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WOW – I hesitate to say it but can today’s games top the intensity and drama of yesterday?  I doubt it – world number 1 goes down in flames (sorry Stapley) and the poor Ghanan team failed to penalty kick their way into the semis at the end of extra time, and then of course in the shootout.  Having said that we have another massive match up this morning as Argentina faces Germany and later Spain faces Paraguay:

Argentina v. Germany

Argentina has been the most consistent team in the Cup so far, and with the departure of Brazil must be deemed as the favorites.  Germany has shown dominating play in some matches and disappointing play in others, making them the most IN-consistent team of the tourney.  If the German team that lost to Serbia is the one that shows in Cape Town today they’re finished.  I don’t think we’ll see that team today.  Germany has looked good and with youngster Oezil controlling the middle and Lamb the veteran playing some of his best footy at the back Germany stands a great chance at upsetting the Argentinians.  There’s word that striker Podolski took an injury in training yesterday but he should still be fit enough for the starting 11.  It has to trouble the Germans that Lionel Messi has yet to hit the scoresheet, as odds are he will do so before the Argentine run is over.  Do I see him scoring today?  Well yes, yes I do.  This game goes long…..

FINAL – Germany 2 Argentina 3
FLEAROY – ARG 2 GER 2  Germany wins on kicks
MR. ERICA is back in Canada but too scared about Spain.  Still.

Spain v. Paraguay

Spain has to be thankful not to be playing on the other side of the table today, as I am sure they would be heading home if they were up against either of Germany or Argentina.  They should fair well against Paraguay, as the South American side has been less than impressive in their last two matches, including a quarter-final shootout against a worthy Japanese team.  Torres has been showing improvement as matches go on though he’s still not full match fit, while Villa is cementing his reputation as a world class striker.  This game will be played on a tilted field.

FINAL – Spain 2 Paraguay 0
FLEAROY – PAR 0 SPAIN 2
MR. ERICA – is too scared to send his picks, but he would be picking Spain.

Down to the quarter-finals today – the first match is the best, and I have an interesting pick in that game:

Brazil v Netherlands

Brazil is the better team – more depth at every position, refined skill, and they know what it takes to win the big games.  The Dutch are the Dutch – they’re perennial contenders and consistent pretenders when it comes to crunch time.  You’d think with that synopsis I’d be picking Brazil, but I had a dream that the Dutch win it all so I am going with that.

FINAL – Netherlands 3 Brazil 2 (extra time stunner of a goal sends Brazil samba-ing home) NOTE DO NOT BET BASED ON THIS PREDICTION
FLEAROY – Brazil 2 Holland 0  Dutch get smoked by the Brazilian Kush
MR. ERICA – has gone missing

Uruguay v Ghana

Does the African love train end here?  My head says ya, my gut says ya, but I want to see Ghana move on.  I’ll hope and I’ll pray but Uruguay lives to play another day:

FINAL – Uruguay 2 Ghana 1
FLEAROY – Uruguay 2 Ghana 0  African run is over, Forlan hits them with two.
MR. ERICA – is chicken to send in his other picks, since he’s fearing a Spain defeat v Paraguay tomorrow

OK so I did not so badly in the Dutch game but I missed by a mile with Brasil v Chile.  I think it’s time I start predicting with my gut and not with what my heart wants.  Let’s see how I do for today’s games with this new approach.

Paraguay v Japan

The first South American team fell yesterday, but that was inevitable as both teams came from said continent.  Paraguay did well to finish second to Brazil in qualifying, while the Japanese are in uncharted territory, never having gotten this far outside of their home country.  Paraguay brings some flair to the game, while Japan is industrious in it’s commitment to form.  Japan’s had easily the two best set pieces of the tournament, and I can see this being the difference in the game.  I like Paraguay’s approach but something tells me it’s an upset in the making.

FINAL – Japan 2 Paraguay 1 (likely in extra time)
FLEAROY – Paraguay 0 Japan 1 – Bushido code will rule this match and the Samurai Executioners will decapitate there opponents with one swift swing of the boot.
MR. ERICA – Par 2 – JPN 0 – Paraguay (my wifes pick for the winner of the cup) rolls over Japan who just don’t have the depth left

Portugal v Spain

Portugal found the fountain of goals against N. Korea, while the Spaniards have only begun to look like the 2nd ranked team in the world.  This one should fall in favor of Spain – they virtually own the Portuguese head to head, and it’s been quite awhile since Portugal got the better of Spain.  I think this one is pretty simple – David Villa or Cristiano Ronaldo?  I know who I would take, 8 days a week.

