For what it’s worth (and admittedly very late), here are my predications for the remainder of the tournament. It’s one of those things where the final looks wrong, and yet given all the match-ups, I wouldn’t change any of my choices.
For all the hype about Colombia, I’m pretty certain that Brazil will beat them. Colombia is further into the tournament than they’ve ever been, Brazil’s just had a rather nasty wakeup call, and neither team is much of a defensive team whilte Brazil has the better offense. Should be a punchy, high-scoring game. Colombia is everyone’s underdog favorite right now because they just sent Uruguay packing, but honestly, people, it’s Uruguay, and without their star psycho to boot. Brazil can handle this.
Netherlands against Mexico should be interesting to watch. I feel like the Netherlands is the wildcard of the tournament. To a casual eye, they look overrated – they’re clunky and otherwise overreliant on a certain one-trick Forward/Midfielder. But the thing is, that’s by design. They play 4-3-1-2 on purpose, because they believe they have two of the best strikers alive. Super-heavy on defense, leaving offense to the two wizards and basically no front midfield – it’s just Sneijder to support the strikers (Robben does double-duty, of course). So far, it’s been enough. The question is whether it will be against Mexico? And it’s a damn good question. Mexico has a stellar goalkeeper and is rather defense-heavy itself. At the end of the day, I suspect Robben finds a way through anyway, and Mexico’s relative lack of scoring talent (relative to the Netherlands, of course) puts the Netherlands on top. But it’s terribly hard to predict. The Netherlands should then have no trouble with the winner of Costa Rica – Greece, but will they with Argentina (who I assume makes it to semifinals)? I just. don’t. know. The Netherlands is essentially unrankable.
Germany and France is another one that’s hard to call. France has looked very impressive indeed, but it’s hard to be objective about them because (1) they had a pretty easy group and (2) we’re all so impressed with their turnaround from undisciplined glory-seekers to the opposite of that. It’s nice to see them so disciplined and focused – actually playing as a team for once and creating some impressive setups for it, but will it be enough for Germany, the master of that game? (I’m assuming Germany makes it past Algeria and France Nigeria, of course. I’m not too worried.) Germany has looked pretty lazy this tournament so far. The precision is still there, as is the discipline, but they’re showing up slow, and strikers are frequently not in place to receive otherwise expertly-timed passes because they simply don’t run the forward sprint fast enough. Contra to what a lot are saying, I’d say this is Germany’s game to lose more than France’s to win.
Lots of people are calling Belgium – US even, a tossup – but I think the US’s defense isn’t strong enough for Belgium. Like us, they’re still coming together as a team, and they’ve been a bit disappointing so far, but they create forward chances we don’t, and we sleep on the job of stopping them. Obviously scrimmage games are played with lower stakes and so aren’t reliable indicators of what a team will do when it matters, but I think a lower-scoring version of this one we played in Cleveland in May is probably a good baseline.
And that’s that. Assuming I get my first-round predictions right, I don’t blink about the rest of it. Belgium can’t beat Argentina, but the Netherlands might, the only trouble Germany is likely to have with Brazil are biased refs and a hostile crowd. Netherlands-Argentina will be hard to call, but what the hell – go with the Dutch.
And so Germany gets a final. Well, one can hope. From a birds-eye view, they don’t seem to deserve it, but the pairings are what they are.