Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Cup Fever! Catch it! (WARNING: may cause spousal irritation)

Match Day 16- One loss and it will all be gone, like tears in the rain.

A tip of the hat to Blade Runner as I can't stop watching all the special features and different versions on the Final Cut Blu-Ray edition. I had to mentally step back and realize that all the effects in that film were done with film exposure and models. No computer effects were used at all. Still just stunning to think how much was achieved without what is now an embarrassment of riches in terms of digital art and architecture.

Last night's games were a little anticlimactic for me, as we had no real surprises. I don't know if Portugal's defense is really this good, or if they've just taken advantage of uninspired play from the other teams. They didn't allow a single goal in any of their matches. I chalk a lot of it up to their midfield possession being so strong that they inevitably fight the majority of their battles around the center circle.

Brazil still looked good, but a scoreless draw between those two teams is a tad disappointing. Ivory Coast put a good whuppin' on North Korea, but that wasn't entirely surprising. Jong Tae Se went 0 for 3 in goals per game, but he still showed off some solid skills. He was indeed the Asian Wayne Rooney...

Chile looked really good against Spain until the wheels fell off and Fernando Torres' dive sent off Marco Estrada. They were controlling the possession and creating a lot of fantastic chances. The first goal was an absurd piece of art with Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo wandering into the wasteland to try and snuff out a Fernando Torres wing run only to knock the ball into the path of Spanish hit man David Villa who bombed it 60 yards into an open net all the while backpedaling to admire what might be one of the easiest and most beautiful goals of his career.

I have to be honest and admit I caught all of three seconds of the Switzerland v. Honduras game as I felt there would be very little action or drama resulting from the match. It turned out to be even less of a quality game as neither team could muster enough offense to take the game. Switzerland obviously has a pretty good system in place for defense. Four years from now they better have a much stronger offense to put on display. I think the Costa Rican Federation must be angry because they probably would have contributed far more to this tournament than Honduras did.

Here we go, the round of 16, the time to prove that all the training, luck, and effort mean something.

Two games tonight with Uruguay and South Korea facing off early and then the big one for the USA as they take on Ghana in a rematch from the 2006 World Cup.

Uruguay v. South Korea.

Probably the most important stat I can parrot for the run up to this game is the fact that Uruguay didn't allow a single goal during the group phase. They had excellent ball control and stayed mostly on the offense. They had some tight moments against Mexico, but were still fairly comfortable in winning the group. Diego Forlan has had a great World Cup so far, and looks to be the main supplier of scoring chances through his own shots and his distribution to Luis Suarez.

South Korea has the unfortunate stat of having allowed more goals in the group stage than they scored. Of course, when you are playing an Argentine side as good as it is, you can be excused a portion. Still, Korea feature an organized attack which has no trouble taking advantage of any mistakes left in their path. That I think, is the key to the game. Korea will have to be lightning quick to capitalize on the holes Uruguay may leave as the press the attack. Korea might have a difficult time handling Uruguay's possession skills.

I won't posit any possible scores because you throw in an added 30 minutes of golden goal time in the case of tie and then the penalty kick showdown if nothing is settled in overtime. Once you go to penalty kicks it becomes this massive game of psychology where suddenly your individual talents are under the microscope. So many of the World's best players have failed in this arena.

USA v. Ghana

I feel better about this game than I did the Algeria game, but of course that means nothing. I think the USA should and will win this game as both of Ghana's group stage goals came from penalty kicks and they had some real trouble forcing themselves through the midfield. The US has shown no lack of resilience and capacity to find goals chances. The finishing needs some work, because they have had more than enough opportunities that went begging due to failed execution. They should have won the Algeria game by a fair amount. Of course Ghana are not pushovers and any team that makes it this far is not expected to be. They will have the majority of the crowd support being the only African side left in the tournament. Asamoah Gyan is a great player and I expect him to make life very difficult for whoever inherits the job of defending him.

The US defense has to establish dominance early. The offense must be patient and not allow anticipation of shots to ruin certain goals. I think they are playing with so much confidence right now that they know they are going to win. The whole team trusts in the coach and they trust in the man next to them. I think the US wins this one in the full 90 minutes. That being said, I will be watching from the fetal position.

Go go USA.

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