My initial World Cup predictions got 3 of the 4 semifinalists right, and the only game I missed* in my second try with the knockout stage was Belgium vs US, so a good showing overall.
*Note: I made no prediction for the third-place game, because no one cares.
We got to see one of the better tournament in recent memory, with plenty of goals in the early stages and plenty of excitement in the elimination rounds. If you watch the entire tournament, you definitely see a change after the group rounds when teams begin to think “defense first,” although that didn’t prevent us from seeing the hosts completely implode against Germany. I should say that the commentary following the Brazilian loss has been grossly overblown: Brazil wasn’t as good as they thought they were, and a single-game implosion doesn’t tell us nearly as much as people think.* That doesn’t mean that Brazil won’t go through the soul-searching that usually ensues, but their team isn’t suddenly significantly worse than we believed all along.
*Same is true of the Denver Broncos. In fact, the best comparison for something like this might be the 2003 New England Patriots, who were demolished 31-0 by the lowly Bills in the season opener and then proceeded to lose one more game en route to winning the Super Bowl.
It’s always unfortunate to see teams depart on penalties, especially overachievers like Costa Rica, but it’s also unreasonable to ask players to go more than 120 minutes. One of the bugs and the features of the world cup has been the way the tournament tends to filter down to the best teams. There are certainly exceptions – did you know that Turkey and South Korea both made the semifinals in 2006? – but the extended tournament makes consistent upsets more difficult. Perhaps that’s for the best, although a little more randomness couldn’t hurt the sport.
I’ll qualify that last statement by adding this: the sport could certainly use less randomness when it comes to officiating. Specifically, something must be done about fouls in the penalty area, where clearly an entirely different set of unofficial rules applies. Fouls that aren’t fouls in the box are fouls almost everywhere else on the field, and this should be either codified to quell the outrage every time somebody falls down there, or we should have a lot more penalty kicks. I’m also disappointed that the referees didn’t punish diving more severely, because Arjen Robben just has it coming to him. Also, as I mentioned on Twitter, I dread the health care crisis we’ll have when all these guys get older and start breaking hips because they’ve taught themselves to flail their arms helplessly instead of breaking their fall.
Now, only 54 more days until Euro 2016 qualifying starts.