Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports


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Es Wird Sein Ein Guter Tag Für Die Mannschaft (It’ll Be a Good Day for Germany)

Good morning, everyone. I’m sorry for not having any further content yesterday, but I got caught up doing family activities. I managed to see a little action – the second half of the Netherlands game and the last couple penalties of the Costa Rica win, but not enough for my liking. The Dutch comeback was rather entertaining. I wasn’t necessarily rooting for anyone, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable game from what I saw, as Mexico have played some of the best soccer of anyone in Brazil. They will feel aggrieved by the loss, and especially by the antics of Arjen Robben, but they shouldn’t be disappointed with themselves. From where they were in September to where they are now is a stunning turnaround, and the best days of Mexican soccer look to be ahead. Netherlands wasn’t as impressive yesterday as they had been before, and it had to be a little disconcerting for the Dutch fans that Robin van Persie was substituted when they were down a goal. However, their quality won out in the end, and they will be favored against Costa Rica. A trip to the semifinals does not seem far away.

I didn’t see enough of the Costa Rica game to have much to say about it other than that it confirmed my hatred of penalties. These ones were all well taken, even the saved effort from Theofanis Gekas. What kills me was the reaction of Gekas, who will forever feel like he was the goat in this game, when in fact, his was not a poorly taken penalty at all. Keylor Navas made a sensational save, but penalties always leave someone feeling like they blew it. I feel for Gekas, because he doesn’t deserve to be made the goat. Well-taken penalties like these ones are a flip of the coin, and there’s nothing the loser can do in cases like this one. On an Arsenal note, Joel Campbell looked incredibly cool under pressure when he took his penalty. If he can handle that, he shouldn’t have a problem with any English crowds like many do. This was yet another sign he could make it for Arsenal.

Today’s games might not be as close as yesterday’s were, as I feel the European nations will have little trouble with the Africans. Here are my picks.

France 2 Nigeria 0

France will continue their impressive run at the World Cup with a thorough performance against Nigeria. I expect the French to dominate in the midfield today, with Paul Pogba putting his stamp on the match in the middle of the park as one of the world’s best. It will be a coming-out party for him, as he will score a goal-of-the-tournament candidate to give France a lead in addition to contributing a series of key tackles. If paired together again, Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud should find more success, as they have demonstrated a fondness for the newly configured attack. France’s second will be started by Mathieu Valbuena, who will find Karim Benzema from the byline. Benzema’s cool finish will typify France’s day. Vincent Enyeama will be Nigeria’s man of the match in goal, but ultimately, his efforts will be futile. Nigeria will have trouble creating chances all day. The lone sore spot for France will be a second-half yellow card for Pogba, who will be forced to miss the quarterfinal against Germany. Other than that, it should be a near perfect day for France.

Germany 3 Algeria 1

Algeria will make this more of a game than many would expect, but ultimately, the Germans will have their way in the attacking third. After a quieter game against the United States, the German midfield will find their footing quickly against Algeria, with Mesut Ôzil having his best game of tournament. Ôzil’s calmly taken left-footed finish, played in by Toni Kroos, will quiet the Arsenal man’s critics, putting Gemany ahead. Algeria won’t wilt though, and will create chances down the right. But Manuel Neuer will step up to maintain the lead before half. Shortly after the break, Thomas Müller will score another on a rebounded effort off a corner. And the third will also come from a corner, with Per Mertesacker heading one on for Mats Hummels to direct into the net. With the game safely in hand, Jerome Boateng will concede a penalty, which Sofiane Feghouli will convert. Die Gewinnen wird einfach sein für die Mannschaft heute.

I will most certainly have something about the Germany game later today, so check back for that. My other post I’m working on – the non-sports one – is nearing completion and should be up by Tuesday afternoon at the latest. Let’s hope my German was right. Thanks for reading.


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Can Mexico Advance?

I didn’t get a chance to write anything about the Colombia-Uruguay game yesterday, but there’s not much to say at this point other than that James Rodriguez looks a serious star. If teams aren’t lining up to bid 6o million euros for him after the World Cup, I’ll be quite surprised. I thought his goal last game was nice, but his first one today was truly remarkable. The first touch was sublime, and then the finish was even better. Brazil will be in for a real struggle against him in the quarterfinal. Today’s games aren’t as glamorous as yesterday’s, but we should still be in for a fun day of soccer.

My picks yesterday were nearly spot-on, so I’ll hope these ones continue a good run for me.

