World Cup 2014 finals predictions from Pier 40 | East Villager & Lower East Sider

World Cup 2014 finals predictions from Pier 40

Look out, Lalas! Gabriella Palomino, above, of Downtown United Soccer Club (DUSC), gives her spot-on analysis of who will be in the World Cup finals.

Look out, Lalas! Gabriella Palomino, above, of Downtown United Soccer Club (DUSC), gives her spot-on analysis of who will be in the World Cup finals.

BY JUDITH STILES & JOHNNY O’HARA  |  A crystal ball for the World Cup? The oddsmakers at football-bookmakers.com in the U.K. surely would love to get their hands on that ball. Mathematicians, statisticians, even psychoanalysts are weighing in and crunching the numbers on what country is likely to win the 2014 World Cup.

But as Alexi Lalas, former U.S. National Team player and current ESPN commentator, said last week, “Anything can happen in the knockout phase.” 

These days with World Cup fever sweeping the streets of New York City, just about everyone is a know-it-all with an opinion about the tournament. From the epicenter of New York City soccer in Lower Manhattan — beloved Pier 40 — some very knowledgeable soccer aficionados are going on record with which two teams they think will face off in the finals.

Tom Giovatto — Pier 40 / Downtown United Soccer Club coach (1990s); head men’s coach, St. Francis College (Brooklyn); 2013 BigAppleSoccer.com Coach of the Year; NSCAA North Atlantic Region Coach of the Year (Translation: Giovatto is total soccer guy and tactical genius): 

Germany vs. Netherlands: “Both teams know how to win, are very smart tactically, and have great finishers.”

Manny D’Almeida — Pier 40 referee, coach, player (D’Almeida, a.k.a. Mr. Brazilian Fancy Footwork, lives and breathes soccer and he remembers 15 World Cups):

Brazil vs. Argentina: “Brazil — home — and Argentina — second home — because the home crowd almost always makes the difference.”

Shannon Carr — Pier 40 / director of recreational program (1990s); coach; player (It’s amazing to watch games with Coach Carr, who has the facts and history 411 on every player):

Germany vs. Netherlands: “The Netherlands will win based on the Dutch having the highest goal differential (+7) in the group stage.”

Robert Priest — Editor in chief, Eight By Eight magazine (the absolute BEST new soccer magazine with insightful articles and beautiful graphics; perfect for soccer nuts who think outside the box and crave juicy details) 8by8mag.com :

Germany vs. Argentina: “Germany has the best organized team. Argentina has the best player, Lionel Messi.”

So what can go wrong with thoughtful, calculated predictions? A lot. Everything from bad referee calls, suffocating heat, injuries, red cards, biting, etc. can cause an upset of the team that should have won.

A perfect example is the Netherlands, who should thank their lucky stars for squeaking by against Mexico (in suffocating heat) in a game the Orange looked poised to lose. If the Dutch make it to the final four, their likeliest opponent would be Argentina, in a tantalizing showdown between dribbling maestros Arjen Robben and Messi.  Messi is considered the better player by most, but expect Robben to prevail. You can hate him for diving, but there is simply no getting around the man’s consummate quality: Every time he gets the ball, the Dutch look to be on the brink of doing something special.

If Coaches Carr and Giovatto are correct in their prediction (Germany vs. Netherlands), expect to see some more goals by Germany’s Thomas Müller, who happens to be the son of Gerd Müller, who scored the winning goal in the 1974 World Cup finals against — who else? — the Netherlands.

And if you still don’t know what to think? Well, ask a 13-year-old girl. Yes, ask Gabriella Palomino, a star player at Pier 40 who doesn’t seem to need a crystal ball. 

“I have to say that Brazil and Holland are going to be in the finals,” she predicted. “Maybe these two teams are not playing their best soccer, but they are getting the results and they are getting stronger after every match.

“Also, both teams have a key player, Neymar from Brazil and Robben from Holland,” Palomino noted. “They are so good taking on players, one-on-one. They do it all the time. I love players doing that on the attacking third of the field. In order to win the World Cup you need these types of players on your team.” 

Perhaps Miss Palomino should join Mr. Lalas on ESPN next week?