Monday, June 30, 2014

Playing the Differentials in Day Three of the Knockouts

 The key to BISERGS success is finding value in teams that others ignored.  Costa Rica's unexpected run into the quarterfinals is a major reason that Rodrigo and Rick find themselves in first and second place.  Today's matchups offer a chance for some unexpected teams to bring huge rewards.  Only Rachel and Bill had the foresight to pick Algeria and only four BISERGSers selected Nigeria.  Success for either of the African teams today and in the later stages of the World Cup will dramatically affect the outcome of this years BISERGS, moving their owners way up the leader board.  Even the French were largely ignored until the third round of the BISERGS draft, but yielded the second highest point total in the group stages and is a major reason for Greg, Carol and Irma/Byron's strong positions.  Of the four teams in action, Germany was picked highest and is expected to go deep into the tournament if not win the whole thing.  Germany is Evan and Brian G's final team and if there is an upset today, their BISERGS will be over.  Similarly, Andrew has put all of his remaining BISERGS hopes on France.  So far in the knockout stages, the group winners have one every match, but Nigeria and Algeria are real threats to buck that trend.  It should be another exciting World Cup and BISERGS day.  

Costa Rican Joy and Lágrimas Mexicanas

Arjen Robben is awarded a late penalty for tripping
on something, most likely a blade of grass.
Costa Rica was a perfect 5 for 5 in a penalty shootout victory over Greece and have advanced to the quarterfinals.  Mexico was a few minutes away from beating the Netherlands but were unable to hold on to their lead and gave up two heartbreaking goals in the last 5 minutes.  It is the fifth consecutive World Cup that Mexico has lost in the round of 16.

El Tri dominated the first half but were unable to score before the break.  They changed that with a goal just after the restart and were holding on through more heroics from their goalie Memo Ochoa when the Netherlands scored through a blistering strike by Wesley Sneijder.  Then a controversial penalty was awarded and Mexico was sent home from the round of 16 once again.  Costa Rica were reduced to 10 men when defender Oscar Duarte was sent off for getting his second yellow card early in the second half.  They were leading 1-0 at the time and held on to their lead until the 90th minute when Greece finally broke through.  In extra time, no one was able to score and the game went to penalties where the exhausted Costa Ricans were perfect.

The results sent Rodrigo back to first place and Rick into second.  Carol Barrera entered the top ten again based on the Netherlands result, although she and Rodrigo would have preferred to see Mexico continue.  Sadly, the losses for Mexico and Greece mean that Dawn, Dan and Emilie have now had all of their teams eliminated.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Field Continues to Narrow

Today's matchups are between the four teams competing for the next semifinal birth.  The high scoring Netherlands are the favorites to advance of the four, but they have to start against the surprising Mexicans.  Mexico has impressed and improved in every outing and could be peaking at just the right time.  Costa Rica and Greece play in the second game.  Nobody gave Costa Rica a chance to advance out of their group which featured Italy, England and Uruguay.  They not only advanced, but they dominated the favorites and won the group.  That is why they get to play Greece who may have pushed their luck to the limit to get this far, but they have been the shock winners in major tournaments before.

For the BISERGS, Rodrigo is near to the prize, but I doubt if he will be able to support the Dutch team he has for the BISERGS over Mexico.  Sharleen has already said she will put blood ahead of BISERGS as she cheers for this one.  Will Carol B be able to cheer for the Netherlands against her beloved's Mexico?  Costa Rica's owners couldn't have expected such a great showing or so many points from their team, but they seem poised to deliver even more.  And even though Greece has advanced to the round of 16, it hasn't produced many points for its owners so far.  They'll hope that the Greeks can deliver three points today.  Once again, a wonderful goal or a surprise result could be in store today to turn the BISERGS on its head, so don't miss the action if you can.