Netherlands 3 Mexico 1

Mexico has been particularly impressive defensively so far, but they have not faced any players like Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. That duo has been sensational playing together up top, and I suspect today will be no different. Robben will have a field day against Rafael Marquez, as the old man will struggle to keep up with the pacey winger. Miguel Herrera might give us a few more spectacular GIFs on the Mexican sideline, but his magic touch won’t be there against the Dutch. Robin van Persie will get the reigning finalists on the board first with a left-footed volley. Before halftime, he will add another on a counter-attack led by Arjen Robben. A Herrera halftime talk will see the Mexicans come out with more spirit in the second half, and Hector Herrera will finally get a goal in Brazil. The impressive midfielder will deserve it too, having come close numerous times this tournament. However, as the Mexicans push forward to tie the game, another Dutch counter will see Robben put away the game, dancing around Guillermo Ochoa for another beautiful goal. The Mexicans will bow out, but they can hold their heads high.

Costa Rica 1 Greece 0

After a wildly successful group stage, the Ticos face a dream round of 16 matchup with the offensively challenged Greeks. Despite scoring two goals against Ivory Coast, Greece shouldn’t scare Costa Rica, and the Greeks might end up playing for penalty kicks if the match stays tied into the second half. On the break, Joel Campbell should find some space in front of Greece’s back four to release his wingers behind the vacated fullback spots – Greece attacks mainly through their left and right backs. Costa Rica’s lone goal will come early in the second half from the head of Bryan Ruiz, who will be excellent again today. Greece has been poor on set pieces under Fernando Santos and that could come back to haunt them. Going forward, Greece will create a couple chances in the early going, but their strikers won’t be up to the task. Keylor Santos will make a key save late on, and the Costa Rica defense will hold strong in the air in the final minutes. The Ticos will advance.

I’m currently working on a non-sports related post that I should have for you in the next day or two. Other than that, check back for post-match coverage later this afternoon. It should be a fun day. Thanks for reading.


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Mexico Still Owes Us One

I did my best to avoid all scores today so that I could get home and watch two games, but alas, right as I was about to leave camp, I heard the Netherlands-Chile score. I’ll have to read up on that game later, because I am quite impressed with the Dutch maintaining a clean sheet. However, I did manage to get home without hearing about the Mexico-Croatia game, so I was able to watch all 90 minutes of that entertaining game. Not finding out scores going forward is going to be extremely difficult.

Mexico were certainly the deserving winners today against Croatia. Miguel Herrera’s coaching has been spot on since he took over, and his magical touch has seen the Mexicans go from nearly out of the World Cup to the round of 16. But let’s not forget that Mexico wouldn’t be in Brazil without the USA and Graham Zusi scoring a late winner that gave Mexico the final spot over Panama. They owe us big time.

As I said last week, the Mexico I saw play Portugal in their final pre-World Cup friendly in Boston has transformed into an attacking menace. The new batch of midfielders have been tremendous, especially Hector Herrera. His movement has been excellent and he was unlucky not to score today. But Mexico also has had players stepping up their games everywhere on the pitch – from Ochoa in the back to Dos Santos up front. Everyone has been committed completely to the cause they looked so disinterested in last fall.

It was nice to Javier Hernandez score his late goal, as I thought this particular substitute appearance opened Croatia up for slaughter. Without him, Mexico had been dangerously defensive at times in the second half, and sitting back completely could have led to a disaster. Only needing a draw, Mexico could have sat back from the start, but Herrera’s decision to play on the front foot in the first half should have produced a goal. His positive tactics from the start were refreshing to watch.

Croatia’s play was quite disappointing. Mario Mandzukic didn’t have much of an impact against an aging center back pairing he should have tore apart. Ivan Rakitic didn’t particularly impress me either, sending in a couple poor efforts on set-pieces, and when two of your three stars don’t show up, there’s not much you can do. Only Luka Modric lived up to his billing in my eyes, showing strength in possession I hadn’t seen from him before. Seeing their campaign end with a late red card was fitting for the squad, which will be massively disappointed not to qualify after starting so well in their opener against Brazil.

The two round of 16 games set up today look appetizing, as I look forward to watching Brazil having to defend Chile’s pace – they could struggle with it like they did in the beginning of their opener. The Netherlands and Mexico should also provide a great game, as both teams are in impressive form, surprising many around the world with their play at the World Cup.

Lastly, why don’t any current American athletes have nicknames like Oribe “The Brush” Peralta? I don’t know where that comes from, but it’s a much more interesting nickname than anything we’d come up with in the U.S. Nicknames here are getting increasingly driven by a player’s name (i.e. D-Wade, Melo, Johnny Football) and we need to start being more creative. There used to more great nicknames in American sports, but they are dying out. Let’s see some more creativity.

Mexico now joins Costa Rica as the second CONCACAF side in the knockout stages, as the confederation has exceeded all expectations thus far. We can only hope the U.S. will be able to join them. At least Mexico still owes us a thank you for getting them here in the first place.


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And Now the Real Fun Begins

Good morning, everyone. I still haven’t really recovered from last night. My emotions are everywhere. If only it were as simple as colluding with Germany for a 0-0 draw. I’d take my chances with Belgium if Thursday didn’t have to be so nervy. But I digress. Now we’re into the final round of group stage games and we have some fascinating contests remaining. This should be fun. Too bad I’ll be at work for most of them now, but I’ll find a way to watch the games somehow. I should be able to still write two or three posts a day, so don’t worry. Big news for the site as it hit 1,000 views early yesterday. It’s been less than two weeks, but I’m having a blast writing. Know I appreciate every reader I get. Please help spread the word.

