As I write we have concluded the group stage of the World Cup, meaning that we are on now to the round of 16 and to the round robin elimination portion of the tournament. This is both a sad and happy time. The stakes are higher, every single game is now more meaningful, but also good teams who have achieved much will be going home in agony. As we narrow down and cut the contending teams in half every few days now, it all starts to slip away from us. Soon it will all be over. And shortly after that we won't even care about any of it anymore.
Although some of us among our readers are already there on that one.
But for those who do care, those group stages were a wild ride! Not a single team won all three of their games! Strange upsets abounded. And though in the end it is hard not to say that everyone who had a shot at winning this Cup went safely through, it was entertainingly bumpy (easy for me to say now that the teams I most care about have gone through).
It is also hard to say who is going to win.
Everyone had weaknesses exposed.
Everyone underachieved somewhere.
And individual upsets were so plentiful there now seems no game that is safe: The USA can beat The Netherlands, Australia can beat Argentina, Senegal can beat England, Poland can
Poland cannot, alas, beat France. Not that I would mind if they did.
Another interesting thing as we go forward in the round of 16 is that in each of the eight games there is one clear favorite. The favorites are:
These teams are surely not all going to go through. And, after all, each of these teams have so far merely achieved the expected. Their opponents, the Japans and South Koreas and USA's, have all shown themselves, at least a little, to be over achievers! Fighters! And defiers of the odds.
So you want predictions?
Mine are cursed and do not come true, so I will use that to my advantage:
Australia stuns Argentina to progress!
And for my idiosyncratic prediction (this kind is not cursed):
A Portugal that plays Vitinha wins
And a Portugal that doesn't play Vitinha loses.
(I really like Vitinha and he put in one of the most crystal, flawless performances I have seen this tournament against South Korea)
Let's have good games everyone, and may all the teams win. Though maybe a couple more than others.