*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 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: Should feature Ireland vs. France (Q2 vs Q3) in an epic rematch of the 2010 semifinal. In that game, David Brown scored a gorgeous, game-winning, turn-around volley that picked the top corner from just over half and sank the French hearts. I remember looking at the centre back for France and seeing his face hung in disbelief as his team was ousted by something that was essentially unstoppable. I'm crossing my fingers for more of that drama in this game, but also that the tables be turned and France gets the win - forcing Ireland players to sit in the stands for the first time during the final. I think France will pull it off in a close one: 4-3.
Semifinal 2: Should feature El Salvador vs. Norway (Q1 vs Q4) in another 2010 Group B rematch. Neither of these teams is a fan of the other and I'm sure El Salvador is salivating at the chance for redemption, the same way Norway is excited for a chance to win all over again and prove (although there's hardly any doubt) that the first time wasn't a fluke. Just like in 2010, I expect Norway's midfield and defense to be the difference-maker and continuously stifle a possession-based El Salvador attack. The game will be close, but there's no reason to go against history: 3-2 for Norway, AGAIN.