It would take the least informed sportsfan in the world to not know that the Mondial of Soccer has now entered the Round of Sixteen. Thursday signaled the end of group play, and Friday was the first absolute rest day since the tournament started a two weeks ago.
Today, single elimination play starts in earnest, with two games. Play continues like this, with two games a day for the next four days. After a rest day on Wednesday, the Quarter Finals will begin on this coming Thursday. On the upside, for non soccer fans, this is all coming to an end.
Ironically, in non Soccer countries, it is easy not to know that there is a tournament, unless your favorite FOX show is preempted. On the downside, this sets up those endings which non fans hate, ninety six minutes of no scoring or a tie, followed by "penalty kicks" to determine the winner.
Today, indeed these next two weeks, though: all about the fans. and players. As the Round of 16 starts today, there should be great action. Both games slated today feature "the greatest player in the world." The first, France vs. Argentina, features Lionel Messi, Barcelona's favorite, who may finally make his first goal in many a game in international play. Vive la France!
The second game, Uruguay vs. Portugal, features play by Cristiano Ronaldo, who is often honored on the international soccer stage, but who for some reasons leaves critics of the game unconvinced. Both teams could be described as "plucky," and representing nations with great soccer traditions. Viva Portugal.
Sunday don't miss Spain vs. hometown boys Russia. Spain has suffered some setbacks, including having their coach replaced the day before the tournament. Russia, is, well, Russia. They are slated to win, because, well, we ain't disputin', they have got Putin... What can we say, though, but Viva España...
The weekend of play wraps up with Croatia vs. Denmark.
Having written all that, this space has been impressed with the play so far in this year's tournament. Sure things have come out to be not so certain, "underdogs" have prevailed in some cases. Germany washed out... Some good, some bad, all great play....