There was plenty to both love and hate from this latest round of play in the World Cup. Indeed, 2014 has cooked up a storm of surprises. Consider the worst of the sport next…

Of the eight games in the second round of this increasingly puzzling tournament, only three were decided in regulation. The rest have all gone into extra- overtime, with two settled by shootouts. It is easy to turn your eyes away when games drag on like this, and it was a recurrent theme for this round. But fortunately for us all, the few glimpses caught are (you guessed it!) more than enough for another uninformed take. Let’s continue the stat show!

Of the two regulation wins, 100% were eyes-glued-to-the-TV affairs of sorts. And going into the next round, almost all the teams that have played 90+ minutes can be said to be at a disadvantage. How much of one game spills into the next has never looked more applicable than here and now. With the heat and humidity at the levels they are, expect a snoozefest going forward. Why has this round sucked?

No spectacle following the precedent set by the goal fest earlier. For the purists what it lacked spectacle it made up for in storylines for the romantically inclined. Hence why there’s plenty to love I suppose. Although the rate of goals has dropped significantly, which was to be expected anyhow (this is elimination football, and in retrospect, the goal count happened to be front-loaded) this is only the first knockout round. Besides we’ve already eclipsed the overall goal count from the last four iterations. Let’s not be a Debbie downer. FIFA is considering a fourth substitute for game that go into overtime. So far subs have scored 29 goals in the tournament. See? Not all was bad. Baby steps.

As for some of the good we bore witness to, the US refused to go quietly into the night in a valiant backs against the wall effort. In a similar scoreline, and order of goals, Algeria made Germany earn a berth in the quarterfinals by stretching all definitions of the act. Costa Rica is still in the tournament and the equally impressive — albeit for purely aesthetic reasons — Colombians can’t be faulted for liking their chances in the next game. A close look at the next round of games is enough to realistically dream of a new champion. Here’s a primer; Netherlands has the easiest route to the semis. Who’s to say that in itself isn’t enough motivation to get to the next round sometimes. Surely, some teams find the deeper they trek the less inclination for quitting is justified even more. Belgium is right in salivating at the prospect of testing for themselves Argentina’s well-documented one dimensionality. France is peaking while Germany is ailing. Whomever comes out the victor, save for the hosts and Germany, will likely defy the narrative we’ve come to witness in the two previous World and European major tournaments. Buckle up. This one will either get bumpier or downright frenetic. Some takeaways to mull over. That good for thought to nibble on.


Brazil hasn’t shown up yet.

Nor will they get better. If this had been another host, or another tournament, no one would hold their punches on how Brazil has done so far. This Brazil would have easily been dragged through the mud. Then crucified and quartered for good measure once they were back home. The problem is logistically neither can happen. Historically for Brazil any even scathing criticism is considered constructive criticism. But the shitshow must continue because to bail on them now is more an admission of the overarching issues plaguing the country. The real ones FIFA doesn’t want you talking about during the monthlong money siphoning that passes for a World Cup today. Next in the bracket, they face Colombia, who in each game has been enjoying what Brazil is yet to find after four games: improvement.

Arjen Robben is an irredeemable cunt.
But he’s a realist and a pragmatic. In facing the hottest and most peculiar to gameplan against in Mexico, the Dutch have resorted to the deeper most pit in the will reserves and then some to prevail. Mexico owned the first half. They just failed to adjust for the expected siege about to be laid on their goal as time dwindled. That’s all it took to get the better of Memo Ochoa. Credit to Robben’s PR savvy and timing to admit he flopped a little as the world was gripped with Luis Suarez’ impeding response to the latest BiteGate. Really all that stood between the Dutch and a reappearance at the final now looks like Mexico all along. And they’ve been circumvented. I just don’t see any sympathy for whatever crocodile or genuine tears he’d shed come payback time. A payback that would only resonate with an exit in the last possible point. And even then it wouldn’t teach — or absolve him of –anything.

James Rodriguez is the new Zidane
We’ve found him. The search is over. He moves slow. He prods and rolls the ball. As opposed to only knocking it about, or moving it with a heavy inseam. Plus that goal. Shades of Real Madrid’s winner against Leverkusen courtesy of Zizou, it seemed like. He played for Porto and now enjoys the tax haven and relative upgrade of a life at nouveau riche Monaco. This kid is a national treasure. I’m reminded of the Serbs hardly consoling words to Drazen Petrovic’s mother: “he was your son, but he belongs to us also.”

Don’t quote me on the quote, and enough hyperbole, lest I sound overreacting to a purple patch of a four game scoring run. But this is a midfielder we’re talking about. The last player of his ilk to have their moment to shine was ran out of Barcelona where he never stood a chance. It took the progressive minds of Pellegrini (Villareal) and Pekerman (Argentina) next to each accommodate him in a system especially tailored for him to flourish in. Incubate in almost after a premature birth at Barcelona. Juan Riquelme. Of course he had to fuck that one up too (because for lighting to strike twice, it wasn’t doubly enough) and was soon run the hell out of both Villareal and Argentina. In the year 2014 Pekerman is coaching Colombia and Prllegrini just won the EPL at City. Which means James Rodriguez should transfer to Manchester City next, right? Not so fast.

