JLo’s beginner’s guide to the World Cup: All hail Hamez and the cruelty of pens
I’ll be the first to admit that when I chose to write about the extra time rules, penalties, and the beauty of watching James Rodriguez yesterday, I didn’t necessarily expect the very first match of the knockout rounds to be decided by one of the more thrilling penalty kick exchanges in recent memory and for James (remember, pronounced “Ha-mez”) to score two goals, including one THAT good. Not gonna lie to you though, I am feeling pretty good about the timeliness of that post and the accuracy of the predictions contained therein.
I’m traveling today so this an abbreviated edition of the WC guide, but I wanted to write something about the penalty kick process and what we saw yesterday in the fantastic Brazil-Chile game. On the whole, what you’ll hear referred to as “the run of play,” I think Chile probably deserved to win that game yesterday, and they came agonizingly close at the end of extra time when a shot careened off the bar and away from the goal, when it very easily could have bounced down or sideways and across the line with just a centimeter difference in direction. Part of me does not enjoy deciding games on penalties, as they in no way decide who the better team was on the day, but there is no denying how thrilling and dramatic they can be to watch. Brazil should consider themselves lucky and Chile will feel hard done by, but Brazil are starting to have that “team of destiny” look about them. I don’t think you can say that they’ve played a great or ever particularly good game so far this tournament, but they have an exceptional talent in Neymar who keeps delivering at crucial moments, the support of the home crowd, and the all important luck factor on their side so far, and that has kept them advancing.
One team that looks more than capable of beating them, however, is Columbia, yesterday’s other winners and Brazil’s next opponent. Check out this screamer of a goal from James yesterday.
On thing to note: watch his eyes throughout the play: he never looks at the goal once, but rather follows the ball in flight down of his chest until the moment he makes contact with the ball, trusting his instinct about where the goal was and where exactly he was in the pitch. That is not a learned skill. Incredible.
Man of the Match: Do you need to ask?
By the way, saw a ton of Columbia shirts while wandering around Florida Mall yesterday, and check out this crowd around the large screen they had set up for viewing during the Brazil match.
Ok, quick prediction time, as I’m typing this in an iPhone in I-95 and my thumbs are failing asleep. I have a sneaking suspicion that Mexico is going to give The Netherlands all they can handle today, and wouldn’t be surprised to see this one going into extra time today. In fact, I’m calling the upset with Mexico advancing on the shootout after a 2-2 draw. As for the other game, I still have no idea how Greece advanced this far, but they are the kind of team that is frustrating to play against. Call it a 1-0 Costa Rica win in a game that not even I can work up much enthusiasm for from a style perspective. You have my permission to skip this one unless you have a serious routing interest and just enjoy sullen looking Mediterraneans committing lots of fouls and defending in numbers.
Cheer and happy viewing.