Colombia Thrill Again and Brazil Squeaks Through

Colombia celebrate a goal on their way to victory.
Brazil advanced to the next round by the skin of their teeth, but their opponent in the next round, Colombia stole the show and continues to steal the hearts of World Cup viewers around the world.  Colombia's first goal by James Rodriguez was a nominee for best goal of the tournament.  He now has five goals for the tournament and is the leader in the race for the "Golden Boot".  When his wonder-strike went off the bottom of the crossbar and into the goal, Uruguay's strategy of defending and waiting for one opportunity to strike went up in smoke.  Chile hit the bottom of the crossbar at the very end of the second extra period, but their shot caromed out.  A few minutes later, their final penalty kick also hit the post and Brazil slipped into the next round.  The Brazil - Columbia match up should be as exciting a quarterfinal as the World Cup has ever seen.

Those results put Greg into the lead for the first time this summer.  Rodrigo dropped to 5th, but with both favorites in today's matches belonging to him, he will likely be on top again by the end of the second match.  Ivan and Matt S. made big moves today into 2nd and 4th respectively as the owners of both Colombia and Brazil.  Rick is still in third place after the shuffle, but is now just 1/2 point from the top.  In fact, just 1.75 points separate the top 5 BISERGSers in what is the closest BISERGS ever at this point.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

It's South America Day in the Round of 16

The first soccer-less day of the World Cup summer is over. I hope everyone managed to survive somehow. Now the excitement really starts.  In the group stage there was some room for error, as only 4 out of the 16 teams that advanced won all three matches.  From now on, if a team loses, they are out.  South America has done incredibly well in this years World Cup.  Five out of six South American sides advanced to the round of 16, but unfortunately four of them have ended up in the same quadrant of the knockout bracket.  That means that Brazil, Chile, Columbia and Uruguay will be battling one another for a single place in the semi-finals at the expense of their regional rivals.

Hosts and tournament favorites Brazil start the action today against Chile, who had a big part in eliminating world #1 Spain from the World Cup.  Chile would love to knockout another world power from the tournament.  Everyone who used their first pick on Brazil hopes that doesn't happen, but if it does, it would just be another exciting twist in the World Cup and BISERGS.  Columbia have been a very fun and high scoring team to watch and they go against the Suarez-less Uruguayans who advanced at the expense of Italy and England.  Uruguay's coach's reaction to the Suarez suspension makes me like his team even less, but that won't prevent James, Rachel, Emilie and Derek from cheering for the bad boys.

In this round of the BISERGS, the points are the same as in the group stage.  Teams earn their owners 3 points for a win, 1/2 point for a goal and they loose 1/4 point for goals allowed.  The only difference is that games can't end in a draw.  If a game is tied at the end of 90 minutes (plus added time), then a 30 minute overtime is played.  After that if the score is still tied, the game is decided by penalty kicks.  If that happens, for the BISERGS points, penalty kicks DO NOT count as goals scored or goals allowed.  The losing team in a penalty shootout is awarded one point for a draw, even though they have lost the match and will not advance to the next round because they were equal for 120 minutes.  In the quarterfinal round all scores (both positive and negative) are increased by 150%.  The semifinal points are worth double the first round matches and the final earns triple points.  The third place match is worth the same amount as the group stage matches.  All of this information can be found on the rules page.

Friday, June 27, 2014

BISERGS Leaderboard Tightens up as Group Stage Completes

Ronaldo finally scored a World Cup goal, but his
Portuguese team couldn't do enough to oust team USA. 
Doug completed a stunning 16.25 round yesterday that saw him rise all the way to third place in the BISERGS.  Rodrigo maintained the first position with 36.75 points, but he is being pressed by Greg who is only 1.5 points behind.  Greg's brothers Rick and Doug are both very close behind with 34 points overall.  Annika and Rachel managed to get four team through to the next round and everyone else in the top 10, except Sharleen have three teams remaining.  Gray, Ivan and Matt are the other members of the current top 10.  Defending BISERGS winner Carol B is in 11 place and could still repeat as champion.  Allison looks to bounce back from a very difficult round three that saw her slip from 2nd place down to 12th.  Sadly, the BISERGS is over for Katelynn and Hudson since they have had all four teams eliminated, but there is still plenty of excitement left in the World Cup for them to enjoy.

