Originally published on CBC.ca
In the 2006 World Cup, I was convinced that the best team was Argentina. But they didn't win. In their quarter-final match against Germany, the Albiceleste were controlling the game, but with 20 minutes to go the team changed tactics. Their coach began substituting off their best players as they gambled on their ability to hold off the Germans and defend their one goal lead. They failed.
Spurred on by a packed stadium in Berlin, the Germans pressed for an equalizer and were rewarded in the dying minutes. With their creative players no longer on the pitch, the Argentines struggled to restart their offense and the match was ultimately settled, in the Germans' favor, on penalties.
Statistics show that Spain is the best team in this year's World Cup, but like Argentina in 2006 they might not win. Why? Because now that we are in the knockout stages of the tournament, where one loss is all it takes to be eliminated, luck and good fortune matter just as much as a team's ability.
Players will have bad games, or possibly even get injured or suspended. Referees will interpret fouls in different ways. Some may even be called upon to make controversial decisions that will affect the outcome of the match.
Now that we have our final eight teams I'm excited, but I'm not convinced that the best team will win. The unpredictability is what makes the World Cup interesting. It's also what keeps me watching, otherwise FIFA may as well just hand the trophy over to Spain.