Let's be clear from the outset that these predictions are mine and mine alone.

I'm of the opinion that the United States will advance to the round of 16, and take an unexpected route to that end.

My concerns about the U.S. are the inexperienced backline (duh!), the recent knack for giving up PKs with a late lead, and the zonal marking scheme on set pieces -- that approach seems ripe for a breakdown, especially on corners.

Now, about the unexpected path to the knockouts ...

The U.S. played well against Nigeria, but Nigeria is not Ghana -- not nearly as good.

I've got the USMNT opening with a draw and still finishing second in the group. The reason: Portugal is more bark than bite, whether Ronaldo is 100% or not.

All in all, the USMNT draws with Ghana, beats Portugal and loses to Germany. Four points is enough to earn the No. 2 spot and advance.

Two side notes on Group play:

Lose to Ghana, and the United States might as well board the next flight home -- no way it can outpoint both Ghana and Portugal for second place in that scenario.

The more dominant Germany is, the better for the U.S. If the Germans have the top spot wrapped up, they might be on cruise control for the June 26 match.

To the predictions ...

Group A

No. 1: Brazil

No. 2: Croatia

Group B

No. 1: Spain

No. 2: Chile

Group C


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No. 1: Columbia

No. 2: Ivory Coast

Group D

No. 1: Italy

No. 2: Uruguay

Group E

No. 1: France

No. 2: Ecuador

Group F

No. 1: Argentina

No. 2: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Group G

No. 1: Germany

No. 2: United States

Group H

No. 1: Belgium

No. 2: Russia

ROUND OF 16

  • Brazil over Chile

  • Spain over Croatia

  • Italy over Ivory Coast

  • Uruguay over Columbia

  • Argentina over Ecuador

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina over France

  • Germany over Russia

  • Belgium over U.S.

    QUARTERFINALS

  • Brazil over Uruguay

  • Germany over Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Italy over Spain

  • Argentina over Belgium

    SEMIFINALS

  • Brazil over Germany

  • Italy over Argentina

    FINALS

  • Brazil 2, Italy 1