As you may have heard, two days after being played close by Great Britain, Spain dropped one to a Vitaliy Fridzon-led Russia team earlier today. This puts Russia atop Group B, and has me wondering about the implications for the knockout stage.
Note from here on out, the article assumes no upset, meaning that the U.S. will beat Argentina and Russia will beat Australia on Monday.
Who It Means Nothing To
There are six teams who this upset hardly affects. Four of them are Tunisia, Nigeria, China and Great Britain. The knockout stage pairing means little to them, as they won’t be playing in the knockout stage.
Surprisingly, even though Brazil and Australia are in the same group as Spain and Russia, the upset has little effect on them either. That’s because the first round is a cross-over, meaning they’ll face France and the United States in the first round, respectively.
Suddenly, the United States’ side of the bracket just got harder. After a easy game against Australia in the quarters, the United States is guaranteed to face one of the medalists from 2008 in the semis. To be perfectly honest, the U.S. faces a harder test in the semis than they will in the final.
Losing the game to likely finish second in Group B gives Spain a very unfavorable draw. Rather than being at the bottom of the bracket and not having to face the U.S. until the gold medal game, Spain is now looking at being in the top half of the bracket, and having to face Argentina and the U.S. in consecutive games.
Beating Argentina to likely finish second in Group A now has many ancillary benefits for Tony Parker’s squad. France is now in the rather weak side of the bracket along with Russia, Lithuania and Brazil. Though there is an easy first-round match for the Frogs, a loss to a hot Russian team would mean likely facing
You’ve got to like Russia as the favorite to win the silver medal. They beat Spain and Brazil, they won their other two matches by double digits, and they have the second-best point differential after the U.S. They also have a ridiculously weak draw, not having to play any of the defending medalists until the gold medal match.
After losing a squeaker against the United States earlier today, Lithuania will advance to the knockout stage as A4 with a victory over Tunisia on Monday. Although they played the U.S. closely, I think that that game is an anomaly and we will likely see Lithuania come out on the losing end of a quarterfinal matchup of former Soviet republics.
The combination of a loss to France earlier in the tournament and Spain’s loss to Russia make Argentina the big loser of the day. A loss to the United States on Monday will put them at A3 and force a quarterfinal matchup against Spain. As such, I see Argentina out in the first round, and considering the ages of most of their key components, not medaling again for a number of years.
Gold: United States
Out in the Quarters: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Lithuania
Games to Watch: Argentina vs. Spain, France vs. Russia