So we're quite a way into the World Cup now and it seems like a decent time to revisit my early predictions and see how (badly) I did.Likely winners and dark horses (from here)Spain
Well... I got this one badly wrong didn't I?
In fairness, I did point out that it looked like the end of an era before the tournament and that the more direct approach hadn't worked when attempted in the Confederations Cup but really, did anyone expect Spain to go out in the group phase? Why did it happen? Mourinho being proven right about Casillas (and frankly he was awful in the Champions League final just to reinforce the point), the midfield being slightly off the pace and the Costa experiment failing horribly. It was always going to be a challenge to turn a team based on tika-taka possession and a forward who was basically part of a midfield (hell, Fabregas often appeared as the nominal striker) into a team focused around a direct target man... and doing it with an unfit Costa under immense pressure was just making it even more difficult.Brazil, Germany, Argentina
I'm lumping these together because they're all basically in the same position; in the semi-finals, haven't lost a match but haven't looked entirely convincing either. Brazil struggled in their opener, struggled more in the draw with Mexico and had to really ride their luck against Chile but between some steel in midfield, Neymar's exuberance and a great penalty shootout they've made it. Germany looked stunning against Portugal, underwhelming against Ghana, limited against the USA and workmanlike at best against Algeria but, to use a stereotype, they've been efficient with what chances they do have. Argentina have looked a mess, with Messi largely carrying an underperforming team of superstars who look pretty woeful forward.
In truth, none have impressed, but they're all still here and all still have the quality to push on. If Argentina's selection of attacking players outside of Messi finally hit their stride they could cause chaos, if Germany can put it all together they combine silky skill and cold steel and if Brazil can find someone other than Neymar to actually take on a creative role things should open up for them.Uruguay
I had them as dark horses and I'm sort of content with that pick. I gave them that pick largely on the strength of Cavani and Suarez... while Cavani's been pretty underwhelming, when Suarez has played they beat England and Italy... when he wasn't they lost comfortably to Costa Rica and Columbia. Suarez' madness cost them their attacking threat and thus cost them their best chance of winning.Belgium
It still hasn't quite clicked for this young and talented squad... but they're still doing enough to win. They keep coming, break opponents down, score late and use their squad incredibly well; the art of making the right substitution at the right time is something even good managers sometimes struggle with; Wilmots has been excellent at it. Can they win it? I'm not sure; Argentina and then likely the Netherlands is a tough ask to make the final... but they've certainly got a shot.The Netherlands
Even with Strootman missing the Netherlands have got to be seen as contenders right now. They might not have quite hit the brilliance of that first match against Spain and their defence may still have real questions hanging over it but with Robben tormenting one flank, RVP driving through the middle and the erratic Schneider capable of brilliance even after having a poor match they've got the attacking threat to win any game. On paper they should beat Costa Rica... but you could have said that about pretty much all of Costa Rica's games so far.Chile
Again, I'm pretty happy with this dark horse pick. A triumph of the team over the individual they may have been out-thought by the Dutch but they outfought Spain and were desperately unlucky to go out against Brazil. Hard work, hard running, hard pressing and enough skill to hurt teams when it mattered carried them through and but for a few inches of crossbar they'd be looking at a quarter final birth.Ivory Coast
Yeah... I got this one badly wrong. I thought their attacking talent and driving midfield would be enough to make up for a poor defence (both individually and collectively) but it wasn't. This has been another poor competition for African teams and while Ghana and Cameroon have taken the most blows to their reputation (despite a strong performance by Ghana against Germany), the Ivory Coast have seen a Golden GenerationTM
come and go with very little to show for it.France
Arguably the team to have looked the strongest throughout the tournament (although Colombia make a strong case the other way), France destroyed Honduras and Switzerland before breaking down Nigeria. The only match they struggled in against Ecuador saw France put out a pretty clear reserve 11. Their midfield is seemingly perfectly balanced with Matudi and Pogba taking turns to make hard driving box-to-box runs while the other sits back and breaks up counters and Cabaye sitting slightly deeper pulling the strings, Benzema's been excellent when played as a striker and their wingers have added a touch of class and magic to proceedings. If one was being harsh than Giroud's hit and miss form and a few questions about the defence may make one hesitate but to me this looks like a France side which has found its feet after a difficult four years or so. Their match with Germany looks mouthwatering on paper... and I don't think it would be a foolish prediction to say the winner of that match wins the whole thing.Overall Predictions (from here)Group A
I was right in seeing Brazil as the group winners and got my pick wrong in edging Croatia over Mexico. It's a pity for a Croatian team that is packed with talent but at the same time I don't think anyone can dispute the Mexican performances.Group B
Spain being so awful completely ruined by prediction but even not taking that into account I thought that Chile would edge a Dutch team that lacks the talent of four years ago. How wrong I was; the Dutch performed brilliantly, the Chileans slightly less so and Spain pretty dreadfully. A word of praise for Australia; despite losing all their matches, this young team did themselves proud and gave a real scare to the Ditch.
Man, I was awful at this. I thought Colombia would miss Falcao; arguably they've been better without him and have to be seen as strong contenders. I thought Japan had the skill to unlock defences; they didn't. I thought Ivory Coast would have the drive to carry them through; they didn't. I thought Greece would be too defensive; they sort of were but made their chances count (at one point they were going to get through the group with only one goal).Group D
Another one I got badly wrong. No-one saw Costa Rica coming... least of all the Uruguayans and Italians... and Suarez made the difference when he played, even if not directly being involved in the goal against Italy. I should have stuck to the courage of my convictions with Italy; I repeatedly said how bad they were in the buildup but thought they still had the nous and defensive solidarity to get out of the group. As for England, there were promising moments but if you're playing a 4-2-4 formation (as we essentially were) you need a lot of goals scored to make up for your exposed defence. Two goals in three games considering the chances we created simply wasn't good enough and Gerrard's role as defensive midfielder failed miserably... in the Uruguay game in particular both of the goals we conceded had his direct involvement.Group E
I was right that France would walk it if they bothered to show up. I was wrong that Ecuador would outlast a more talented Swiss team on account of the conditions. Not too unhappy with my prediction here.Group F
Again I was right about the winners, again I was wrong about which team would win a narrow battle for second place. Again I'm not too disappointed here, especially when you consider Dzeko's goal incorrectly being ruled out for offside... on such fine margins group runner's up (and a prediction) are won and lost.Group G
Germany, as expected, won. But Portugal were rubbish... a half-fit Ronaldo tried as hard as he could but even his talents couldn't drag the rest of his team with him. I think there was an over-reliance on the class of 2012 here; that strong Euro campaign was the swansong for this group. The USA impressed; hard working, tactically astute, dedicated and with enough talent and belief to make their chances count. If they can keep that attitude while adding in some quality they could make a real push soon... the issue may be who can replace the likes of Dempsey and Howard in four year time.Group H
Right on the winner, wrong on everything else. South Korea were awful, Russia were little better (more fool me for picking a Capello side) and Algeria were excellent.