Now to today’s predictions.

Spain 4 Australia 1

Devoid of pressure, Spain’s second team will cruise from the get go, out to prove that they should have started in the first place. Without Tim Cahill up top, Australia won’t be as dangerous as they have been previously. Spain will score early through Fernando Torres, who I think will have a field day without any pressure on him to produce. I like Torres to score three overall. Spain’s fourth will come from Arsenal man Santi Cazorla, who nearly got on the scoresheet against Chile. The Socceroos goal will be scored by Oliver Bozanic once the game has been decided. This game will also be a final farewell for many former World Cup heroes for Spain, and while their ship has already sunk, this classy team should go out with a win. The worst part about this game is knowing that this will be the last time I can use the word “Socceroo” for four years. Oh well.

Chile 3 Netherlands 2

This game will be a thriller. It should be a very open contest full of goals. Chile will once again start fast, scoring through Alexis Sanchez. Without Robin van Persie, the Dutch won’t be as strong on the counter, but Arjen Robben will shine, scoring a beauty to tie the game. Chile will score next on a Eduardo Vargas effort. Alexis Sanchez will add to their lead shortly after half and Chile will be cruising. However if given a rare chance to see the field, I like Klaas Jan Huntelaar to score, and I think he’ll convert one late one as a consolation. Chile will leave winners though, and the Dutch will regret having to play Brazil.

Brazil 3 Cameroon 0

With Cameroon in shambles, Brazil should have little trouble in their final group game. Neymar will be looking to add to his tally and I think he’ll score Brazil’s opener within half an hour. More will be expected from Fred, who will finally produce a goal late in the first half. Brazil’s third will come from a substitute. Wanting to confirm the top spot in Group A, Jo will be the beneficiary of Brazil looking to improve their goal differential. This will be a walk in the park for the hosts.

Croatia 1 Mexico 0

A late goal from Mario Mandzukic will leave the Mexicans stunned at missing out on the knockout stage. Mexico will be impressive in the first half, but won’t find a goal. However, Croatia will solidify their back line after a shaky start, taking control of the match as it goes on. Needing a goal to advance, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will probe the Mexican defense looking for the perfect ball. For the last half an hour, Mexico will be defending for their lives, throwing everyone behind the ball. The goal will end up coming from a late set-piece. The Bayern Munich frontman will be there to break millions of Mexican hearts. Mexicans will be left crushed.

Check back later for more content. Thanks for reading as always. Have a great day.

 

 


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The Enigmatic Alex Song

Despite the best efforts of the assistant referee, Mexico was able to earn all three points in their opener today against Cameroon. But while Mexico looked to be creating the chances and dominating the game, Cameroon’s negative tactics allowed this to happen. It was unfortunate really that they held back so much, allowing Mexico time and space on the ball, and only sending one or two men forward to the box when attacking.

Alex Song’s performance in this match needs to be looked a closely. A former favorite of mine at Arsenal, capable both of breaking up attacks with cracking tackles and of sending the perfect pass, was noticeably tentative going forward against Mexico. Song is neither a true holding midfielder,  nor a #10. And he doesn’t make enough runs into the box to be considered a box-to-box type. He is a player that needs to do a little bit of both to be at his best. Cast as Cameroon’s lone holding midfielder, he seemed lost, afraid to venture forward without cover. Devoid of his creativity on the ball, Cameroon struggled to create chances for Samuel Eto’o.

It was particularly notable that when Cameroon went a goal down, and needed to bring on an extra attacker, Song was withdrawn to make way for Webo. Not unexpectedly, they failed to create many more opportunities. For a team that lacks playmakers, Cameroon needs Song further forward if they hope to win any games.

Song is now at an important part of his career, both internationally and at the club level. He can either change his game to become a complete defensive midfielder, or he can remain an enigma on the pitch, a player so tantalizing talented that Barcelona had to take a chance on him, but one whose lack of a true position keeps him off the field there. A Move away from Barca might be necessary for Song to discover who he really is on the field. Cameroon’s World Cup dream might be a lost cause, but at only 26 years old, Alex Song and his slowly vanishing career are not.

On the Mexican side, Miguel Herrera’s decision to leave out Javier Hernandez looks the smart one, with Giovanni dos Santos impressing all game. The sprite attacker looked comfortable with all the space given to him, and was extremely unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. I’m not ready to anoint Mexico ready to take down Brazil, but Cameroon played right into their hands in the rain. The confidence taken from this match cannot be underestimated though, as Mexico now look more of a threat to take the second spot in Group A.

Now to the match we’ve been waiting for.