I can barely remember a time when this World Cup was not going on, but in reality it's just Day 7 of what has been an extremely fun tournament. Yesterday saw fewer goals, but we still got yet another comeback win, an electric 0-0 draw - yes, really - and some goalkeeping errors to chuckle at. Here's what's on tap for today:
Australia vs. Netherlands
Kickoff Time: 12 noon EDT
Venue: Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
TV/Streaming: ESPN and Univision will carry this one starting with the customary half-hour pregame show. WatchESPN and Univision are your options online if you can pull yourself away from cat gifs or whatever.
Cliff's Notes: Things couldn't have gone much differently for these two in their respective openers. The Dutch engaged in the ultimate revenge fantasy by eviscerating Spain with some of the best counterattacking soccer you'll ever see. The Aussies, meanwhile, lost 3-1 to Chile, the team they probably felt was their best (only?) hope for three points in this group. The Netherlands surged up the list of potential favorites to win it all as a result of their performance, while Australia's status fell from "they have Everest to climb" to "they have Everest to climb, and can only do so via walking handstand."
Who Should I Root For? I could make some kind of reference to canals or kangaroos, but this is a D.C. United blog and one of these teams features a New York Red Bull. That's unforgivable. Hup Holland Hup!
Kickoff Time: 3pm EDT
Venue: Estadio Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
TV/Streaming: Same as the first game: ESPN and Univision on TV, WatchESPN and Univision on the cat gif machine.
Cliff's Notes: Spain's 5-1 loss to the Netherlands is one of the more remarkable results in World Cup history. Spain simply couldn't defend through the midfield or at the back, and on top of those problems Iker Casillas turned in probably the worst performance of his entire career. If the Dutch beat Australia as they should, Spain would be eliminated with a loss and would need multiple miracles on the final day with a draw. Chile, meanwhile, was a bit short of the hype; the soccer was attractive, but not as effective as expected.
This one always promised to be good, but now it's fascinating in a totally unexpected way. Spain has to make significant changes on the fly to a system and a lineup that has dominated world soccer in unprecedented fashion. Chile, meanwhile, struggled with an Australian team that arguably couldn't get any of their individuals onto the Chilean roster. Chile also knows that they probably need to win this one to avoid needing three points against the imperious-looking Dutch in their third match. This is basically a knockout game already. Enjoy it.
Who Should I Root For? Not sure if you know this, but Chile is coached by Pitbull from the future. Pitbull shouted "Dale!" enough times that, in 2034, he became the first person to travel through time. For some reason, the first thing he did was travel back 20 years to coach this Chilean team. That fact alone is crazy enough that I say we choose pisco sours over sangria this time.
Kickoff Time: 6pm EDT
Venue: Arena Amazônia, Manaus
TV/Streaming: Yup, same thing again: ESPN/Univision on TV, WatchESPN/Univision on the internet.
Cliff's Notes: It seems like forever ago that Croatia was taking the lead against Brazil in the first game of the tournament. While the Croats weren't perfect like they probably needed to be to win that one, they proved they could play an even match against the favorites. Cameroon, meanwhile, created just one chance against Mexico and were quite flattered to only lose 1-0. No surprise, then, that Croatia would be favored even if Mario Mandzukic were not coming back from suspension. Adding to Cameroon's woes: Samuel Eto'o is in doubt due to injury. Maybe the only good news is that Cameroon's players may be slightly more comfortable playing in Manaus than Croatia (though since both teams are made up of European-based players, this is probably not going to make much of a difference).
Who Should I Root For? I have a soft spot for Cameroon dating back to their Cinderella run in 1990. Names like Roger Milla and Francois Omam-Biyik make me nostalgic, and I loves me some nostalgia. On the other hand, Croatia has checkered jerseys, and I'm from Maryland so that appeals to me on a spiritual level. Maybe we need to reverse this question, because I don't know how to choose.