The group stage of the World Cup is complete and we’re down to the “Sweet 16” and onto the Knockout Rounds. No longer will draws be an option, games tied after regulation will go into extra time and then penalty shootouts. Each team holds their own destiny and will not have to rely and monitor what other teams are doing. Win the game in front of you and advance. It’s easier said than done but this separates the men from the boys, the teams that are just happy to advance versus those looking to go for the gold. Matches start on Saturday and continue through Tuesday with each day holding a pair of games. Brazil versus Chile kicks it off.

Five Top Moments of Group Stage

  1. Ronaldo cross to Varela vs. USA
  2. Luis Suarez biting Giorgio Chiellini
  3. Lionel Messi buzzer beater vs. Iran
  4. Netherlands destroys Spain
  5. Luis Suarez game winner vs. England

Group Stage Thoughts

1. Goals, Goals, Goals. We barely saw any scoreless draws or low scoring games. Every team more or less had an attacking mentality and it provided for exciting soccer. It was nowhere near a Sunderland vs. Stoke City type of affair where you need to be woken up if there is a shot on goal.

2. Luis Suarez is a sociopath and I’m thrilled he received a 9 game int’l ban and 4 month ban from all competitive play. The fact that the official didn’t see Suarez bite Chiellini is criminal and feel bad that Uruguay ended up beating Italy in that final game.

My Video Screen Shot 6:27:14, 4.51 PM

3. The Super Powers were powerless in the 2014 World Cup. England went winless, Spain were defeated twice, Portugal looked unimpressive and Italy just played bad enough to not advance.

4. Who’s going to be the man with the golden boot? Right now there are three players tied for the lead with four goals each: Neymar, Messi and Mueller.

5. At one point during the Argentina – Iran game you almost felt like pulling for Iran because they played so well and it looked like they were going to get a scoreless draw. But Lionel Messi in stoppage time, on his magical left foot, put in a game winning goal that clearly had divine intervention written all over it. It will be a defining World Cup moment and not sure who gets the credit Messi or the Pope.

My Video Screen Shot 6:27:14, 4.55 PM

6. For me the most magic moment of the group stage was Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross to Varela who headed the ball home basically as time expired in the 95th minute to draw the United States. It will go down as a crushing tie for USA and will just be another clip on the highlight reel of Ronaldo’s greatness.

7. Group H was probably the weakest division of them all and Belgium winning was no surprise to anyone but Algeria coming out and finishing second was. Algeria advances to the knockout round for the first time in history and they will have a chance to upset Germany. The same Germany side who screwed them in 1982 leading to the current FIFA rule of all final group games being played in unison.

8. Brazil was not a friendly place for two of Africa’s most notable teams, the Ivory Coast and Cameroon. Neither team advanced and records of 1-0-2 and 0-0-3 won’t be anything for those teams to brag about. Other than Ivory Coast’s comeback win over Japan both teams completely melted down.

9. The game that set the tone for the 2014 World Cup was Netherlands’ dismantling of the reigning champs Spain in a 2010 WC Final rematch. The 5 t0 1 beat down catapulted the Dutch into everyone’s favorite to win the tournament and the loss to Spain sent them in a downward spiral, one they could not escape.

10. The first stoppage time winner of this tournament belonged to the Swiss who scored with twenty seconds remaining to defeat Ecuador. It was an incredible run and march down the field for Switzerland and the win gave them the much needed points and actually was the deciding factor on which team advanced to the final sixteen.

My Video Screen Shot 6:27:14, 5.02 PM

11. The Sleepers to advance far in the knockout group are the Latin C’s: Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica. All have shown they’re willing and able to beat established teams. Both Colombia and Costa Rica won their groups and I expect them to win their next match as well, Chile has their work cut out for themselves against host Brazil who they’ve never beaten in the Amazon.

12. Greece was the only team this group stage to advance while having a negative goal differential. They scored two less than their opponents but managed four points with a win, loss and a draw. Their loss was a 3-0 defeat to Colombia.

13. After an extremely unsatisfying World Cup in South Africa, France has bounced back with a vengeance and look to be a legitimate contender. No more internal turmoil and player revolts, just beautiful scoring soccer. France cruised to win Group E by defeating Honduras 3-0, blowing out Switzerland 5-2 and then played their B-team against Ecuador to a meaningless 0-0 draw.

