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Return on June 27th and predict the single-elimination knockout stage matches.

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Reporting Back From the Netherlands

This week, the Dutch football team missed the opportunity to face Germany in the World Cup final, after losing the semifinal against Argentina in a match that was decided by a painful penalty shootout. It is a disappointment for a nation with an excellent team that has come very close to the championship 3 other times.

In fact, the football rivalry between the Netherlands and Germany is legendary—there is even a Wikipedia page describing it in thorough detail. This rivalry was even evident in our research building, which is located at the border between Germany and the Netherlands and employs people from both countries. You can see why local TV channels came over to admire some very heavily decorated lab spaces. Don’t they look nice?

The Germany/Netherlands final never came to be, but this lab would have been more than ready.

A German/Dutch rivalry seen in the lab

Sunday will be the final day of the 2014 World Cup. My predictions? After seeing spitz (Germany) humiliate toucan (Brazil) on Brazil’s home turf, it is easy to imagine them beating tango (Argentina) tomorrow. But who knows? Maybe the support of all of South America will push tango, the Albiceleste, to dominance.

Follow Drosophilista (Sarah) on Twitter or bookmark her blog.


Argentina Celebrate

Spitz vs. Tango – Championship Preview

Germany’s win over Brazil will certainly go down in history as one of the biggest World Cup upsets of all time. Germany played tremendously well, but Brazil did not play up to their potential. Spitz is full of confidence going into this final, but that could be their downfall, if they underestimate their opponent. The Germans are very disciplined, composed, and fluid at the same time, and it will be very difficult to outmatch them. They have displayed great skill throughout the tournament and certainly deserve a spot in the final.

If the nightmare for Brazil couldn’t get any worse, its soccer archrival, Argentina, will get a chance to lift the World Cup trophy, and the “Gauchos” could be dancing the tango on its most hallowed soccer ground, the Maracana stadium. Tango has thus far been a solid squad, but no victory has come with any stunning play. It has been a challenging run thus far, and the team will need a strong performance from Messi and a tight defense to bring home the Cup.

Germany and Argentina have met in the World Cup finals on two previous occasions, splitting the wins. And on Sunday, we will get to see one of the most anticipated World Cup matches in a generation. Two soccer power houses, with different mentalities and styles of play, will hopefully show off a fine display of skill, but ultimately, the Cup will go to the side with the most discipline. Who will get bragging rights?  It is clear which team will be getting the most support from the host nation—they are also the favorite, so I’m cheering for the underdog. Go, Tango!

Photo by

A Bittersweet Victory Against Colombia

A Bittersweet Victory Against Colombia

Brazil advanced to the semifinals by what was considered by many Brazilians as a bittersweet victory over Colombia. Fifty-four fouls were accrued in the eventful match between the 2 countries this past Friday. That number makes it the match with the most recorded fouls at this year’s World Cup. One in particular stands out. At 88 minutes, with Brazil up 2-1, Neymar Jr was struck in the back by Camilo Zúñiga’s knee. The injury resulted in a broken vertebra and the Brazilian soccer star knocked out of further play.

When the news broke that Neymar would not be able to play in the semifinal against Germany, fans and players became angry that “the attack” did not garner a yellow card for Zúñiga, who Brazilians believe acted intentionally to injure Brazil’s star player. But what is a World Cup quarterfinal without some controversy, right?

Germany was to be a difficult opponent for whichever team advanced, but with Neymar and Thiago Silva now not playing for Brazil in this semifinal contest, the host country may end up as the underdog.

Still, anything can happen in the World Cup, as we’ve already experienced.

Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images. 

SciTourney Knock-Out Round

It is Time To Make Your Knock-Out Round Picks

The field of 16 has been set.

Friday, June 27 will be a day of no World Cup matches as the players, coaches, and fans prepare for the single-elimination round that starts on Saturday, June 28.

Friday may be a rest day for the players, but not for the 800+ SciTourney contestants.