The USA advanced even though they were beaten by Germany 1-0.  Portugal beat Ghana in the other group game, but not by enough goals to take away the American's superior goal differential.  The result means the USA will play Belgium in the next round (at the exact time we will be checking into the airport, so I'll probably miss the match.)  The Germans won the group and will play Algeria who finished 2nd to Belgium in group H. Algeria sealed the final spot with a 1-1 draw against Russia.  The Russians jumped out to an early lead, but the Algerians made the most of a corner kick in the second half to equalize and kept the Russians out the rest of the way.  Belgium looked underwhelming in a 1-0 win over South Korea.  The Americans should like their chances against the Belgians who are full of super stars, but haven't gelled as a team at all.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Do or Die Time in the Group of Death

The USA let down their guard at the worst possible time against Portugal and now hopes to avoid paying the ultimate price.  If that game had ended 10 seconds earlier, the US would have 6 points and be guaranteed of a place in the next round.  Now, they have everything to play for against the tournament's best non South American team.  If the US can win or tie, they go through.  If Portugal and Ghana tie, the US goes through no matter how they play against Germany.  But if the US loses and the results go wrong for them in the Portugal vs Ghana match, the US will be on the outside looking in.  After being eliminated by Ghana in the last two World Cups, there is a very real possibility that Ghana will send America home again, even though the Stars and Stripes won the head to head matchup in the opener.  If Ghana wins and the US loses and either match finishes with a 2 goal or greater difference (eg Ghana 3 - Portugal 1 or Germany 2 - US 0) the US would be out.  This was labeled the group of death before the tournament began and it is living up to that name.  Germany, who is leading the group, could still go home, if the US beats them and Ghana routes Portugal.  That is my favorite scenario and would mean the US and Ghana would advance, but don't count on that.

In the last group to play, Belgium has already advanced, and Algeria has the inside track at joining them.  South Korea and Russia still both have a chance to advance also, so there should be some decent attacking in every game.

In the BISERGS battle to get all 4 teams into the next round Krista appears to have the best chance, but Annika and Rachel also have an inside track towards a four for four first round.  For Rick and Dawn to celebrate would almost certainly require heartbreak for the US.  The relevant matches are Germany (Krista) vs USA (Annika), Portugal (Rick and Dawn) vs Ghana and Algeria (Rachel) vs Russia.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Messi Stikes Twice

Messi puts a free kick over the wall and into the net for his
second goal of the day.
Ecuador, Honduras and Iran were all dumped from the World Cup today as Switzerland, Argentina and Bosnia & Herzegovina won their matches and France coasted through to a 0 - 0 draw against Ecuador.  Ecuador needed a win and became the only South American team to not make it out of the group stage of the competition.  Nigeria became the first African team to advance to the next round, even though they lost to Argentina .  Bosnia looked impressive as they ended Iran's unlikely dream and would have advanced themselves except for a bad offsides call that cost them a goal and a point in their previous game.  Switzerland recovered from their humiliating loss to France last week by blasting Honduras 3-0.

The most exciting game of the day was Argentina vs. Nigeria which finished 3-2 with two goals for Messi which were matched by a brace from Nigeria's Ahmed Musa.  Two goals had already been scored after 4 minutes and the game kept up the end to end pace for most of the 90 minutes.  The results set up two more round of 16 matchups where Nigeria will take on France and Argentina will battle Switzerland.

The results catapulted Rachel into 3rd place with all four of her teams still in the competition.  Doug rose from 25th all the way to 5th with a BISERGS record 12.75 point day.  He had all three of today's winning teams (Bosnia, Argentina and Switzerland) and still has Belgium to play this round.  Rachel, Rick, Annika, Krista and Dawn all have four teams remaining with only four matches left in the group stage. 

