The Round of 16 is over and these eight enthralling matches had more drama than your mom’s favorite soap opera! Saturday, Brazil had to scrap and claw to beat Chile in penalties. Colombia’s James (pronounced HA-mehz) Rodriguez continued to shine against a toothless (pardon the pun) Uruguay. Sunday, The Netherlands beat Mexico after Arjen Robben dived, drew fouls and cajoled the referee into giving what would become a decisive penalty. Costa Rica defeated Greece in penalties after playing over an hour with 10 men.
Monday, France eliminated Nigeria after a fierce effort by the Super Eagles goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama. Algeria gave Germany everything they wanted and then some, considering the Desert Foxes were without food and water due to Ramadan. Tuesday, Lionel Messi provided a slice of brilliance and rewarded Angel Di Maria’s persistence as they held off Switzerland in the dying embers. Lastly, Tim Howard and the USA defended with a brave mentality; however, Romelu Lukaku’s goal the 105th minute proved to be the match winner as Belgium defeated the Americans 2-1 in Salvador.
What most will take away from the Round of 16 is you will be celebrated in defeat! Why is that? In the cases of Chile, Algeria and the United States, those sides played with passion, pride, high work rate and relentlessness, many drew inspiration. It’s unwavering belief in fact, “I believe we will win” is a credo that defiantly spurs teams on in the face of criticism from fans and media alike. It’s that belief coaches instill into players and parents instill into children.
Chile took the fight to Brazil in ways many observers didn’t think were possible. They targeted the poster boy Neymar with hard tackles, jarring take-ons and were physical with him. The Chileans counterattacked and took their chances while absorbing pressure from the Samba Kings.
Algeria ran Germany into the ground Monday night in Porto Alegre. The goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi was voted Man of the Match after being a fortress. “We played against a very strong Germany team and conceded two goals late on.” said M’Bolhi. “We’re very disappointed because we felt we had a chance. Fitness wasn’t the decisive factor. We’re part of Algeria’s footballing history because we’re the first team to have come this far and we can build on this for the future. We owe it to our coach [Vahid Halilhodžić] that we made it into the Round of 16. We’d like to thank him for everything he’s done for and with the team.”
The United States performance against Belgium drew several admirers from President Obama, Vice-President Biden and other sports luminaries. Tim Howard set the record for most saves in a World Cup match (15), saved the USA’s back four from the pit of Hades several times and shined on the grandest of stages. The USA can hold their heads high after seeing 19 year old Julian Green scoring the goal that set up a frenetic and frantic finish. The USA can be proud of the fact the viewing parties in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Kansas City and elsewhere captivated the minds of even the most staunch opponents of The Beautiful Game.