JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 24: (L-R) Robert Vittek, Martin Skrtel and Radoslav Zabavnik of Slovakia celebrate victory after knocking Italy out of the competition during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group F match between Slovakia and Italy at Ellis Park Stadium on June 24, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
Two dangerous games today. Sure, they've both got clear favorites and clear underdogs, but that only ups the danger factor, doesn't it? Two of the top four seeds are in action, and lordy lordy would it be disastrous to see one bow out this early. Don't sleep.
9:00 A.M., ESPN: Netherlands vs. Slovakia. The Oranje Crush sailed through Group E action, winning all of their games and looking every bit as formidable as they usually do coming out of group play. PROBLEMO (I'm assuming they speak Spanish in the Netherlands): for as highly as they've been regarded in international play, in only one WC of the last 30 years have the Oranje even made the semifinals (1994, 4th place). Their runner-up status in 1974 and 1978 is merely a historical relic. The Nederlanders' disappointment in knockout play at Euro 2008 certainly didn't help matters.
Of course, it helps that they're facing Slovakia, a miracle qualifier for the knockout round after they dispatched Disastro Italia in the final game of group play, 3-2. That was certainly unexpected. But Slovakia is, on paper, absolutely no match for a very strong Netherlands team. ESPN gives them roughly 9-to-1 odds. Long odds, but not a death sentence. Look for the Slovak Menace to try to push this to PKs, where anything can happen. And if Slovakia pulls it off? Put Doug Gillett of EDSBS on spontaneous combustion watch, because he might literally explode.
1:30 P.M., ESPN: Brazil vs. Chile. Enjoy the ass-bananas play of Argentina-Mexico, which was 3-1 but could have easily been 2-2? Tune into a Diet Coke sequel of that game between Brazil and Chile, both of whom are dangerous but also easily more defensively potent. Chile and Spain were the class of Group H, while Brazil was Brazil and that is bad news for everybody else.
It's funny, ESPN gives Chile three times the likelihood of a win as Slovakia got against the Netherlands, even though it's pretty well accepted that Brazil going out in the round of 16 would be a far more damaging salvo to this year's World Cup--especially since Germany and Argentina are set to face each other next round in what would be a de facto championship if Brazil is eliminated.
Of course, that ignores the fact that Chile loses three starters for this match, all on penalties: midfielder Marco Estrada and defenders Gary Medel and Waldo Ponce. Bad news for the Chilean defense*. Meanwhile, Brazil misses nobody, and actually welcomes back three players of their own: Kaka has returned from his idiotic suspension (what he was doing on the pitch with 5 minutes of regulation, two substitution available, and a yellow card to his name is absolutely beyond us). Meanwhile, fellow midfielder Elano and striker Robinho are back as they recover from injury.
Still, Brazil isn't guaranteed to just run Chile off the pitch (though for hedging's sakes, that could easily happen). Chile haven't been dominated in years, and they stand a Hawkeye's chance of pushing the issue on their Brazilian counterparts today. Watch. History could easily be made.
Anyhoo, usual rules of game threads apply: no porn, no discussion of piracy; if you can't watch the game on TV, there are legal online streams at ESPN3.com. Beyond that, the topic is verboten.
*The Chilean Defense, by the way, is "Pinochet said it was okay while he held a gun to my head." Works better than you'd think, even after appeals and in totally unrelated domestic criminal trials. But you did not hear that from us. *holds a gun to your head*