We’re here again, another must-win for the United States. It’s getting a bit stressful, and I’m not sure my heart can take much more of this. First, though, we’ve got some business to attend to. I got both of the games right yesterday, but I didn’t get the scores for either, so that’s 4 points. I predicted France would win by two goals, though, and I predicted Germany would double Algeria’s score, so in some ways I nailed it? Maybe? No? No.
Brian’s Prediction Points Tally = 38
The early game today features Argentina v. Switzerland. This is tough, because Argentina should win, but they haven’t had a particularly good tournament despite their 9 points in the group stage. They won each of their three matches by a single goal (gracias, Messi) and looked to be struggling especially during the game against Iran. Switzerland actually scored one more goal, but they let three more in, so we can’t exactly say they did better. (To be fair, 5 of the 6 goals they conceded were against France, who’ve looked fantastic most of the tournament, even if they did leave their victory over Nigeria to pretty late.) Switzerland looked like they were finally clicking in their 3-0 win over Honduras, which might be bad news for Argentina. Plus, Switzerland have a Messi of their own.
We could be looking at the first group winner upset of the round of 16. Honestly, I don’t see this one being decided in regulation. Since I get half the points for penalty shootout wins when I predict a result one way or the other, I’ll get half the points for a regular or overtime win now when I’m predicting penalties. My prediction:
Argentina 2 : 2 (4 : 3) Switzerland
Yes, I’m predicting a penalty shootout win for Argentina. Now for the day’s main event: Belgium v. U.S.A. I am scared to death of this game, mostly because I think the Americans are going to win. Despite having the easiest group and a favorable rest schedule, Belgium still struggled to top their group. U.S.A. had pretty much the exact opposite experience, traveling close to 9,000 miles over the course of the group stage and often having less rest time than their opponents. The Americans are gritty, though, and they showed they can take it. I’d like to see Eden Hazard break his nose in a game and continue to play.
When it comes down to it, though, it isn’t grit or scheduling or even recent form that makes me think the U.S. is going to win this one: it’s the potential absence of half of Belgium’s defense. Vermaelen hardly played at all for Arsenal this season, and he hasn’t been in fantastic form, so he’s not a huge loss, but Vincent Kompany helped Manchester City win the Premiership this year and is generally considered to be one of the best defenders in the world. If Belgium show up without their two starting center backs, I can’t imagine them putting up as strong of a fight. Yes, the U.S. lost Jozy Altidore in the Ghana match, but Klinsmann has played around with formations enough that we were mostly able to overcome it and adapt over the course of the next two games. It’s a lot more difficult to lose the heart and soul of your defense, the defense that pretty much kept you from losing to Algeria and Russia and propelled you into the knockout rounds.
I’m talking too much, mostly to convince myself that this is possible. I’ll shut up now. My prediction:
Belgium 1 : 2 U.S.A.
I believe that we will win—hopefully in regulation, so I don’t develop a heart condition.