The second day of the knockout stages sees the first two of three CONCACAF vs. UEFA matchups (a little match involving the United States will be the third of these games). Will CONCACAF continue to surprise the soccering world? Will Mexico ride their Zusiesque good fortune into the quarterfinals? Will UEFA get enough teams through to the later stages to finally win a World Cup in the Western Hemisphere? Will Costa Rica remain unbeaten against European teams in three tries? Can Greece possibly advance doing what the Greeks do? These and other questions will be answered today.
Holland/Netherlands/The Dutch vs. Mexico
Kickoff Time: 12 noon EDT
Venue: Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza
TV/Streaming: The English-language broadcast is back on ESPN today, while the Spanish broadcast will be on Univision. Streaming can be found in the usual locations on WatchESPN and Univision Deportes.
Cliff's Notes: The plotline for this game sounds like a Rocky movie: an aging, longtime title contender (Holland) makes another run for the elusive championship, and this time they are playing better than most fight fans thought they would. In the other corner is the scrappy sparring partner (Mexico) who always throws a scare into the better fighters, but this time they only made it to the fight because their cooler, better-looking cousin paid their gym fees minutes before their locker was about to be cleaned out.
Who Should I Root For? There are several ways to break this game down. For example, you could root for Mexico to continue the surprising reign of CONCACAF as the planet's new World Cup overlords. Or, you could root against Mexico because "dos a cero" and 'Murica and all that stuff. You could also pick The Dutch because they are playing a terrifically entertaining brand of soccer and you want to see the best teams advance. Or, you could pull for The Dutch to lose to make the US's side of the draw easier (I mean, really, if The Dutch and Argentina lose on our side of the draw (a huge if), there is a reasonable path for the US Men's National Team to make the finals). So, as compelling as rooting against our #1 rival is, I have to pull for El Tri to beat Holland.
Costa Rica vs. Greece
Kickoff Time: 4pm EDT
Venue: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
TV/Streaming: Stay on the ESPN mothership for your English broadcast, while Univision still has you covered in Spanish. Streaming remains the same.
Cliff's Notes: Did anyone on Earth have this matchup in the Round of 16? You can't call Costa Rica a fluke, however, after they convincingly won the Group of Champions. They were just better/smarter/more astute than the rest of their group (Uruguay, England, Italy), and deserve to be in this position. Greece, on the other hand, needed the softest of soft penalty calls in stoppage time to defeat Ivory Coast and advance to the knockout stage. Other than Algeria, the Greeks may be the most surprising team still in this tournament given how things unfolded in the group stage.
Who Should I Root For? Costa Rica. This one's a no brainer. Not only does pulling for the Ticos support the larger CONCACAF brotherhood, but it also pulls for better soccer. Greece is a beautiful country (you MUST go to Mykonos, it is paradise), with wonderful people, and they did this little thing called founding Western Civilization, but their brand of soccer should not advance to the quarterfinals.
And with that, let's watch the matches! Tell us who you're pulling for in the comments section below, and share your pre-game, in-game, and post-game commentary as well.