Was it just me, or have the last few days of World Cup soccer felt like the final weeks of the NFL regular season?  Who would have thought summer clinching would be just as mindnumbing as it is in December?  Of course, it’s a challenge to keep track of the teams in the “tables” instead of “standings”…and “fixtures” instead of “gametimes”.  In a world where we get on hockey for having “sweaters”, “dressing rooms”, and “organizations”, it’s kind of quaint to see soccer resolute in not compromising a thing.  Hey, we live in a world where we give one sport’s championship games Roman Numerals.

That said– today’s matches have ramifications:

GROUP A–Can’t they name these divisions like they do in hockey?  I will.  So here’s the PELE GROUP:

Brazil battles Cameroon:  a win or a draw (no ties in soccer, only draws) sends the host nation to the knockout stage (instead of sweet sixteen)… while a loss by less than 2 goals gets them there.  Cameroon is out of contention.

Croatia meets Mexico: Croatia’s in with a win.  A win or draw by Mexico means they advance…while a Mexican loss by 1 goal plus a Brazilian loss by 2+ goals gets them to the next stage.

Croatia wins Group A with a win plus a Brazil loss, Brazil prevails with a win or a tie plus a Mexico-Croatia tie, while Mexico wins with a victory plus a Brazil loss or tie, or a tie plus a Brazil loss.

 

GROUP B–or my purposes…the JOHAN CRUYFF GROUP:

Netherlands faces Chile:  the winner takes first place…while the loser likely faces Brazil in the round of 16 (see above).

Australia plays Spain:  the loser finishes 0-3… something the defending champs would much like to avoid.

More tomorrow– with a fresh set of fixtures, tables, and thoughts about extra time.

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