You will have until Saturday, June 28 at 10:00 am CDT (UTC-5 hours) to make your Knock-Out Round picks.

Will the host nation, Brazil, be the last team standing come July 13? Will “orange fever” still be glowing, come the final match? Will Costa Rica, surprising winner of Group D, make it as far as the semifinals?

You decide.

USA vs Portugal World Cup 2014

All bets are off?

One word underscores this World Cup so far: WOW!  Well, actually there are many words that could express the matches we have already seen: sensational, unreal, phenomenal … and I could go on and on. With all the upsets and potential Cinderella teams out there, I almost feel like I am watching an American NCAA March Madness tournament.

The starting excitement, at least for me, was the USA (“my”) team finally defeating one of its most formidable foes over the past few World Cups: Ghana. After USA got knocked out the past 2 tourneys by Ghana, it was nice to see that “that” did not happen again this time around. This match had me worried even before the kickoff, and during play Ghana had some pretty awesome opportunities to make it ugly for USA. However the USA team defense held strong, and excellent goalkeeping kept USA ahead, with the team next scheduled to meet Portugal.

I was on pins and needles, going into the USA vs Portugal match. I thought “we” might have a strong showing, but then Portugal scored in the first 5 minutes, and I was suddenly feeling a little worried. USA gained back its composure for the rest of the game, scoring 2 tremendous goals to go ahead of Portugal in score. Then during stoppage time, Ronaldo (one of Portugal’s forwards) did what he does best on one of the few USA mistakes—capitalizing on this error, he made a beautiful cross for a header goal, resulting in a draw score for this match. Of course I’ll take the draw over a loss, but a win would have been that much sweeter.

Going into the USA vs Germany match, I am feeling pretty good.  If USA can once again maintain possession and get some good looks on goal, I think we can advance to the next round of 16. It will be tough, as Germany is always tough, but overall it should be a good game.

So, raise your hand if:

….you predicted Spain would have a total meltdown and get knocked out of competition early on—getting a schooling by the Dutch, and then suffering a loss to Chile, for final elimination?

….you predicted that Costa Rica would come out of the gates like gang busters, and qualify for the next round, with 2 straight wins over Uruguay and an always tough Italian team?

….you thought Germany would completely dismantle the Portuguese defense for an impressive 4-0 win?

….you predicted that Croatia would also completely dismantle the Cameroonian defense for another impressive goal scoring barrage?

For each of these games I am afraid to admit that I went with these predictions and believed Spain would have their way in their group, and Portugal and Germany would have a much closer game. I also thought that Brazil would be having an easier time in its matches. After watching many of these games, I can see why Futbol is the most popular sport in the world.  It never ceases to amaze me how a single goal, or a strong offensive counter can completely change the momentum of a game and psychologically shut down opponents as evidenced in Spain’s 2 straight losses.

Well let’s sit back and see how the rest of the group matches work out, and who will advance to the next knockout stage of 16.

Croatia vs Cameroon

Croatia vs. Mexico—All In or Nothing

Since the draw that determined the Group A teams, a Croatia vs. Mexico clash was predicted to be the “final” for this group, and indeed this has become the crucial match of Group A. Each team is in control of its own fate and can determine the entire outcome of Group A standings. Mexico is coming from a spectacular match against the host country, with a keeper that stunned the world with his performance. This Mexican team is full of confidence, composure, and discipline, and it has carried them well so far. They have the advantage coming into Recife, knowing that even a draw will carry them into the round of 16.

After a disappointing opener against Brazil, the Croatian team came into their second game knowing that only 2 wins will book their ticket out of the group. They came back with a great performance against Cameroon, their biggest win in World Cup history. There is plenty of confidence in this team that they can pull off an upset against Mexico today. Needing a win to advance, this team will be on the attack from the start, it is “all in or nothing”.

