Thursday, the first phase of Brazil’s World Cup ended today with all groups decided. The final pieces were a mix of expected teams and the surprises we have come to experience in this cup: Germany, Belgium, USA, and Algeria. The latter two were not given a chance by most pre-tournament odds makers.
The game at Brasilia saw Portugal win 2-1 over Ghana and concluded with both teams eliminated. The Ghanaians could have had a great cup but for a few miscues and pieces of opponent good fortune. The Portuguese could not have suffered a worse fate than to have Cristiano Ronaldo but a shadow of himself because of injury in what most believe will be his last cup.
In flooded Recife, the USA pulled off a 0-1 loss against a complacent Germany which earned both teams a point and allowed them to control their fates, both advancing with that result. The Germans probably appreciated the fact that the last game was not taxing and the USA was grateful to have made it to the next round.
In Curitiba, we were treated to another surprise as Algeria progressed from a group that was expected to graduate two European teams. The Africans played some of the most intense and entertaining football of the tournament and earned their ticket to the next round. Their unfortunate fate is to meet Germany next, but the Algerians will likely do themselves proud in the match not matter the outcome.
The game in Sao Paulo was exciting and hard fought despite the fact that Belgium had little to play for while Korea Republic had a miracle in mind and played to make it come true. The final 1-0 score to the Europeans underlined the differences in relative levels of play if not their output on the pitch this day.
We also found out that FIFA suspended Luis Suarez “for four months form all football-related activities,” for his bite on Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. For the Uruguayans the ban might have sealed their fate in the next round.
The weather, always an issue in Brazil, showed another side with the torrential rains in Recife that threatened to postpone the game if not for unplayable fields then for the sake of fan safety given the flooded roads.
Finally, as we reach a day of rest we can look forward to some Round of 16 analysis in a forthcoming two part series.