My Video Screen Shot 6:27:14, 5.05 PM

14. Bosnia-Herzegovina made their first World Cup but failed to advance after a disappointing loss to Nigeria. It was a nice story, one I’m sure the country could build upon behind the shoulders of Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko but they’ll regret not moving on especially when a mediocre Nigeria is the reason for that.

15. I guess we have to show some level of respect to the CONCACAF region for their performance in this World Cup so far. Out of the four teams in the tournament three (Mexico, Costa Rica and USA) of them are moving on, only Honduras is heading home.

16. Yes, USA advances and that snowball’s chance in hell sure got lucky but for the United States they’ll take it. They couldn’t hold on against Portugal and they were completely under-matched against Germany but thanks to Portugal’s flop performance in game one losing to Germany big the USA advances on goal differential.

17. One thing that’s killing me in this World Cup is injuries. It’s difficult to gage a team’s performance against another when so many injuries are happening creating massive chaos. For the United States they lost their striker Jozy Altidore while he’s not one of the world’s best he certainly makes an impact for their team. There are talks that Belgium may be without Vincent Kompany in the knockout round which would give the USA yet another bit of luck to advance. Injuries suck and I hope they don’t alter the outcomes of these future games.

18. Miroslav Klose of Germany has tied Brazilian legend Ronaldo (fat one, not Portugal one) as the all time leading scorer in World Cup history. They both sit at 15 goals and Klose is determined to break that record here in Brazil. His window is closing because he’s 36 years old and Russia looks to be a long ways away in 2018. However his record might not last long, his teammate Thomas Mueller (age 24) already has 4 goals this WC and 5 in 2010. You figure he has at least three more World Cups left to break that record…he may smash it.

My Video Screen Shot 6:27:14, 5.12 PM

19. We all know that Luis Suarez is a cock but Uruguay was the “dirtiest” team in the group stage racking up a Fair Play score of 8 which was worst among all 32 squads. They received 6 yellow cards and 1 red card, which don’t even include Luis Suarez biting someone.

20. I wrote about it once already but I want to reiterate just how great the HashFlags are for Twitter during the World Cup. It has completely elevated the level of soccer tweeting by adding those cute little emoticon flags. Keep on HashFlagging.

21. For the first time in a World Cup we’ve seen goal line technology used and I have to say where the fuck has this been for years. All those people that are against the technology clearly don’t want to improve the sport. It doesn’t take any longer during the game, it doesn’t cause disruption it just allows the call to be made correctly. Thank you FIFA for not fucking this one up.

My Video Screen Shot 6:27:14, 5.16 PM

22. I would love to see the payroll budget for the ESPN analyst panel as they have a former player from almost every country sitting in to review and critique their nation’s performance. Everyone from Ruud Van Nistelrooy of Holland to Michael Ballack (Germany) and even the incomparable Gilberto of Brazil. Unfortunately we’re stuck with the three American ass clowns of Alexi Lalas, Casey Keller and Taylor Twellman spitting their knowledge about USA soccer. Oh joy.

23. I really want to know what is going on with Ghana and this controversy surrounding payments, players being kicked off the team and mysteriously not starting their best guys in the first half against USA. Something seems very wrong and I would not be surprised at all if something corrupt is going on with Ghana. I have no facts, I have nothing to base it on but I know something bizarre when I see it and this doesn’t seem right.

Group Stage Ultimate Team

GK – Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico

D – Daley Blind, Netherlands

D – Gary Medel, Chile

D – Giancarlo Gonzalez, Costa Rica

D – Philip Lahm, Germany

M – Thomas Mueller, Germany

M – Paul Pogba, France

M – James Rodriguez, Colombia

F – Arjen Robben, Netherlands

F – Lionel Messi, Argentina

F – Neymar, Brazil

My Video Screen Shot 6:27:14, 5.20 PM

Knockout Round Predictions

  • Brazil over Chile
  • Colombia over Uruguay
  • Netherlands over Mexico
  • Costa Rica over Greece
  • France over Nigeria
  • Germany over Algeria
  • Argentina over Switzerland
  • Belgium over United States