*I'm going to pull the Sports Illustrated and ESPN special and attempt to predict who will win in the quarterfinals, semifinals and final without actually knowing who will advance that far. Regardless, perseverance has been my motto for the week, so I will forge ahead and attempt to work some magic anyways. I've already previewed Groups A, B, C and D so I'll do another playoffs preview with the correct teams right before the playoffs start.*
To recap my quarterfinals and semifinals predictions:
Quarterfinal 1: El Salvador defeats Nigeria, 7-4;
Quarterfinal 2: Ireland defeats Poland, 5-2;
Quarterfinal 3: France defeats Laos, 2-1;
Quarterfinal 4: Norway defeats Germany, 4-2.
Semifinal 1: France defeats Ireland, 4-3;
Semifinal 2: Norway defeats El Salvador, 3-2.
Final: Should feature France vs. Norway (S1 vs S2) in a game that will likely go down as the second-best WCP Cup final ever (right after the 2007 version). France took Norway to task, 5-3, in the quarterfinals of 2010, but another year, another game. Norway brings some hard-earned championship experience to this game and if 2007and 2010 taught us anything, it's that you can't count out the underdog when the final rolls around. Since neither team has changed much in the past year, I expect things to play out in a similar fashion to 2010 - France maintains much of the possession, but also allows Norway to counter-attack at unexpected times. This is the game when I think Norway's new keeper will have his biggest impact. France will get shots, but they won't score early, and that fact will give Norway the momentum it needs. For the second time ever, Norway wins the championship, 4-3.