Well, the World Cup never takes a break. It's not like the NBA or NFL playoffs where they take days off between rounds. Although the group stage just ended, we are already a day into the knock-out rounds. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we wanted to provide the top 10 moments/storylines from the Group Stage. In no particular order:
1. Landon Donovan scores in the 91st minute to beat Algeria and send the U.S. to the Round of 16.
A fantastic goal. A fantastic moment for US soccer. It may be somewhat tainted now that the US was eliminated. But these are the best moments from the group stage. For all US fans, this easily takes the cake.
If that doesn't give you goosebumps, I don't know what could.
2. France stays on the bus:
Maybe the best part of the tournament thus far. The whole French appearance was a complete debacle, but this was the best moment. I love the idea of the team going onto the bus, pulling down the shades and then just sitting there. It's not like the bus went back to the hotel. It just stayed there at the training facility with the players in it. It's like going to dinner with some friends and asking where their 9 year old son Dylan is and them replying, "Oh, he was being a baby and threw a fit so he's sitting in the car in the parking lot until he's ready to behave and come and join us."
"Hey, where's the entire French National team?"
"Oh, they are all on the bus pouting because they are upset that someone leaked the story that Nicolas Anelka called the coach's mom a whore."
3. New Zealand scores against Italy.
New Zealand was supposed to be the North Korea of their group where they would lose to powers like Italy 7-0 just like North Korea losing to Portugal. Instead, they shocked everyone and tied all three teams in their group. Granted, they didn't advance, but they finished above Italy as Italy finished with only 2 points. No one expected anything from them and they caught everyone, particularly Italy on their heels and Italy needed a gift from the referee and some classic Italian acting just to pull out a tie.
4. Distracted Iker Casillas lets a Swiss goal in:
One of the better headlines thus far from the World Cup and shows you how passionate and ridiculous other countries are about the World Cup. After Spain lost to Switzerland, the Spanish media was blaming the loss on the fact that Spain's goalie, Iker Casillas, girlfriend is a sideline reporter and her presence on the sideline was distracting Iker during the game and contributed to the loss. Pretty awesome. Here is an clip of the post-game interview where she interviews Iker about the loss.
5. David Villa saves Spain:
Spain had a dismal start and lacked offense. They needed two big wins and David Villa came out and saved them. In their final two games Spain scored 4 goals. Villa scored three and assisted on the other one. Two of those goals were arguably two of the best of the tournament. Many people already knew that David Villa was brilliant, but it's nice for him to prove it on the world stage.
6. South American Dominance:
Five teams, one loss. The Euros have struggled but the South American teams have completely dominated. All 5 teams moved on and all except for Chile won their group. Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Uruguay and Argentina have already won the first knock-out round game.
7. Leo Messi and Argentina cruise into the next round:
This one sort of goes on with the previous one, but Argentina quietly dominated the first round. I say quietly because the headlines were about other team imploding or struggling and all the while, Argentina was just calmly and collectively handling their group. They are just hanging out in the wings and have yet to look challenged. They have to be the favorites right now. Brazil and Spain were the favorites coming into the tournament, but that was all based upon previous play. Based upon what we have seen, it has to be Argentina.
8. Portugal drops 7 on North Korea.
This is what we expected everyone to do to North Korea. Brazil only won 2-1 and everyone thought that North Korea was not only secretly building nuclear weapons, but also building a super soccer team. Turns out they are only building weapons and are as bad as expected.
9. England barely scrapes through, Rooney nearly absent:
This was a huge storyline in the group stage and just as everyone thought that maybe England was just struggling out the gate but they were going to turn it around, England gets eliminated. What a poor, poor showing. So much hype and expectations and they completely folded. Some though Rooney might make a showing in the knock-out rounds, turns out he left all his game back in England.
10. African nations fall by the wayside.
Ghana is the only African nation to advance. Sort of a bummer of storyline. It would have been nice if some of the teams could have had a better showing for their home continent. At least Ghana is still alive. But Africa had a solid representation: six teams. For only one to advance, is pretty disappointing.