Brazil 1 (3) – Chile 1 (2)
- Both Goalkeepers Claudio Bravo and Júlio César: Bravo kept Chile in the match with a good showing during regulation and extra time, only one head-scratcher around the 30th minute on a corner. César was solid throughout the game and the World Cup in general, but during the penalty kicks he carried the team with 2 saves.
- Howard Webb: #matchdad
- Neymar First Half and Hulk Second Half: Neymar was Brazil’s best attacking option in the first half, finding space and pressing the backline. The second half and early in the extra time, Hulk became the threat on the left and up top, making up for his giveaway that led to the Chilean goal. If they can find a way to work well in unison Brazil won’t need PKs to advance.
- Hulk vs. Howard Webb: Hulk fought the law, but the law won. Now get up and play on.
- Oscar: Was it the absence of Paulinho in the midfield or the Chilean press? Oscar did a ton of work defensively winning tackles and aerial duels, unfortunately offensively he was ineffective. Stats: 16 of 32 passes and 1 of 9 crosses completed.
- Alexis Sanchez’s Zunga: Inspired by the Brazilian beach fashion, Sanchez rode his shorts way high. Puma is already known for the nipple jerseys, maybe they can add a zunga option for their new line of kits.
Man of the Match: Júlio César
Colombia 2 – Uruguay 0
- Juan Guillermo Cuadrado: Majority of the talk around the Colombian team is rightfully centered on James Rodríguez. The stat lines and highlights of this World Cup tell the story of Rodríguez’ greatness. Time to give some recognition to his playmaking partner Cuadrado. Similar to Rodríguez, Cuadrado roams from his wide position to make plays. The difference from James is when the ball is at his feet he runs straight at the defense, while still looking to create. The Fiorentina man is rumored with club giants: Barca, Bayern and Arsenal.
- Pablo Armero and Juan Zuñiga: Cuardado and Rodríguez have the freedom to roam inside because the work rate of the Colombian fullbacks. Zuñiga on the right is more the attacker that looks to receive the first pass into transition. Armero plays more defensively, absorbing pressure on the flank and in the box. It will be an interesting chess match between their opposites: Dani Alves and Marcelo.
- AS Monaco: After purchasing James Rodríguez from Porto last season for a transfer fee of €45 million they can flip the break out star to an increasing number of bidders. When AS Monaco went on a buying spree last season it was thought that the club would be marred in debt for years to come. Rodríguez gave them a get out of debt free card.
- Good Tactics: Throughout the first half, Uruguay kept their shape and organized well in two banks of four. Aside from the second goal, the only other attempts in the box were off corners and set pieces. Unfortunately for Uruguay, great players beat good tactics.
- The EPL: There was rumors Arsenal was in play for James Rodríguez, but with Real Madrid possibly in the mix it is probable the reigning Champions League winners won’t be out bid. Additionally, on Sunday the Daily Telegraph reported both Tottenham and Manchester United were both interested but passed on the World Cup’s brightest star.
- Uruguayan’s Victimization: The victim card was pulled faster than the red on Maxi Pereira against Costa Rica… And two days later Suarez admitted to the bite and apologized, perhaps, due to the pressure of his future bosses.
Man of the Match: James Rodríguez
Netherlands 2 – Mexico 1
- Diving: Arjen Robben deserved a penalty kick the first time, he admitted diving the second time in the box, and the third time there was contact, it was served with a three-course meal. If the referee made consistent calls throughout the match, if the ref carded Robben for simulation on the admitted dive, or if Robben would have been given the penalty the first time, likely none of this would be an issue.
- Press Conference Created Narratives: The Dutch played at a leisurely pace most of the game. Reserving energy in the heat until the second half water break when the brilliance of Louis van Gaal struck… At least that’s the narrative presented to the media at the press conference where van Gaal revealed his master strategy.
- The Netherlands Midfield: The forwards got the glory in the group stages, while the midfield grinded. This game they grinded and got the glory as Wesley Sneijder got the game tying goal late. Dirk Kuyt’s work rate was incredible especially considering in the first half he ran in the sun on the right flank then switch sides in the second to play with Robben, getting no relief from the sun. Bruno Martins Indi, who came on early for Nigel de Jong, completed more passes than any other Dutch player.
- Puto!: Goal kicks are one thing, but when it expands to corners and free kicks it officially jumped the shark… and what nothing for PKs?
- CONCACAF’d: Now the Liga MX players know how it feels
- Losing Ochoa and Miguel Herrera: The World Cup is a less entertaining place without them. Honorable mention to Héctor Herrera, who was consistently Mexico’s best outfield player.
