Let’s start with the group that includes Uruguay. This is just an incredibly fortunate break for Uruguay as this group containing the USA, South Korea and Ghana, probably wouldn’t be considered strong for the group stages. When you look at how the rest of the groups could shake out, these 4 teams would be way more likely to go the final four than if they switched into any other portion of the bracket.
The true heroes of the tournament so far. Uruguay is around 65% to advance over South Korea and by far is the team most likely to turn their lucky draw into a World Cup victory. Nate Silver’s rankings aside, I think Uruguay is a great underrated team so far. True, they have been very good at the World Cup, but who thinks of Uruguay as a soccer power and once everyone else is set in the second round, bigger name teams are sure to draw more attention.
South Korea won’t get much attention, in what is sure to be the most anonymous Round 1 game. They don’t stand a great chance to get past Uruguay, but if they do, they will benefit hugely from the second round opponent. It’s probably not reasonable to expect too much from South Korea, but I think they might offer some good value for a longshot.
I know SPI values home-continent advantage, but this reeks of a little b.s. to my uneducated soccer opinion. Ghana is not remotely close to South Africa and I’m sure the climates are very different. I know Silver has said his research shows a strong tendency to do well on continent, but up until the last few years, most world cups have been held in Europe or South America, where traditional soccer powerhouses reside. Again, I’m not sure how much of an advantage he gives, but I’d definitely be slightly skeptical of the United States.
There are a few ways to look at the US. 1) They won their group. 2) They were minutes away from not advancing. On top of that, This is a team that had a +1 goal differential for the tournament, but easily could have been 2-0-1 if their games weren’t reffed by Osama Bin Laden. If bad calls are just bad luck, than any rating system surely has the United States underrated because of the 2 goals that absolutely should have counted. That being said, you can’t count out getting dominated by Slovenia for 45 minutes, or a lucky goal against England in the first round. From what I can tell, the US is great at not converting on scoring opportunities, getting robbed by refs and shaky on defense. That doesn’t seem like a great combination on what should be a very overrated squad.
I’m pretty sure there will be no attention on South Korea or Uruguay. They both look good per SPI, and I’m happy with that because I’d tend to be skeptical of Ghana’s advantage, and the US is almost certainly overrated on “heart” and reputation alone. It may suck to root against the US, but I think that’s the way to go. You can put it in @chadmillman’s words and call it an “emotional hedge” if it feels better.