World Cup 2014: Matchday Fifteen (Group G, H)

USA 0 – 1 Germany

Between the fact that a draw would suit both teams and the torrential rain, it was easy to think that this game would not be too competitive. But while neither team really killed themselves throughout, both sides did at least try to win the game.

But it was Germany’s game to win, right from the off. The US has done very well at the tournament so far, but this was the first time they came up against an in form top class attacking team, and it showed. Time and again Germany were able to pass around the US defence, place the through balls, work things up and down the flanks, and test Tim Howard in goal.

Make no mistake, if this was a must win played in better conditions, Germany would have slaughtered them. A bit more precision in the final ball or with shots and they could have been four up in 15 minutes, and that trend continued throughout the game, the US content to stack men behind the ball and only venture forward with Dempsey, if at all.

Howard didn’t have a really difficult save to make in the first but his positioning and reflexes, especially for the low byline crosses that Germany love to stick into the six yard box, were vital in keeping things level at HT.

Klose was sent on to seek the winner that Germany deserved, and the pattern of the game continued. Germany passed at will, and the opening really was inevitable, Muller finishing with style after Howard had pulled off a great save to deny Mertesacker.

It says something that Neuer had no saves of note to make in the entire game, Zusi’s over the bar effort in the second as close as the US could claim to have come. They did try and go forward a bit more in the second half – especially as news of events in the other game filtered in – but never looked like breaking down this defence.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Both teams go through, and the US can count themselves lucky they did not receive an abject hiding today. Germany are one of the best teams in the tournament and face an interesting test against Algeria, a game they should win. The US have proven they can’t go beyond a certain level, but could yet have enough for Belgium.

Portugal 2 – 1 Ghana

A quasi dead rubber game really, with Portugal needing an unlikely number of goals and Ghana riven by internal discord. Boye’s own goal was a comical opener and Portugal certainly seemed the better team in the first half anyway.

Ghana came back into things more in the second, and Gyan’s equaliser was well deserved with it came, off another great cross from Asamoah. The following minutes were the crucial ones of the entire last matchday, and Waris’ missed header was a true turning point.

From there Portugal came back into it, and a major defensive lapse allowed Ronaldo to win the game from an absurd amount of space in front of goal. It was to the satisfaction of no one really. Both teams have underperformed in Brazil, and would like to forget their experience pronto.

Algeria 1 – 1 Russia

For the most part, everything seemed to be going Russia’s way. Capello had temporarily abandoned his more conservative style, and the early goal, a fantastically placed header by Kokorin, heralded an easier progression than might have been expected.

But Algeria have proved themselves no pushovers, streaming forward with purpose. They only needed one goal after all, but for the first half their efforts were nothing special, shots from Mesbah and Brahmi and a header from Slimani nothing to trouble Akinfeev in the Russian goal.

Samedov should have put things to bed early in the second, but M’bolhi’s smart save kept Algeria in it. And it was the previously denied Slimani who headed Algeria back to level terms on the hour, with Akinfeev stranded after coming for the ball – though he has reasonable grounds to be agitated, blinded by a laser shone on his face from the crowd during the set-piece.

From there Algeria were content to sit back and soak up the pressure, much as they did against Belgium. They did that very well, choking the Russian offensive efforts and forcing them to go down the flanks constantly, where a succession of terrible crosses did nothing to threaten the Algerian goal.

Time ticked away, and nothing Capello was doing our introducing was making a blind bit of difference. Algeria were good at putting pressure on the ball, forcing Russia back into their own half even in the dying moment, and as the seconds ticked away it was crystal clear who the better team were.

Russia go out, a terrible return for their last World Cup fixtures until they host the tournament. Capello is horribly overpaid, turning one the most entertainingly attacking teams of Euro 2012 into this defensive minded mess. Algeria celebrate their progression and a showdown with Germany, and who knows what may come of it.

South Korea 0 – 1 Belgium

It was a familiar story from the Belgians, who played their part in a dour contest, only to win it with one of their rare moments of genuine football skill. Vertonghen’s slate rebound was enough to send South Korea packing, but the Asian side never really looked like they were capable of breaking the Belgians down anyway.

Belgium have hardly impressed in their three games, but they did win all of them, so they must be doing something right. South Korea have had a tournament to forget, as has their confederation, with all four AFC sides crashing out early.

Here’s my rankings of the teams so far. The top 16 consist of all who progressed automatically, the lower 16 of those who failed. Then its based on points, goal difference (GD), goals for (GF) and cards received (Y, R), in that order.

1. Netherlands (9P, +7GD, 10GF)

2. Columbia (9P, +7GD, 9GF)

3. Argentina (9P, +3GD, 6GF)

4. Belgium (9P, +3GD, 4GF)

5. France (7P, +6GD)

6. Germany (7P, +5GD, 7GF, 1Y)

7. Brazil (7P, +5GD, 7GF, 4Y)

8. Costa Rica (7P, +3GD, 4GF, 2Y)

9. Mexico (7P, +3GD, 4GF, 5Y)

10. Chile (6P, +2GD)

11. Switzerland (6P, +1GD)

12. Uruguay (6P, 0GD)

13. Algeria (4P, +1GD)

14. USA (4P, 0GD, 4GF)

15. Nigeria (4P, 0GD, 3GF)

16. Greece (4P, -2GD)

 

17. Ecuador (4P, 0GD)

18. Portugal (4P, -3GD, 4GF)

19. Croatia (3P, 0GD, 6GF)

20. Bosnia and Herzegovina (3P, 0GD, 4GF)

21. Cote d’Ivoire (3P, -1GD, 4GF)

22. Italy (3P, -1GD, 2GF)

23. Spain (3P, -3GD)

24. Russia (2P, -1GD, 2GF)

25. Ghana (1P, -2GD, 4GF)

26. England (1P, -2GD, 2GF)

27. South Korea (1P, -3GD, 3GF)

28. Iran (1P, -3GD, 1GF)

29. Japan (1P, -4GD)

30. Australia (0P, -6GD)

31. Honduras (0P, -7GD)

32. Cameroon (0P, -8GD)

So, how did I do prediction wise?

Predicted Last 16, Correct Bolded

Brazil

Mexico

Spain

Netherlands

Japan

Columbia

Uruguay

Italy

Switzerland

Ecuador

Argentina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Germany

Portugal

Belgium

Russia

So, 10/16. And as for group placements:

Group A

Brazil

Mexico

Croatia

Cameroon

Four correct.

Group B

Spain

Netherlands

Chile

Australia

One correct.

Group C

Japan

Columbia

Ivory Coast

Greece

One correct.

Group D

Uruguay

Italy

England

Costa Rica

None correct.

Group E

Switzerland

Ecuador

France

Honduras

One correct.

Group F

Argentina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Nigeria

Iran

Two correct.

Group G

Germany

Portugal

USA

Ghana

Two correct.

Group H

Russia

Belgium

South Korea

Algeria

None correct.

So, a poor 10/32 correct there, for a combined 20/48. Not up to my usual standards (I was 34/48 at this point last time).

Let’s keep the train rolling. Predictions for the Second Round, winners in bold:

Brazil – Chile

Columbia – Uruguay

France – Nigeria

Germany – Algeria

Netherlands – Mexico

Costa Rica – Greece

Argentina – Switzerland

Belgium – USA

All the group winners, in other words. Let’s see how it works out.

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