Monday, July 07, 2014

Fair play: The World Cup quarterfinals

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's July 3 edition)
THE World Cup started with 32 teams in eight groups a few weeks ago, and in a curious twist, all eight group winners advanced to the quarterfinal round. It is another first in an event that is proving to be unlike no other.

I wanted the USA to advance further in the event, because it’s always great to cheer for the underdog. However, despite a valiant display from Tim Howard, the Americans lost to Belgium, 2-1, in extra time.

What an exciting match it was. No score in regulation and then just 17 minutes into extra time, you have three and the US could have gotten another in that lovely set piece of theirs that seemed to have been borrowed from basketball.

It’s great how football’s final frontier--as they call the USA--is getting gripped by football mania. Whether that will be translated to support to their domestic league remains to be seen.

So, the US is out, Belgium is in against Argentina and the winner will take on the winner between France and Costa Rica in the semifinals.

On the other side of the draw, it’s host Brazil over Colombia and France vs. Germany, an intriguing match-up that’s worthy of a final.

Those who want an all South American final between Brazil and Argentina are just two wins away from their wishes, but who knows, there might just be a couple of more surprises in the quarterfinal round.

Brazil may have advanced but some say the host shootout win over Chile shows it very much beatable, and up next for the Selecao is James Rodriguez, the leading scorer in the tournament.

So, here’s my quarterfinal round scenario.

Rodriguez will tally another lovely goal but it won’t be enough to stop Brazil’s march, and the host will go on to face Germany in the semifinals.

Lionel Messi will lead Argentina over Belgium, and though I hope Costa Rica sends the Netherlands packing as a favor to Mexico, I see the Orangemen advancing to the semis opposite the two-time champion Argentina.

Of course, I could be way off and that’s the beauty so far in this World Cup, some of the games are decided very late, some in injury time.

TEAM PLAY. “All 23 of us and the technical staff are heroes,” di Maria said. “We gave our life. We left our soul on the pitch.”—Angel di Maria, who scored the winning goal for Argentina against Switzerland.

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