Did you hear that collective sigh of relief around America yesterday afternoon at 2PM? That sigh was the result of two things: 1) Relief that the USA officially advanced from the group stage of the World Cup to the knockout stage with their 0-1 defeat to Germany, & 2) Relief that the confusing knockout stage in general is over! That's right! American's everywhere are relieved that the ever confusing point system of the group stage is now over and the remainder of the tournament will be good ole American single elimination, win or go home, leave it all on the field, playoff style soccer! That's right America, you can rest assured that there will be no more ties, no more points, and no more "goal differential". We have entered into the knockout stage!
But First! The Double Standard of American Sports Fans!
While I have thoroughly enjoyed the last two weeks of this unbelievable World Cup (highest scoring group stage ever: 136 goals!) it has become apparent to me that many Americans are no fan of the format of the group stage. The whole idea of the point system and tiebreaks seemed lost on many Americans but I'm a little confused why...
Could it not be said that the convoluted tiebreaks that determine which SEC football team will make it to the SEC Championship game when there's a three way tie atop the Eastern division are just as confusing as the World Cup group stage? What about trying to figure out all the different NFC & AFC Wildcard scenarios in the NFL? Look at the run in for making the playoffs in the MLB!
All of these sports that offer just as many (if not more) confusing tiebreaker scenario's as the World Cup group stage don't seem to bother Americans. In NFL, MLB, & College Football (More or less) the regular season serves as a prolonged version of the exact same thing the World Cup group stage does in two weeks. The regular season serves as the testing ground to determine which teams will get into the "playoffs". This is exactly what has been taking place in the World Cup over the past two weeks!
Now that I've vented that frustration over the double standards the American sports fan places on soccer let's look at the "knockout stage"!
The Knockout Stage!
As has been stated elsewhere, the knockout stage consists of the top two teams from each of the eight groups equaling 16 total teams (8 x 2 = 16). If you finished first in group A (Brasil) you will play the team that finished second in group B (Chile), & if you finished second in group A (Mexico) you will play the team that finished first in group B (Netherlands). This goes all the way through groups A to H.
Here is how the knockout stage has turned out!
What if There IS a Tie?
As always, the teams matched up in the knockout stage will play a 90 minute match (plus stoppage time). If, at the end of the match, the score is tied the game will proceed to overtime. Overtime consists of two 15 minute periods that must be played to completion. What this means is that even if one team scores five goals in the first period of overtime both periods must still be completed.
If the game is still tied after the duration of the two 15 minute overtime periods then the game goes on to a penalty kick (PKs) shootout. In a PK shootout five players from each team are selected to take PKs. The PK is taken from a round dot 12 yards from the goal line. Each team's PK takers attempt to score from the PK spot while the opposition keeper attempts to block the shots.
A team can mathematically eliminate their opponent before all five kickers have taken PKs. One example would be if one team makes their first 3 PKs while the other team misses their first three. At that point the first team would win because even if they missed their last two PKs and the second team made their last two the first team would still win. In this scenario when the third kicker from the second team missed his PK then the game would be over and the first team would win.
There is also a scenario for needed to go beyond five PK takers. If both teams are tied after all five of their PK takers' attempts then each team sends out one more PK taker at a time until one team scores and the other team doesn't. This is done, one kicker at a time, until a winner is determined.
A couple of notes before moving on: 1) Only players who were on the field at the end of overtime can participate in the PK shootout. 2) If all 11 players (including the GK) for each team have taken PKs and the score is still tied then each team would send their first shooter out again.
While I offered my predictions for this World Cup in a previous post many of them were wrong (especially having Spain in the final). The round of 16 starts tomorrow at noon (EST) with Brazil vs Chile. I will post my predictions to the rd. of 16 tomorrow morning before kickoff!
Enjoy you day free from soccer America!