We're through the second set of matches, and it's time again for a few key observations, and some revised predictions.
ON: Jurgen Klinsman "Miracle Worker"--Every move, every sub, every decision he seemed to make was golden. He can't clear the balls (Geoff Cameron) and he can't cut down the lanes on Ronaldo (Michael Bradley) but he has done a fantastic job strategizing the team in a position to win.
OFF: My Mother's Temper--I love my mom, but she has very little patience for passive, defensive, sock it in the back futbol. To her it's the "prevent defense" which prevents you from winning. That's what she blames the loss on, and it's easy to agree (Chris Kluwe went so far as to make that same joke on Twitter). You may know a lot about soccer Jurgen...but, this is America and in America there is one golden rule in soccer coaching: don't irk the moms.
ON: Eden Hazard--Even without scoring the goal himself, Hazard was instrumental in creating and crafting everything positive that came out of the Red Devils side today. The darkhorses haven't been as dominant as some might have predicted, but they're moving on thanks to Hazard.
OFF: Fabio Capello "Genius"--I have seen a fair number of Fabio Capello matches, and read even more that rave about his strategy...I have yet to see the two match up. Russia seems to move forward without any clear central idea and defend out of desperation rather than organization.
ON: Islam Slimani--Like Hazard for Belgium, or Messi for Argentina, Islam Slimani has been the integral part of every single converted attack and triumphant accomplishment for Les Fennecs. Of course, he plays a much lower profile part for Sporting Lisbon rather than amongst the legends of European futbol day in and day out...so Hipsters, you've found your man.
OFF: Jung Sungryong--The Korean keeper had a rough day to be sure, beyond getting blitzed by the oft derided Algerian attack, any stock that he might have seen rise in holding Russia is now utterly evaporated...it'll be back to relative anonymity between the posts for a K-League side soon enough.
Finally some revised predictions:
Before the cup I thought: Cameroon had a solid chance at a surprise berth.
Now? Few teams are as ugly all around as the Indomitable Lions who kicked off with a pay dispute and are set to wrap up their campaign in Brazil with a dispute as to who can play the worst.
Before the cup I thought: Spain would cruise to another finals.
Now? It's hard to see any team crash as hard and fast as La Furia Roja, but the absolute completeness of their debacle is absolutely astonishing. Are we sure nobody pulled an Invasion of the body snatchers on Vicente Del Bosque?
Before the cup I thought: I could make do without a tv.
Now? I've made it through these individual matches without, but as the games run simulcast starting tomorrow...there's danger ahead. (Note, I will be off to a work retreat from Monday evening through Thursday morning, but I will do everything in my power to keep up on the games...I do have daily posts queued up to summarize the multiple ways teams can and can't qualify, but I'm not sure these 3 On/3 Offs will keep up).