France is unshackled and playing accordingly. Unlike Germany.
Contrary to what the high goal haul tallied in the group stage by Brazil, Germany, and Netherlands entailed, in France’s case it had no effect. I haven’t seen their game against Ecuador. It helps to get your play poor games early and get them out of the way first. France truly is the one team that can score at any minute. They’ve shown a propensity to conjure up a goal scoring chance from seemingly odd and typical points of attack. What Germany did in 2010, play with the reckless abandon of a newfound freedom, like a newly divorced philanderer no longer burdened with the decency to keep a low profile, has eluded the Germans in 2014, with France doing so with ease. France’s brand isn’t a sleek passing game. In fact it can be brutish and slow. But the end product is always a spectacular one. Two more goals don’t sound much of a stretch against Germany, or anyone for that matter.

As for Germany, they got it done. Though at what price? It remains to be seen what the effect of 120 grueling minutes has on their preparations. The scheduling this time favors no time over another because the next matchup involves teams that played on the same day albeit at different times. A few hours are much easier to adjust to than a full day no doubt.

[Writer’s Note]: Second that. They’re going to need all kinds of time that isn’t available as seven more players are now down with flu-like symptoms. This is including Mats Hummels who missed the Algeria game. Talk about it not being your day or year. Jogi Loew is already downplaying the severity of the news but with this just breaking a little over 24 hours before a game is undownplayable. Jogi’s trademark nonchalance can only barely conceal the smallest of worries.

Belgium or Argentina? It’s a tossup.
Argentina continues its habit of leaving it late. This time it was perilously late because Dzemaili’s unlucky header-bounce came close to going in. Twice. An unsavory tackle by Garay will now ensure he misses the Semis if they continue to progress and maybe even the final. Marcos Rojo impressed, and I will duly take him off my shitlist for good, in spite of obtaining the misses next match status on the day. You know I can overlook a defender being overwhelmed by their defensive duties then showing relief on the opposite end after a goal. The benefit of the doubt applies here. How often will a defender score in a World Cup in a lifetime? Twice? Tops? If they’re guaranteed 15 career games, aka, attempts.

What went wrong for Argentina? The same old song and dance. Evidently, this team has a proclivity to go wide because — drumroll — the huge creative void in the middle can’t lure defenses out. In this regard Argentina is forced wide so it is necessity rather than design. This team is like a chick having Double D tits and a flat ass. It don’t make no goddamn sense for your other brain (the dominant one). It’s basically one glaring deficiency compensated for by a well heralded endowment but the result is all too neglected balance.

Argentina had to basically make do with plan A all the way which boils down to attack from every angle. Something to the tune of 50+ crosses were hurled toward Benaglio’s (Swiss goalie) goal, who had a good outing between the posts. For the life of me, when the first stringers aren’t available, I never could understand Rodrigo Palacio’s inclusion in 2010 and much less today. Sure he stole the ball that started the play but rarely does that ever justify a career of mediocrity off the bench. The first time Id seen him play was a sub in 2006. He’s always rocked that off center braided rat tail. The douche.

With Belgium, that Wondowloski miss aside, you can’t blame them for losing concentration in a game they spent the entirety of flooding Tim “Toward Him” Howard’s net. But that’s the shit that a wily forward would rub their hands to in the tape room. Do they have those in soccer? More credit for me. Argentina won’t have an opportunity to do that because in order to sneak up on Belgium the play has to be happening on the other end, and we know how Argentina will fare there.

The momentary lapse that led to the US nearly putting the Devils away may be indefensible for a defense lauded as the best unit in Brazil. Your pre-tournament dark horse are something of a favorite also. But I’m not familiar with them not individually or as a collective. No one is saying the US are a slouch and a pushover. Bradley’s chip is testament to the contrary, and more; guile and craft. Plus they have the heart to push on. Any other player on the US team that day (or previously) may have sealed the deal on that play. So twice now have the Belgians survived a scare; against Algeria and the US. Which makes Argentina’s case for qualification stronger in the next game.

Something tells me both teams’ tendencies may cancel out and we’ll instead be treated to spells of possession on either end until the ball is prematurely turned over. Though bookmakers odds are in the Latin’s favor, it wouldn’t be a bonafide upset if Belgium prevails. They wouldn’t get to overwhelm nor thoroughly overpower the Argentinians much. They’ll find they won’t have to overexert themselves as a clinical display would suffice.

Parting Words: though both Brazil and Argentina haven’t convinced wholly, the schadenfreude rubberneck in yours truly would settle for a national disgrace for Brazil and or a victory for Argentina. I know that the dream final, or the best impromptu advertisement for the sport, is still possible. At which point, Brazil could as a poetic statement have their lousiest attempt at a trophy realized if it came at the expense of their rivals. Whichever happens, I will be a happy customer. And so you should you. Unless you’re from Brazil or Argentina. Until next week…