FINAL – Spain 2 Portugal 0
FLEAROY – Portugal 1 Spain 2 – The once mighty Portuguese will be reduced to a small African nation (Ghana) by the Conquistador’s who will once again rename the masses.
MR. ERICA – SPA  3 – POR 1  – Ronaldo is sent off after a yellow for diving, and then a bad two foot studs up tackle on Xavi

In the wake of two badly blown calls yesterday the cries for video replay are sure to be loud and clear in the coming days and weeks.  Officiating crews will need to be on their toes for the rest of the tournament if they hope to divert attention away from the lack of good refereeing and back to the beautiful game.  Two more games today, winner goes on, loser goes home:

Netherlands V Slovakia

Slovakia are a surprise member of the final 16, but they earned their place in the group stage culminated in their historical victory over the reigning champs Italy.  They come up against a tough test today when they face the Netherlands, who sailed through the group matches and are one of the favorites to hoist the golden globe July 11.  Slovakia comes into the game with 3 starters benched due to suspension, a situation that will only make the task of besting a powerful Dutch squad that much harder.  Slovakia will need another stellar performance from forward Robert Vittek (one of my favorite players of this tournament) if they hope to stay in this game.  In all honesty the Dutch simply need to do what they have been doing up to now in order to win.  With the return to form of Arjen Robben, I see the Dutch outlasting a Slovakian team that have shown a penchant for tiring as the game wears on.

FINAL – Netherlands 3 Slovakia 1 (GO SLOVAKIA!)
FLEAROY – Dutch 2 Slovakia 0
MR. ERICA – Net 3 – SVK – 0  – the Oranje are still just warming up

Brazil v Chile

This is a tasty matchup between two South American sides that both have the ability to play scintillating offensive-minded football.  Brazil has shown brief samples of the kind of elegant football they are capable of, but I wouldn’t say they have yet found their form.  Chile suffered a loss to Spain in the final match of the group stage but they were in the game save for a couple of mistakes, and they did so playing with ten men for a good portion of the game.  No question that Brazil is the favorite here – they bested Chile in qualifying twice by an aggregate of 7-2 in goals, and they are certainly more familiar with competition on the grand stage.  That said, Chile is a proud nation and have a long memory, which is filled with recall of numerous losses to Brazil.  I’m a sucker for an underdog, and would love to see Chile upset the Brazilians as they can do, but I see the gold and blue moving on in a close match.

FINAL – Brazil 2 Chile 1 (in extra time)
FLEAROY – Brazil 3 Chile 0
MR. ERICA – BRA  4 – CHI 0 – Brazil’s neighbours can’t hold off the onslaught.

It’s a sumptuous day of football today as old rivals meet at 10 and 2:30 Eastern time to continue the round of 16.  Here’s my overview:
England v Germany

England sputtered into the tournament with GK Green’s miscue against the US, followed up with a snoozer against Algeria only to save their campaign with a 1-0 win over Slovenia.  Germany came out strong with a huge win over Australia, then tailed right off with a loss to Serbia and a close win over Ghana.  It’s a question of which of these teams will show up today.  If the return of Klose up front for the Germans reverts them to their initial game form then this game is theirs.  Should the Germans play with the same skill they did in their most recent matches England has a decent chance, especially if they continue their improved play.  No lineup changes for England, although Carragher is back from suspension and is available should Capello choose to use him.  There’s been some memorable matches between these Euro-powers and most of them have ended in wins for the Germans, usually from the penalty spot.  Who am I to buck history?

FINAL – England 1 Germany 1 Germany wins on PKs
FLEAROY – England 1 Germany 0
MR. ERICA – GER 3 – ENG 3 – England yet again is elmininated on kicks  (Rooney misses his and is doomed ala Beckham)

Argentina v Mexico

For aficionados, this is the game of the day.  The flair of Central and South American football will be on display, and it should be game rife with emotion, especially for the Mexicans, who remember being handed their walking papers by the Argentines at the last world cup.  It comes down to Messi versus Marquez – which man up front can out dominate the other?  Argentina holds the all time record between these two teams with Argentina being the class of this world cup so far it, I think that trend continues.

FINAL – Argentina 2 Mexico 1
FLEAROY – Argentina 2 Mexico 0
MR. ERICA – Mex 1 – Arg 3 – Mexico puts in a good showing, but Argentina is on a roll

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