Paraguay 0-0 Japan (5-3 on penalties)
As with Uruguay v. South Korea, this was always going to be the appetizer to the main course later in the day. But the marinara for the mozzarella sticks was watery and the potato skins tasted like they had been sitting under a heat lamp for an hour. And the service was slow, too. That’s not to say that both teams didn’t deserve to be in the Round of 16; they did. But they made it through hard work and discipline rather than skill and creativity. You want to see them as a foil for better teams instead of playing each other. So naturally, it was destined to go into penalties. On the plus side, I picked the score of the last three games correctly, so maybe there’s hope for me in the Fantasy group.
Spain 1-0 Portugal
For an hour, Portugal’s quick defense neutralized Spain’s greatest weapon, its passing game. And even when Spain could spread the ball wide, they couldn’t get the ball into the box. Fernando Llorente’s close header showed that they could be opened. Then Simao decided to leave David Villa unmarked on the edge of the box. Big mistake. He’s pretty good. Villa’s goal forced Portugal to open up, but, as it turns out, Spain’s defense is a little better than North Korea’s. Who knew? It didn’t help that Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t find his way into the box with a map drawn by Jeff Giles’ mom. Spain spent the last 25 minutes putting on a display of possession that thoroughly frustrated their Iberian neighbors, who added to their history of knockout-game red cards when Ricardo Costa elbowed Joan Capdevila in the 89th minute.
By the way, the only group winner that didn’t advance to the quarterfinals? The United States.
Matchday 20 Previews
Netherlands v. Brazil
These teams met in the semifinals in 1998. I had the Netherlands to win the whole thing and, after Dennis Bergkamp’s late winner in the quarterfinals against Argentina (which remains one of the greatest goals I’ve ever seen), I was convinced the Dutch could pull it out. In the semis, Patrick Kluivert scored a late equalizer to send it into extra time, and they lost on penalties, breaking my heart. The Dutch will be looking for revenge. They won’t get it.
Prediction: Brazil 2, Netherlands 1
Uruguay v. Ghana
Yes, it will be sad to watch this game, knowing that the United States could have been there instead of Ghana. But at least we won’t have to endure the agony of being overwhelmed by Uruguay the way Ghana will here.
Prediction: Uruguay 2, Ghana 0