Man of the Match: Arjen Robben (and not because he dove for the foul)
Costa Rica 1(5) – Greece 1 (3)
- Keylor Navas: Ochea’s knocked out, Navas steps up. Navas has quietly been good all tournament, only conceding one goal (off a penalty kick) in the group stages. Seven saves, and the majority of those were highlight reel quality. As I typed this 30 minutes after the final whistle, I am sure someone has posted a montage on YouTube of all his saves from this match with some truly awesome background music.
- Linesmen: The Australian referee Ben Williams was not as bad as the Greek offense, nevertheless fairly poor. The linesmen deserve credit for making the right offside call, especially with the Costa Rican backline consistently stepping up.
- Great Penalty Taking: For as bad as Greece was in front of goal they were good at the spot. Of course the Costa Ricans were perfect and Navas was huge.
- Special Award to Greek Generosity: Players forgo bonus to invest in national team training facility deserves a mention, especially considering issues with Nigeria and Ghana.
- The Ball: Yes, the actual ball. The ball got no love today. Greece and Costa Rica wanted nothing to do with it, not even the Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis. Only Navas wanted the possess it.
- Greek Statues: Good for attracting visitors to a museum, not good for defending long, slow worm murders.
- Recife, the Graveyard of Football: The week went from bad to worse. On Wednesday they got massive rain and heavy flooding, and Sunday they hosted Greece – Costa Rica. Let’s compare the previous match at Recife with Greece – Costa. For as slow the field was for USA – Germany and how bad USA was in keeping possession, Greece and Costa Rica were worse. With 32.8% possession in 90 minutes the USA completed 297 passes, Costa Rica in 120 minutes only 266. And in the attacking half the US completed a higher percentage of passes 74%, than both Greece 71% and Costa Rica 62%.
Man of the Match: Keylor Navas
France 2 – Nigeria 0
- Mathieu Valbuena: The Frenchman with the Spanish name and Spanish game created the most chances in the game, 6. Valbuena has been France’s best creator throughout the tourney. His play is a friendly reminder that good footballers exist in Ligue 1 outside of the big two.
- Reporters: Match reporters did not have to wait until the 85’ to write or in most cases rewrite the ledes of their match story. Aside from the Colombia – Uruguay match decided with a first half goal, the game winner in this match was scored relatively early, the 79 minute mark.
- Didier Deschamps: The French were not as stale with Olivier Giroud as some would believe. Most of the credit went to Antoine Griezmann for changing the game, really it was moving Karim Benzema, who was able to win aerial duels and create space between the centerbacks and midfield…OR…
- Loss of Ogenyi Onazi: Nigeria missed Onazi play in the center of the midfield. All the positives caused by the substitution could also be attributed to the injury of Onazi.
- Olivier Giroud: Invisible is a fair description of Giroud in this match. It is questionable to simply say he is not being utilized properly or in his correct position. He played in both wing spots and as center forward. Of the 10 goals scored by France, Giroud was only on the field for three, all in the match against Switzerland.
- Nigerian Mistakes: The goals Nigeria allowed were due to their mistakes. Emmanuel Emenike played so well, keeping Nigeria in it by blocking point blank shots and being in great position. The first goal on Emenike was a poorly judged a corner. The second goal was an own-goal for of Joseph Yobo, the centerback that played a near flawless match.
Man of the Match: Mathieu Valbuena
Germany 2 – Algeria 1
- Sweeper Keeper: When playing a high line having a keeper confident with their feet is invaluable, especially with molasses Mertesacker as your centerback. Manuel Neuer had more clearances (4) than saves (3). He is a perfect keeper for the evolving tiki-taka inspired style of Bayern and Germany.
- Rais M’Bolhi: Great goalkeeping is required for any underdog to pull an upset. M’Bolhi gave Algeria a chance to earn a point in every game. Against Germany he had 10 saves. The Algerian held tough, unfortunately after the clock struck 90 their fairy godmother’s spell was broken.
- Going for the Kill in ET: In extra time most teams have played not to lose. Germany went for the kill at the whistle. Germany maintained possession for the rest of the first extra time, their second goal came off a counter.
- Complexly Coordinated Set Pieces: Sometimes the best principle, especially late in a match is to keep it simple, stupid.
- Müller Face: He is not a loser for making ridiculous faces that would annoy the parents of any 5-year old, he’s a loser because the German fans have a poor “giant-cardboard-head” game. Pick up it Germany, comedy does not solely consist of fart and feces jokes.
- Not pressuring Lahm and Kroos: Philipp Lahm and Toni Kroos don’t score often or make flashy chances, but they control tempo better than any pair of midfielders. Kroos is first and Lahm is second in total touches this World Cup. Sitting back on Germany might not be the best tactic.
Man of the Match: Rais M’Bolhi
Argentina 1 – Switzerland 0
- Swiss Counter on the wings: The Greek’s dream of playing like the Swiss. They created a number of quality chances by quickly transitioning on the wings initiating the attack from the fullbacks or midfield.
