & will need at least one win which can come from Algeria.
Anyways, I see Belgium playing the 2nd spot team from Group G, which as of now could be anyone between USA, Ghana & Portugal. Meanwhile, Germany from Group G should take on either Russia, Algeria or Korea.... lots to look forward to in the next two days.

Once the round of 16 is qualified & settled, I shall make efforts to cover all the games from there on....
However, for me this is how I see the round of 16 :
One one side it will be : Brazil vs Chile / Columbia vs Uruguay or Italy / France vs Nigeria or Iran / Germany vs Russia or Algeria.
On the other side it will be Netherlands vs Mexico / Costa Rica vs Ivory Coast / Argentina vs Ecuador or Switzerland / Belgium vs USA or Ghana or Portugal.

Basis the current form & conditions, I see European countries struggle to make a major dent other than Germany. They have a history of being the most consistent side in the World Cup with 12 appearances in the semis, a feat that even Brazil cannot boast of. Unless they implode all of a sudden on a given day, they will certainly go the distance....more because of their discipline & clinical finish.....& they have enough stars in their ranks to make it all happen.
Amongst others, Netherlands & France are playing really well till now, but are they peaking well before time ???? France has not played any serious team as yet are dependent only on Benzema, who will find life difficult ahead, with inadequate supply line. They of course seem to have an easy passage till semis where they potentially meet Germany. Netherlands have caught the imagination of the football fans all over with their massive win against defending Champions, Spain. In van Persie, Robben, Sneidjer, de Jong, & others they have a super team & should reach the semis without a sweat, where they potentially bump into Argentina. They also might have a tricky opponent in Costa Rica for the quarterfinals. Portugal has been very disappointing in their opening match against Germany, but if they pull up their socks & qualify to the next round, they could well reach the quarters as well & set up a mouth watering contest with Argentina.
On the other side, the Latin & Central Americans should make the most of the familiar greasy, hot & humid, energy sapping playing conditions. Brazil, the hosts, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, Columbia, & Ecuador.....all of them should revel & make the most of these conditions.

As of now, I dare say, I am tempted to see the following fixtures in the last 8 / quarterfinals :

Brazil vs Uruguay or Italy

France vs Germany

Netherlands or Mexico vs Costa Rica

Argentina vs Belgium or Portugal.

Am I mingling too much in I being biased, am I off radar in my assessments....only time will say.

Till then, happy weekend fellows.... have fun...