Brazil have not been performing as a World Cup-winning team. They’ve been playing like the scattered parts of a Swiss watch, and some of them have yet to be wound up. Now they face a Chilean team that could give them nightmares.
There are numerous ways for the Americans to advance to the next round, but only two ways to guarantee it: a win or a tie against Germany, which happen to be the hardest and second-hardest results to achieve. That may leave the American fate yet again in Ghana’s hands.
Beating Ghana was thrilling, but only beating Portugal will prove that the Americans are serious about their World Cup campaign. Against whiny, brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo, and without Jozy Altidore, the Americans may have a crucifying 90 minutes in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.
Both Team USA and Ghana return to the World Cup with revenge on their mind–the US for losing to Ghana in a terrifically fought round-of-16 match four years ago, and Ghana for being unjustly eliminated by the cheating hand of Uruguay’s Luis Suarez in the quarterfinal. It should be a high-energy, dazzling match as long as both teams display the verve they have, but don;t always produce.
French national football has been a comedy of errors and disgrace since the team got clobbered in South Africa four years ago, and self-imploded with acrimony and racist issues. A much calmer, gentler team heads to Brazil, with higher hopes.
The undisciplined, unpredictable, mercurial, fascinating, intimidating, captivating Mario Balotelli is the kind of player who can turn football games into electrifying experiences. He leads Italy in a classic match-up between European powers.
The despicable Luis Suarez, the Liverpool striker, one of the greatest players and most repulsive human beings in world football, will lead Uruguay to what may be yet another impressive run in international competition, again on Brazilian ground.
So, while Iraq falls apart and the United States considers a summer air campaign there, it’s time for the day’s third match, a free-wheeling affair between lowly but beer-swilling Australia and tightly disciplined Chile, whose spoiler capabilities should not be underestimated.
This is the treat of the day: a rematch between the 2010 World Cup finalists, a game Spain won 1-0 at the end of a violent and too often ugly game. Spain these days feels like Rodney Dangerfield in Brazil: it’s getting no respect despite its crushing record in the past eight years.
As an opening match Brazil-Croatia didn’t lack entertainment or tension, two of the absolute requisites of any football game, but it lacked skill and spontaneity, it absolutely lacked poetry and justice.