- Mascherano’s English: He still kept it after leaving England in 2010. After reading his lips, you can tell he’s still got it.
- The Last 5 Minutes: Switzerland contained Lionel Messi for 117 minutes. Messi eventually found space as the game opened up, he ran at the defenders, jumped a tackle, drew the defense in and found Angel Di Maria open on the right for the game winner. The Swiss returned fire with everything they had including goalkeeper Diego Benaglio in for every free kick. The Swiss nearly tied it with a Blerim Dzemaili header six yards away from goal that hit the left post, then rebounded back to his knee and bounced wide.
- Swiss Execution: They can only blame themselves for not scoring. Josip Drmic scuffed a breakaway where he was alone with the keeper in the first half. See Last 5 Minutes above.
- Zonal Marking: Alejandro Moreno is not a fan.
- Jonas Eriksson’s Ball Skills: He stole the ball from Xherdan Shaqiri only to give it right back to the Swiss. Embarrassing moment but the Swiss kept possession, really Shaqiri is the worst loser for screaming at the official rather than getting into the play as his side had numbers going into the box.
Man of the Match: Lionel Messi
Belgium 2 – USA 1
- Tim Howard: The knockout round was filled with amazing goalkeeping performances. Howard’s 16 save performance was the best. That is most saves ever recorded in a World Cup match, since records for saves were not kept 50 years ago.
- Belgium Fit: The most common criticism of Belgium was their inability to have a strong start and that their goals only came late. Belgium with high profiled attacking talent had to grind out the victory, not scoring before the 70 minute mark. Belgium wore down the US despite have nearly even possession in regulation time.
- Kevin De Bruyne: Scored the first goal, assisted on the second and created 10 chances in total. The 23-year-old Wolfsburg midfielder was a handful pressuring under the forward. Additional he defended high as well winning 3 tackles and intercepting 3 passes in the US half. He can be the central attacking midfielder Jürgen Klinsmann was dreaming of, just in a Belgium jersey.
Losers: Modified to One Big Problem – US Midfield
- Defending: If Howard saved 16 shots it is because the team allowed 39 total, 18 were on target and 13 of those from inside the penalty. This massive sum was due in part to the fullbacks playing so high up the field and US’s inability to maintain possession. Belgium was happy to counter on the US and get them in transition with the centerbacks, Geoff Cameron, and the fullbacks up in possession having to scramble back. Would Kyle Beckerman have provided better defensive cover for the centerbacks? Possibly, but set piece defending was a high priority making Cameron a better option.
- Wide Midfielder: Unfortunately, the US was forced to bomb forward with both fullbacks because they got nothing offensively out of their wide midfielders. Alejandro Bedoya is a two-way player with limited offensive ability, his role was essentially a holding midfielder on the wing. Graham Zusi was to be Michael Bradley’s partner in possession. Zusi was non-existent, only attempting 24 passes with 16 completed. The best wide player in attack was DeAndre Yedlin, who pinned Jan Vertonghen deep and out of the Belgium attack. Rather than overrunning the flank and creating combinations, the fullbacks alone penetrated sending crosses to Clint Dempsey and a late runner. Belgium’s backline and keeper were too good to be threaten by that strategy.
- Possession: It is easy to place all the blame on Michael Bradley. When Bradley got space in the middle he seemingly always made the wrong decision. In reality, he completed 80 of 91 total passes, the issue for him was in the attacking third where he was 21 of 29. The US’s biggest problem is Bradleydidn’t have a partner in possession. Without Jozy Altidore, Dempsey couldn’t join in possession as the off the ball striker. The team can defend for 90 minutes, but not for 120. The US needed better quality to maintain possession to find those special through balls, flicks, or crosses to break good defensive squads.
Man of the Match: Tim Howard
This Round’s Throw In: MLS
- Two MLS All-Stars return from the World Cup looking to solve what ails their clubs. Tim Cahill returned to the New York Red Bulls as a hero scoring, perhaps, the goal of the tournament. Cahill was the hero again in 12 minutes for the Red Bulls with a header that set up the added time equalizer. The Honduras midfielder Boniek Garcia started the match for the struggling Houston Dynamos and was unable to solve their problem. Garcia played the full 90 in a 3-0 loss to the resurgent Montreal Impact.
- After it was announced Erick Torres will remain in with Chivas USA he returned to scoring form. Scoring in day-to-day games and the game winner against Real Salt Lake. The goal was a mirror image of Cahill’s goal for Australia. Definite Goal of the Week Winner.
- With summer coming, it is now or never for some teams’ season, specifically the Red Bulls, Portland Timber, and Houston Dynamo. I know never to bet against Dominic Kinnear. The season is nearly half way complete, time to smash the panic button.