10:00 AM- ESPN- Netherlands vs. Slovakia
Don’t overthink this one. The Dutch are better all around the pitch and will have Arjen Robben back to terrorize the Slovak defense to no end. With maybe the exception of Paraguay, I was completely underwhelmed by the Group F fixtures and thought that Group E was worthy of a Group of Death title once we figured out that Japan was a real threat. This is a straightforward pick, so let’s spend our remaining time talking about more interesting aspects of the Dutch team.
A lot of people have started jumping on the Dutch bandwagon as the sexy sleeper pick to win the World Cup. I would strongly urge you to reconsider. See, the Dutch play gorgeous soccer when they are attacking and scoring goals, and have a good number of well-known players. There is no doubting their skill level. However, Edwin Van der Sar is no longer in international football, which means that there is no steadying hand behind a fairly middling back line. So far they have taken the fight to every opponent they have faced and have yet to have to defend in depth. Remember our rule about not picking teams that have not faced adversity? You can apply that to Netherlands, but you can even add the aspect that no one was even made them play a complete game yet. Let’s see what they do if they come up against Brazil next round and have to deal with that onslaught, or what would happen if they were to have to face Argentina or another ruthless attacking side. I am not doubting the ability of the Netherlands, but I am doubting whether their defense is World Cup ready. They are the sexy pick, but it does not come with just enough substance for me. It may turn out that they are champions when all is said and done, but until they prove they can deal with a team really attacking them, let’s hold off on the Dutch Gravy Train.
Netherlands 3-0 Slovakia
2:30 PM- ESPN- Brazil vs. Chile
I like Chile. I really do. It is just a shame that they had to get 2nd in Group H and run into the Brazilian Bandsaw this early on. I had this high-octane team giving some bigger teams some problems, but I just don’t think that Brazil is one of those teams they can challenge. I actually would have loved to see Netherlands-Chile, but barring a miraculous upset, that is not going to happen. Brazil is too tested, too strong, and just too good to dip out this early. Even given Chile’s quality play, Brazil has advantages at every spot on the field. I think Chile can grab a goal as Brazil conceded one to the Ivory Coast and North Korea, but I have a hard time seeing them holding Brazil under 2 goals. Think of this like the Argentina-Mexico game. Both teams have some attacking talent, but one can back it up defensively and is just more talented. Since we got that score right, let’s stick with it.
Brazil 3-1 Chile
This is not the Brazil you will see on the field