Before we can get to the picks for today, we have to talk about Ghana’s victory over the USA. Frankly, I did not have an issue with it. Just like with any sport, it is often the team that makes thefewest mistakes that wins. Ghana did not turn the ball over in the middle of the pitch in the 5th minute, the US did. It is certainly a heartbreaking way to go out, but Gyan had been dangerous for much of the game, and it was only so long before the athletic striker wore down the defenders and sprang on the open chance to send his country onward. The US again put itself in a hole in the first half and finally paid the ultimate price for their first half half-heatedness.
It was not even a matter of unforeseen problems hurting the US. We knew about the early goal issues. We knew about the backline being the main concern defensively rather than Howard, and we knew about the offense being able to create chances. We had the right predictions, but the wrong results because Ghana’s advantages simply outweighed the US’ on this occasion. Both teams were good, but one was just more deserving. It hurts to say, but I really believe the US was 2nd best.
Now with that being said, the US was outstanding in the second half and just about took the lead on a few occasions. If not for a heavy touch by the otherwise brilliant Feilhaber, Jozy Altidore slipping, and Michael Bradley not knowing he had so much time, the US takes the win and a boatload of momentum into the quaterfinals. But none of them were able to put it in the back of the net, and with about 5 minutes remaining in regular time, the US’ chances disappeared. They went from threatening to doing nearly nothing in a snap and they did not have another realy shot at goal until they were down 2-1. You have to put it in the back of the net with all those chances to win, and we just didn’t do it today. It was a valiant effort, and they deserve all the applause in the world from US fans, but they were second best on this day. Good run, USA.
10:00 AM- Germany (1st in Group D) vs. England (2nd in Group C)
This is a tough one to pick. England was anything but impressive, but appear to have finally put their Emile Heskey obsession aside for the good of the team. Germany, on the other hand, had some young guys really step up in the Group Stages. However, Bastian Schweinsteiger is out for the match, aand he was really the guy holding the central midfield down for the Germans with Michael Ballack out. This means free reign for Gerrard and Lampard if tehy can seize control. It is an all-time great rivalry, but both sides have certainly seee more fruitful days. Germany is not quite the well-oiled machine it once was and England has yet to make the substantial sum of its parts actually be representative of the team on the field. I do not know who to pick, so I will make the standard pick when it comes to a pick of an England game and will send English fans around the globe into hysterics (the bad kind) if I ma right.
Germany 1-1 England
Germany wins PKs 4-2
2:30 PM- Argentina (1st in Group B) vs. Mexico (2nd in Group A)
Argentina is certainly the favorites here, but that does not mean Mexico cannot sneak up on them. Mexico is a very very solid attacking team that can keep enough possession to really limit Argentina’s opportunities. They are solid all the way through midfield and deadly at striker when the young guns get blazing. Mexico is not a team that should be taken lightly in this game in the least.
However, Mexico is not the sturdiest team in the back and Lionel Messi is going to give them absolute fits. He may not score, but he will carve them wide open at least once with his brilliance to create a chance for Higuain, Tevez, Aguero, Di Maria, or Milito. Coming into the tournament, we worried if Argentina would be able to find teh net and stay focused with Maradona on the sidelines, but his energy has turned into a positive thing for the team, and the goals have been flowing freely. The only concern for Argentina has been their defense’s penchant for untimely miscues like the dumb giveaway against South Korea in the group stage. I think they could give one up like that, but otherwise, I like the tenacity of Tevez in winning the ball back from Mexico’s midfield and the genius of Messi to produce a result for Argentina.
Argentina 3-1 Mexico