Now that every team has played at least one match we have a much better sense of who's on target and who's off, so in addition to our daily update of major themes and observations we have some slightly revised predictions to start off the second set of matches
ON: Algeria's Defense--The name of the game for upset minded sides at this cup has been to frustrate the big boys with sterling defense and capitalize on lapses in judgement. It worked for Costa Rica, it worked for Iran, and it nearly worked for Algeria. Perhaps the word will get out in the next round (assuming World Cup managers regularly read one of the least popular blogs in the whole internet), but perhaps my predicted Algerian upset draw against Russia is still in the cards.
OFF: Belgium Haters--Should you be in the camp who first thought Belgium was dangerous and then scoffed that they were suddenly overhyped, you can chuck the self-righteousness and come back to the pack. Marc Wilmots made solid half-time adjustments and Eden Hazard and Kevin DeBruyne never faltered despite 75 aggravating minutes. Sorry Hipsters.
ON: Son Heung-Min--The Bundesliga Wunderkind was by far the most dangerous man in the Warriors' attack, even though he didn't notch the goal, if he can get some space and some kind of service in the box, Korea's one goal may well turn into more.
OFF: Igor Akinfeev--My supposed "star" for Russia looked anything but, bobbling, bumbling and finally ceding a goal to the howls and despair of fans from the desolate wastes of Siberia to the desolate wastes of Vladmir Putin's heart. The complex, shifting Russian defense looked solid and unnerving for Korea, but if Akinfeev can't find his form it won't matter.
ON: Guillermo Ochoa--Not to let rival American keeper Tim Howard keep all the glory for himself, Ochoa grabbed both the ball and his moment with both hands. Having withstood a lousy patch of weather and questionable refereeing and now everything Brazil can fire at them, reports of El Tri's death are greatly exaggerated.
OFF: Long Range Shots--Mexico made their best efforts from distance, continuing a trend that has permeated a ton of matches in the recent days. Players feel like they can control the Brazuca ball better than most other recent World Cup balls, and the pile of goals confirms their assessment. But for every rocket goal there's a solid thirty high, wide and not particularly handsome.
And as promised some revised predictions
Before the Cup: I thought Holland was cooked
Now? If they can handle Chile (and after utterly neutering Spain, they can...) They'll avoid Brazil and be in the catbird's seat for the second round.
Before the Cup: I was sold on this tournament as Lionel Messi's coronation as a champion (complete with Semifinal/Final berth).
Now? Utterly lack luster support from his running mates and a combination of on form Vincent Enyema, tactically wise Iran and motivated Bosnia means that they may just scuffle rather than sail into the second round...where Ecuador, Switzerland and France all looked better.
Before the Cup: I thought all the kings horses and all the kings men, couldn't help America survive
Now? Between the tenacious defending against the Ghanaian onslaught and the Portugese plug-ugliness, I'm actively working to tamp down my expectations...no promises though.
Our partners at MacKenzie LowBudget Sports will continue their coverage, as pet pundits shift from Sidney the Dog to Mini the Cat...will she forsee four consecutive hours of Cristiano Ronaldo licking himself? We shall see...