Happy Canada day all. What could be more Canadian that focusing on other countries playing soccer? Nothing that's what, especially if it involves cheering some random country playing against the US.
Yesterday, the rebellion bravely struggled for a long time before the empire fully struck back. France defeated Nigeria 2-0, the deadlock not broken until the 79th minute, and only after some contentious refereeing, a Nigerian goal disallowed for a very tight offside call, and some French challenges not given the punishment the Nigerian's might have reasonably expected. MLS ref Mark Geiger may well have reffed his last game here, coaches over react and accusations of outright bias are very unfair, but it's generally not a good sign when you've made one side very angry. It was a good effort by Nigeria but really towards the end there was only one way that match was going to end up, and eventually it did, France on to the quarters.
The other match was again a plucky upstart African team versus an aging Euro superpower, and again Algeria gave the Germans all they could handle, getting the best of the first half chances, Neuer having to be very sharp in the Rene Higuita-esque sweeper-keeper role. Eventually the Germans got on top of things though and Algeria were fortunate to take the game into extra time at 0-0. Gemrany scored almost immediately and went 2 up, before Algeria pulled one back very late on to make the scoreline a bit more reflective of the game as a whole, 2-1. So France vs Germany in the World Cup knockout rounds it is. Expect to hear a lot of Schumacher vs Battiston talk in the next few days, though 1982 was merely the first time, 86 also saw the Germans knock the French out at the semi final stage, leaving the Michel Platini led side of that time alongside the 82 Brazil team in the 'fondly remembered great sides who somehow didn't win it' category, though they did at least win Euro 84, so that's something.
Moving on to today's games and we start with Argentina vs Switzerland. Argentina have looked unconvincing so far, doing just enough to get by a not very difficult group, though with Lionel Messi looking very very good,shades of 1986 there for sure. The Swiss should be a much tougher challenge for them you'd think, though having said that the one game the Swiss played against a 'better' team, they got absolutely hammered by France so who knows what might happen really.
Then at 4 it's Michael Bradley's USA taking on Belgium. Though they'll be underdogs, it's definitely a winnable game for the Yanks as Belgium have been fairly underwhelming so far. Getting out of that group means this US team will be viewed kindly no matter what happens, reaching the quarter finals would take the excitement (and sadly the accompanying twitter intolerability) to a huge level. Bradley had a decent group stage, he's had the odd high profile mistake, but has generally looked very much like he belongs at that level, though apparently some people are expecting him to be dominant and thus see his performance so far as a disappointment, which is a bit harsh really.
Anyway, a Canada day sleep in means this is getting perilously close to kick off time before I hit publish so I'll stop now.