JLo’s beginner’s guide to the World Cup: The knockout rounds are here, so the rules have changed

I’ve been gone for few days. Did you miss me? Quite frankly I was more exhausted and tired than the U.S. team after playing in the heat and moisture of Manaus and needed to take a couple of days off to recoup. And speaking of the U.S. team, they walked through the valley of the Group of Death and lived to tell the tale. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that their path out of the group was pretty much exactly the one I laid out for you two weeks ago, was it not? Beat Ghana, draw Portugal, lose to Germany by a respectable score, and then advance on goal difference. The lesson here is probably one of those down home, folksy proverbs about blind Suarez’s occasionally biting squirrels, (Wait, that’s not how that saying goes? Well, it does now. Fun fact, you are now more likely to be bitten by Luis Suarez than a shark, thanks to dubious application of statistics.) but I’d rather just attribute it to the fact that I am all-knowing and omnipresent, and that my wildly erratic match predictions are just a clever ruse to throw you off my trail.

So anyway, the U.S. sits among the last 16 teams in the World Cup, facing Belgium on Tuesday. Here is where the World Cup starts to resemble the tournaments and single elimination playoffs we’re used to here in the States, so you can forget all about group standings, goal differential and draws from here on out. Here’s some of the things to keep in mind for the duration of the tournament:

  1. There are no more draws. If the game is tied at the end of 90 minutes (plus the ubiquitous stoppage time), the teams will play 30 minutes of extra time, in two 15 minute halfs. There’s no sudden death in extra time, so the teams play the full 30 minutes regardless of the score.
  2. If at the end of extra time the match is still tied, then the game is decided by penalty kicks. The teams alternate 5 kicks from the penalty spot, and the team with the most goals out of 5 wins the game. If the match is tied after the initial 5, the teams continue to alternate penalty kicks until one team wins. The team that kicks last always has a chance to kick until they either win or lose the round. The fun part is that you cannot repeat a penalty taker until everyone on the field at the end of extra time (including the goalkeeper) has taken a penalty.
  3. If you are subbed off during the game you cannot participate in extra time or take a penalty kick. This makes substitutions in-game even more important. Each team only gets three subs and they are permanent. Once you have made three subs no other players can come into the game, even if a player on the field is injured and cannot continue.
  4. Teams are not seeded or reseeded once the knockout rounds begin, so it works like the NCAA tournament from this standpoint. If the U.S. beats Belgium on Tuesday, they know they will face the Argentina-Switzerland winner regardless of the outcome. Ditto for Belgium.

Got all that? Good. Now here’s more Miguel Herrera goodness as a reward, including young, mullet Herrera, courtesy of the Men in Blazers. (“It looks like a bar fight!”)

Today Brazil faces Chile in the early game, and Columbia faces a toothless Uruguay (Badumbum, thank you, I’ll be here all week folks! I also considered de-fanged here.) I was all ready to pick Chile for the upset in this one, but their really lackluster final game in the group round gave me pause. Plus, Neymar (much like Messi for Argentina) seems determined to keep scoring goals until the rest of team decides to show up, so I’m going instead with a 2-1 Brazil win. Uruguay just isn’t the same team without Bitey McDiver, so look for Columbia to keep rolling along with a 3-1 win. Savor the opportunity to watch my namesake James (remember, “Hah-mez”) Rodriguez and the rest of that fluid Columbia attack play again. If those results pan out, that would set up a very tasty Brazil-Columbia match on July 4, which could be one of the best games of the tournament.

Cheers and happy viewing.

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Posted on June 28, 2014, in The Sporting Life and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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