Germany v. Sweden: I correctly picked Germany, thinking that home field advantage and superior talent would let them walk all over the tired-looking Swedes. Yup, pretty much.
Argentina v. Mexico: I correctly picked Argentina, but I did not anticipate that Mexico would be able to take the game into overtime. Certainly Mexico can be proud of their team’s effort—something no other CONCACAF country can claim—as Argentina is one of the better squads in the world.
Italy v. Australia: I correctly picked Italy, but I do think that the Socceroos were totally jobbed in the final seconds of the match. The Italians are as flop-happy a team as I’ve run across in some time, and I would be delighted to see them bounced from the tourney. Unfortunately, they play Ukraine next, so they’ll survive another round.
Switzerland v. Ukraine: I reasoned incorrectly that defense wins championships. The truth is that defense plus just a smidgeon of offense wins championships and that rules out Switzerland. (It should have ruled out Ukraine as well, but somebody had to win.) This was a horrid, horrid match involving two teams unable to mount any offense whatsoever. Indeed, after a 120 minutes of tedium, we entered a penalty kick shootout in which Switzerland again failed to score. It’s not like the Ukrainian keeper was brilliant, either.
England v. Ecuador: I did not foresee Ecuador laying this stink bomb on us after two very nice opening games. I also thought that they would be well-rested after playing mostly subs against Germany. Maybe they were well-rested, because somebody needed to wake them up. They showed nothing against an English squad that has yet to come even remotely close to meeting the expectations placed upon them. Excepting a brilliant David Beckham free kick and some hard work by Rooney up top, England showed nothing. Will the real English team show up for this World Cup? I’m betting they already have, which is why I’m taking Portugal in the next round.
Portugal v. Netherlands: I correctly picked Portugal, but I certainly did not anticipate the on-field bloodbath of red and yellow cards. Marvelous excitement.
Brazil v. Ghana: Like most of the world, I correctly picked Brazil. Ronaldo looked like he was starting to get into game shape, as well, which should terrify future opponents: The overweight sluggish version has scored 3 goals in 2 games.
Spain v. France: I have no excuse for backing the always disappointing Spanish except that since the French had show almost zero offensive talent, I reasoned that Spain could this time shrug the World Cup monkey off their back. Nope. More jungle love for the Spaniards.
Overall: 5 out of 8.
3rd round picks
Germany v. Argentina: Perhaps the game of the Cup. Were they rested and fielding all their starters, Argentina would be my pick. They are neither, so despite having what I think to be a very fine team, I’m going to go with Germany. Either way, the winner of this will beat Italy and advance to the finals.
Italy v. Ukraine: I hope that Ukraine shows up and makes it a game, but I’m not optimistic. I also hope that Italy doesn’t flop right and left and get Ukrainian players tossed on phantom calls, but I’m not optimistic there either.
England v. Portugal: Portugal has talent, but they’re missing two starters after the debacle with Netherlands. England appears talented on paper, but we’ve seen relatively little off the page. Portugal has Figo. I’ll take Portugal.
Brazil v. France: The French adventure ends here, as does the brilliant World Cup career of Zidane. The French defense has played well up to this point, but they’re unlikely to be a match for Brazil, and since there’s only one Zidane, the Brazilians could effectively mark him out of the game. (God knows that’s what I’d try to do.) France has shown no offensive talent whatsoever out of their forward line, and I don’t expect that to change unless Henry gets benched and there’s a sub I don’t know about. Brazil on the other hand could see a goal by any player on the field except perhaps the keeper.