Note: I wrote this while I was sitting in a bar having lunch and watching the Italy vs. Uruguay match and finished before it was over. We now know that Italy was bit (pun intended) by a terrible red card and got beat with 10 men on the field to get eliminated.
The intensity of the World Cup has been off the charts in just about every match that has been played to this point, but it is nothing compared to what we will see with the games moving forward.
The group stage is coming to a close and more than a few teams are fighting to stay alive and advance to the final 16.
As fun as the first two weeks of the Cup have been, they haven’t even come close to following the script that most experts predicted. Traditional powers, Spain, Portugal and England have floundered in a big way. In fact, Spain and England have already been eliminated while Portugal is hanging by a thread following an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Germany. They would have already been eliminated if no for a 95′ minute tournament saving goal to salvage a draw with the United States. Even with that result, there is still plenty of work to be done to advance. Italy is also on the ropes after splitting their first two matches. They need at least a tie if they want to move on, and that will be easier said then done when you consider that they have to face a very game Uruguay side who needs to win to advance.
With All of the disappointing showings from some of the Best soccer playing nations in the world, that has opened the door for some surprise teams to make some noise. the most impressive of those just may be Costa Rica. After losing one of their premier scorers to a foot injury in training and having to face a brutal group, not much was expected. The Costa Ricans had other ideas however. After a remarkable performance in an upset win over Uruguay got the tournament started off on the right foot, they looked even better in a 1-0 win over Italy to earn a trip to the knock out round.
While not in as trying a group, Mexico has also had a great showing to this point. They earned seven points, including an impressive draw against host Brazil to advance.
Then there is the USA. Even their coach conceded that they didn’t have the quality to win it all this year, but they have shown very well. They entered the tournament with one of the most difficult draws, but have earned a result in each of their two matches (2-1 win over Ghana and 2-2 draw with Portugal) to leave them on the door step of the knock out stage. They still have a huge challenge on their hands having to face a terrific German team in the final match of the group stage.
No matter what happens, that will be a thrilling affair for the Americans and all of their fans. As will every other game moving forward since just about every game remaining is do or die.
Whether you have a team to cheer for or not, it is a guarantee that the matches left will be intense and we will get to witness some of the best soccer players in the world at the top of their games.