Argentina and France Look to Complete 100% Group Stage

France have dominated their group with an impressive 8 goals in two matches, while Argentina have struggled in their two wins.  Even so, it is only Argentina who have already secured their spot in the second round, but they need at least a draw to avoid finishing second in their group.  Nigeria would book their own spot in the second round with a draw, but could still advance with a loss as long as Iran don't beat Bosnia by enough to make up the goal difference.  Argentina should be seeking more than just a draw as they need to shift into high gear before the round of 16 begins if they want to reach their lofty goals for the summer.  In Group E, France have little to fear and will only fail to qualify if they lose badly to Ecuador and Switzerland crushes Honduras.  Honduras is yet to win a game, but they could make it through if they can beat the demoralized Swiss by 3 goals and France beat Ecuador by 2 goals.  Some of the scenarios are very unlikely, but the good news for BISERGSers is that seven out of eight teams have something to play for today and won't only be going for wins, but in many cases, lots of goals (unlike England and Costa Rica yesterday).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Uruguay Redefines Winning Ugly

Diego Godin scores the goal, but appears to be run away from Luis Suarez
(number 9) rather than celebrate with him for fear of being bitten.
The day's biggest game was a very ugly affair.  In a game that featured Mario Balotelli and Luis Suarez it could have been a clasic.  Both players are capable of magic and both have a history of losing it on the field.  This match featured Mario getting a yellow card for an amazing ninja kick to the back of an Uruguayan defender's head and Luis Suarez getting away with biting an Italian late in the game.  Italy only needed a draw to advance and they were playing for the 0-0 result.  The Italians had a player sent off for a red card which looked mild relative to the rest of the action.  In the end, the Uruguayos scored on a corner kick but deserve to be the most hated team to continue in this years World Cup (and the 2010 World Cup, too).

Balotelli's violence was much more athletic and actually
involved him trying to win the ball.
Greece advanced ahead of the star studded Ivory Coast team thanks to a late penalty.  The Greeks actually played some attacking soccer and nearly scored many other times while doing the defensive work needed to stop the great Ivorian goal scorers.  Colombia continued with style in a 4-1 win over Japan who had to press for a victory to have any hope of advancing and left themselves vulnerable to the exciting South Americans.  In the meaningless match between Costa Rica and England both teams played like it was meaningless.  0-0 was the final score, England leave on a whimper and Costa Rica top the group.

The results set up a battle of South American rivals, Colombia and Uruguay in the next round.  Colombia is the tournament darling so far with plenty of attacking flair and a well choreographed goal celebration that you can't help but love.  They take on the villains, Uruguay, who will probably be toothless without Suarez as they were without him in their opening loss to Costa Rica.  The other knock-out match will be between Greece and Costa Rica in a matchup that will guarantee that an underdog advances to the final eight.

For the BISERGS, I'm very happy to report that Emilie was the big winner on the day.  Greece and Uruguay earned her 7 points which doubles her score for the entire BISERGs so far.  Ivan moved to within 1.5 points of Rodrigo thanks to Colombia and fellow Colombia owners Matt S. and Rick made significant advances, too.  Annika has risen to her highest place yet (4th) and with her highflying French side set to play tonight, she could soon top the table.  Nine BISERGSers still have the potential of seeing all four teams advance.  Rachel, Dawn, Emmett, Nate, Krista and Evan aren't in the top 10 today, but with the possibility of four teams advancing, they could be serious contenders before it is over.

Five Teams Going for Two Spots in Groups C and D

Group D gets the action started with two simultaneous matches today.  The world's eyes will be watching Uruguay play Italy in a match that will send one team home and the other one on to the next round.  England will try to duplicate Spain's final match result and going home with some pride after a pair of losses eliminated them early.  Costa Rica is the surprise team of the World Cup so far and would love to enter the next round on a high send England home winless.  Columbia has already qualified and is almost certainly going through in first place, but Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan are all still battling for the final spot.  Ivory Coast is in the driver's seat, but must win to guarantee passage out of the group.

For BISERGSers trying to catch Rodrigo, an England victory may be a welcome site.  A 3-0 victory for England would even push his wife Carol, the defending BISERGS champion into first place.  Ivan Glenney looks to jump into the top spot with his Colombia and Italy teams in action.  Emilie and Derek own both Italy and Uruguay, so they are sure to see one team advance and one team go home as a result of today's matches.  They hope to avoid a 0-0 draw that would do nothing to help their disappointing 2014 BISERGS.  Derek may be pulling for the South Americans since he shares Uruguay with his wife (Rachel) and brother (Evan).