And the walls came tumbling down. (Nate Silver, Day 18)
Mexico had the Oranje right where they wanted them. They had a well earned one-nil lead, and were in full defense mode. Unfortunately, even the wall of Ochoa isn’t impenetrable. Wesley Sneijder drilled a laser home in the 88th minute and Mexico was broken. The Netherlands dominated the next few minutes and Arjen Robben drew an exceedingly soft, but technically legitimate penalty. The comeback is actually sightly more impressive than it appears as it was in heat that felt like 40 Celsius on the field. I can see why Mexico wore down. They expended a lot of energy in a first half they mostly controlled. When Huntelaar knocked the penalty home, Mexico’s collapse was complete. In the end, they didn’t deserve better as it is just too hard to “turtle” against this Dutch squad.
Now the Oranje will face Costa Rica, who managed to outlast a Greek squad that simply couldn’t put the ball in the net. Over the course of qualifying they were about three goals short of their xG, a fear they replicated in only four games at the World Cup. Interestingly enough, Costa Rica only had two shots on goal against Greece, and the one that went in was a soft roller that the defense and the goalie both would have had a shot at HAD THEY TRIED TO BLOCK IT! Seriously, Sokratis Papastathopoulos just stood there and watched it roll by. As his namesake said:
“Let he that would move the world first move himself.” -Socrates
Greek goalie Orestis Karnezis didn’t exactly cover himself in glory on the goal, but I’ll get to him shortly. Oscar Duarte picked up yellow cards in the 42nd and 66th minutes and was sent off. That left Greece with 24 minutes to generate a goal. While their offense wasn’t quite as aggressive as one would expect, they did pick up a goal when Papastathopoulos knocked in a rebound in the 91st minute.
That left Greece with a 30 minute overtime to take advantage of a tired and undermanned squad. Alas, despite a few good opportunities, they couldn’t get a second goal and went into penalty kicks. There Costa Rica managed to get all five shots past Karnezis. I know penalty kicks are hard to stop, but in the end, six of the seven Costa Rican shots on goal went in, and now Greece is going home. That they dominated the game according to xG is going to be of little consolation:
There are extenuating circumstances, but Costa Rica has only managed five shots on goal over their last two games. Yes, the game vs. England wasn’t a must-win, but they still wanted a point to win the group and avoid Colombia. After scoring and then going down a man, it was unlikely that they’d get many opportunities. Even so, you cannot trust your defense to hold against the Netherlands for 90 minutes, and if they can’t find the offense that was able to light up Uruguay and Italy, they will go home in the quarterfinals.
Nate Silver continued his unbeaten streak in the knockout rounds and ran his tab to $933,329. I don’t expect his streak to continue, as he is showing some faith in the large underdogs:
Game 53: Nigeria to advance, 6.73%: Risking $62,813 to win $276,377
Game 54: Algeria to advance, 5.60%: Risking $48,749 to win $341,242
If either of those wins, Nate will finally finish a day with a million dollar bankroll, but let’s not kid ourselves: Germany is facing France in the quarterfinals. France has been dominant this tournament and Nigeria doesn’t have the tools to stop them. Germany has Algeria seriously outclassed. If I had access to 538’s goal distribution, I suspect I’d be backing Algeria +1.5 goals, but unfortunately my only option is to back them to advance. So be it.
Earlier today people were commenting on how many players various club teams had sent to the World Cup. You know how many West Ham sent? Zero. Perhaps this is the reason:
That is a police procedural where a special squad is formed to track down the “Witch of West Ham”. I highly recommend it. I suppose I should be happy West Ham didn’t flirt with relegation last season. OK, back to the World Cup.
Germany and France should cruise, but upsets can happen. Brazil wasn’t expecting to have to go to penalty kicks to defeat Chile. I’ll enjoy the games tomorrow, but the real treat is the afternoon game on Tuesday when the United States attempts to defeat Belgium for the first time since 1930. Seriously. Until then…
@sethburn on twitter