Assessing World Cup Winners in the Knock-Out Round

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During the height of this soccer fever that has gripped the world, I think it’s more than appropriate I take some time out from the travel talk to discuss the World Cup winners. The knock-out round is set, and – gasp! – even USA made the cut this tourney!

Let’s start with Dempsey and the boys, shall we? Never projected to make it out of the dreaded ‘group of death’, USA stunned the world in their opening match against Ghana. Since that shocking upset, America’s team has seemingly regressed – tying things up in a heartbreaker to Portugal and barely fending off world champions in Germany, a match that ended in our first loss. Though Portugal showed great teamwork, it was not enough to bag the win. Where do we go from here?

Next up is a tough match against Belgium. Although not quite the powerhouse as Germany, this is by no means a match we’re favored to win. Key to a US win is keeping possession more and finding more creative setups. Losing Altidore was a huge blow for the US and while I’m not holding my breath for a win here, I hope US fans genuinely appreciate the effort our boys are putting forth out there in Brazil.

Speaking of the host nation, their national soccer team is squaring off against a very dangerous looking Chilean squad. How good can Neymar be this late in the tournament? Thus far Brazil has relied heavily on their star but other questions must be answered too – can Luiz Felipe Scolari turn things around? I’m predicting a Brazilian upset here.

How about the team shaping up to win it all, the Netherlands? Although the Dutch look simply unstoppable at this point, they have a serious challenge ahead – getting anything past Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa. Ochoa has been arguably the best keeper in the tournament up till now and shows no signs of relinquishing his ironclad defense. Call me crazy but I’m predicting a huge upset here with Mexico knocking out the Dutch. The world needs to see more of Mexican coach Miguel Herrera.

After their win over the US, Germany has now scored a goal in their previous 21 matches. Their conservative style of play only becomes more dangerous the further they get into the tournament and I predict Algeria might be in for a world of hurt.

I’d love to see Lionel Messi and the Argentinians advance for the sake of watching potentially some of the most beautiful soccer in the history of the cup. Is that too lofty of an expectation?

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