Usual Suspects Reaching the Later Stages of World Cup; Can USA Prevail?
It seems that no matter how competitive the early stages of a World Cup may be, and no matter how many heads of contending nations are taken, by the business end of the tournament it’s often the same handful of superpower nations left contending for the ultimate prize in competitive international soccer. Already in the quarterfinals we have Brazil, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Argentina could join the group tomorrow. Each of these teams have either won the World Cup in the past or have made deep runs through the tournament on a regular basis. And yet even with these heavyweights lying ahead, the USA could potentially join this party of the world’s soccer elite by defeating Belgium in their round of 16 match.
The occurrence of these same power nations always reaching the end of a tournament is nothing new, and it showcases just how advanced these teams’ youth development and club systems have become. While you look at a team like Belgium and feel that they’ve gotten awfully lucky with their current crop of young stars, these other teams are almost always in the picture at this stage of the competition (and often feature beyond). For some reason, they consistently churn out the world’s top players, year after year…
Meanwhile, the likes of those secondary teams have one by one fallen to the wayside as the moment (and the opposing talent) have become too much to handle. Such nations that outperformed their expectations to progress to the knockout rounds but have ultimately left disappointed include Chile, Algeria, Greece, Mexico, and Nigeria. However, a few surprisingly good squads have managed to slip through the cracks to achieve an exciting destiny like Costa Rica and Columbia, but you’ll notice that their round of 16 opponent wasn’t rated amongst these heavyweights. Could America do like them now and reach the quarterfinals?
Standing in their way firmly tomorrow is Belgium. Their opponents are stocked with supreme talent, and they’ve won all 3 of their games at the 2014 World Cup. However, the team has been criticized for not performing that well together as a team, and their inexperience at this level could cost them in this high stakes, winner take all match with the USA.
Should the determined and battle-hardened Americans beat Belgium, their likely fate would pair them with Argentina, setting up a major battle against a top level World Cup contender featuring superstar Lionel Messi. While the team was able to overcome a defeat to Germany in reaching this stage, a loss to Argentina would spell the end of the road.
Unfortunately, this is what so often happens in the early stages of the knockout rounds, and has been clearly evident in the matches so far; while each underdog has put up a strong fight, the real contenders have all progressed. As the USA stares down the barrel of the later rounds of the World Cup, the magnitude of the occasion and the high pressure arrives. In a dream scenario, America could not only beat Belgium and Argentina, but could also see off the Netherlands and Brazil in the final!
If such an outcome seems a bit ridiculous, that’s because it would be exactly that. While each of those teams haven’t looked their best at times, they are the same nations that feature at the end of World Cups time and time again! While I’d love a miraculous American run, the tournament of all soccer tournaments is so often a game for the mighty superpowers, and a Brazil vs. Argentina final in Rio de Janeiro seems most likely right now…