Neymar Falls, Epic Semifinals Await

After the first two rounds of the knockout stage, I have predicted 11 out of 12 outcomes correctly. While there were a lot of upsets in the group stage, the knockout stage has seen the favorites advance to create two semifinal matches between the two most storied South American sides and two European titans. It will be interesting to see how these teams will fare as they have all gone through some struggle on their way to the semifinals. Will South America’s dominance at home continue or will Europe finally break through? I have already said that this may be the best World Cup of all-time and I am sure that the final three games will firmly cement Brazil 2014’s place in history.

 

Brazil vs. Germany

Brazil suffered some major setbacks in their quest for their sixth world cup title in their 2-1 victory over Colombia. Star man, Neymar, suffered a broken vertebra on a late challenge and will miss the remainder of the competition. To make things worse, Thiago Silva received a second yellow card for a stupid playground foul on the Colombian goalkeeper punting the ball out of his box. Silva will be missed just as much as Neymar against Germany and will leave the hosts with an uphill battle to win. An unsung hero will have to step up for the Selecao at a crucial moment in order to challenge either Argentina or Netherlands for the title. David Luiz came up big with the free kick of the tournament and it will take another play like that for Brazil to advance.  Germany, on the other hand, did just enough to beat France on a header from their center back Mats Hummels. France had a greater number of chances in the game, but did not possess the final touch in order to find the net. The win against France and setbacks suffered by Brazil will give the Germans a lot of confidence heading into the semifinal as they look to become the first European team to win in South America. Continue reading

Group Winners Advance to Quarterfinals

Brazil 2014 is quickly starting to shape up as one of the best World Cup tournaments of all-time. As I predicted in my last post, all eight group winners advanced to the quarterfinals although Algeria, Mexico, and the United States gave me a run for my money. All three teams performed valiantly in games that many people gave them no chance in. Even with a loss, the United States has shown that they have made positive strides towards becoming a consistent contender in the knockout stage of World Cups to come. That being said, with all the group winners advancing, there are some very interesting quarterfinal match-ups.

 

France vs. Germany:

Two of Europe’s powerhouses will meet in the first of four quarterfinal games. Both countries are former world cup winners and have shown their skill in this tournament. Germany began the tournament ranked as the second best team in the world and while they have been solid, they have not looked like a top team.  France on the other hand struggled mightily in the qualifications of the world cup. Having to beat Ukraine in playoff game for a spot in the tournament, many had ruled France out from contention; however, this French team looks to be peaking at just the right time. With some young stars coming into their own, France has looked very solid in this tournament. In a competition on this magnitude, momentum means everything and look for France to pull off the upset.

Prediction: 2-1 France

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World Cup Group Stage Recap

The group stage of Brazil 2014 has not failed to entertain. With the focus prior to the World Cup being on Brazil not being prepared, the world’s greatest sporting event has started much better than many were expecting. There has been no shortage of goals in the games and just about every game has been fun to watch no matter what team you are rooting for. Many teams have surprised in the groups of death. Below I will share my highlights and disappointments of the group stage.

 

Highlights:

South America – With 5 of the 6 teams from South America qualifying for the final 16 (and Ecuador almost qualifying), South America has shown that it is the dominant continent in this tournament. Columbia has arguably been the most impressive team so far from South America this tournament and looks primed to battle for a semi-final spot. Both Brazil and Argentina have not been at their best, both have shown in glimpses why they are projected to face off in the finals. With both Neymar and Messi in great form, a Brazil-Argentina final would be one for the ages. Chile has also impressed by knocking the reigning champions Spain out of the tournament in just their second game. Unfortunately, four of the five remaining teams all been paired up in the same leg of the bracket, meaning only a maximum of two South American teams making it to the semi-finals. Continue reading

Brazil Clinches Confederations Cup Semi-Final with 2-0 Win Over Mexico

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Brazil extended its win streak to 3 games with a 2-0 win over Mexico in its second game of the Confederations Cup. With the win, Brazil has qualified for the semi-finals along with Italy who defeated Japan 4-3 in a thriller. The Saturday match-up between Brazil and Italy will decide the group’s winner which could be crucial because the winner will most likely avoid playing Spain in the semi-finals. Brazil will win the group with a draw or win because of goal differential which gives them the upper hand entering the final group stage match.

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Transfer Update

As many club’s season are finishing, teams are already beginning to make moves for the upcoming summer window. Here are some updates on moves that have become official.

Done Deals:

Neymar:

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Neymar has officially signed with Barcelona which finally ends the speculation on one of the most anticipated transfers in recent memory. While Santos is set to receive around 30 million euros for the Brazilian star, Santos only owns 55 percent of Neymar’s rights so the transfer will cost much more. Neymar will add a new dimension to Barcelona’s attack and will be able to play with some of the world’s best players. If all goes right, Neymar will develop to become an proven elite player and take over for Messi down the road.

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Transfer Talk

As the summer transfer window nears, lots of speculation is starting for the world’s top players. Neymar’s next destination seems to be the most discussed subject as his move to Europe seems likely to happen this summer even if he said he would stay with Santos until 2014. Below is a breakdown of the destinations of some of the world’s best players:

Neymar (Santos): 

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Will Neymar join Messi next year?

There has been talk for many months now that Neymar and Barcelona have an agreement in place to send Neymar to Camp Nou. This appears to be the next destination for Neymar and now the price is the only question. While Real Madrid and Bayern Munich may offer him more money, many reports indicate that Barcelona is the only team Neymar actually wants to play for. Barcelona is a perfect fit for Neymar and by joining a team with other stars, he will not have to carry all the pressure and focus that he had at Santos.

Prediction: Barcelona Continue reading

Confederations Cup Squad

Yesterday, Scolari officially announced the 23 man squad he will use in this summer’s Confederation Cup. The squad featured many players that have been on team in the past and a few newcomers, mostly from the domestic league clubs. Like always, Scolari was criticized for some of the players he snubbed from the squad. Here is a breakdown of the squad:

Goalkeepers:

Julio Cesar (QPR)

Diego Cavalieri (Fluminense)

Jefferson (Botafogo)

These three goalkeepers have all been in the squad before so this is no surprise. Julio Cesar has had a great season even though his club, QPR, has been relegated from the English premier league and will most likely be the starter for Brazil in the tournament. It is thought if Julio Cesar wants to keep his spot in the squad, he must leave the club for another top league club in either Europe or Brazil. One player that has an argument for having made the squad is Valencia’s Diego Alves who is another great goalkeeper who has experience with the national team. After Julio Cesar, the rest of the keepers are pretty even so Scolari probably just picked the players he was most comfortable with.

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Current State of Brazilian Soccer

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Brazil’s men’s national soccer team is currently at its lowest FIFA ranking in its history at the 19th position. It can be argued that this is mainly due to the fact that Brazil has not played any World Cup qualifying matches because they have an automatic bid to the World Cup they are hosting. The qualifying matches have a higher weight in the rankings than international friendlies which puts Brazil at a big disadvantage, but in reality Brazil’s form has been below what it has been in the past. Continue reading