With the return of Mario Mandžukić as the top striker, the Croatian attack has been re-energized and will be a real threat to the Mexico defense. Super Mario, as he is known in Croatia, will likely be the deciding factor in this game, and I’m predicting his goals will carry Croatia to a historic win over Mexico. These 2 countries have met once before at the 2002 World Cup, with Mexico advancing. So this is an opportunity for Croatia to pay back an old debt.

Spain vs Chile World Cup 2014 Match

Alea iacta est (“The die is cast”)

What a first week of the Championship! I’m pleased by the quality of most games and the huge number of goals compared to the World Cup in South Africa. Unlike club football (like the European Champions League), where the same teams tend to play in the final rounds, the World Cup always has surprises. As a Belgian, I’m of course happy with our 2-1 win over Algeria and the 1-1 draw between Russia and South Korea, but as a football fan, I’m really excited about Chile’s and Mexico’s performances, so far. The way they played against Spain and Brazil, respectively, was impressive. Those that confirm their status are Belgium’s neighbors Germany (how solid can a team be?) and the Netherlands (although the game against Australia wasn’t as good as the one against Spain).

The disappointment comes from Nigeria, Cameroon, England, and Spain. This said, Spain was twice European Champion in the last 10 years and World Champion in 2010. The almost unbeatable generation of “tiki taka footballers” comes to an end. It’s great for neutral fans to see someone else win, but we have all enjoyed watching artists like Iniesta, Xavi, Ramos, Casillas, and Torres over the last several years. I know they’re currently getting slaughtered in their own media, but don’t forget what this generation achieved. Therefore, I would prefer to say, “Muchas gracias por todo, La Rioja!”

Team USA Standing Tall

Team sequoia/USA Standing Tall

This past Monday sequoia/USA defeated its longtime nemesis, Ghana, in an epic 2-1 victory. The sequoia gene, discovered by Brenman et al. at UCSF in 2001 [1], was named after the trees that occupy a limited area of northern California. The gene plays a role in dendrite branch outgrowth. Dendrites are the projections of a neuron. Their function is to receive messages from other neurons and relay these messages to the cell body. In wild-type, newly hatched Drosophila larvae, dendrites are shorter, and never reach the dorsal midline. When mutated, sequoia dorsal dendrite branches fail to stop growing. The continued growth of these dendritic branches results in their crossing the dorsal midline and interblending with other dendrites. For the purpose of soccer (O.K., football), this mutation could be a team strength. A giant sequoia tree, standing alone, could be blown over. By interlocking its roots with the other trees around it, sequoias are able to stand as a grove against any storm. sequoia/USA will face Germany and Portugal in its upcoming matches. These are 2 of the top 5 FIFA-ranked teams. If sequoia/USA continues to perform as a team, anything is possible.


  1. Brenman JE, Gao FB, Jan LY, Jan YN. (2001) Sequoia, a tramtrack-related zinc finger protein, functions as a pan-neural regulator for dendrite and axon morphogenesis in Drosophila. Dev Cell, 1(5):667–677.

Juliana is a CU Denver graduate student, Research Assistant, and Drosophila aficionado, as well as the creative genius behind her University’s mascot. Follow Juliana on Twitter.

Orange Fever

Orange Fever

Living in the Netherlands during a football World Cup is an experience by itself. Football here is a religion. For a few weeks, the number of people you see dressed in orange is more then you’ll ever see. In fact, almost everyone wears something orange on a game day. It goes from T-shirt to hats, pants to jewelery, and underwear to sunglasses. So, imagine that what you see on TV when they show the Dutch supporters in the stadium is pretty much a nation-wide phenomenon.

Dutch supporters

As if it wasn’t enough, people also decorate cars, streets, anything possible, really. In my city, even the water in the fountains is colored orange.


The food becomes orange. Bakers make special edition cakes, yogurts are orange, and all goods are suddenly packaged in orange recipients.




So far, the Dutch team is doing very well. The victory of starry night over the Spanish amontadillo was a major surprise, but also a true moment of national happiness. People drove around town honking, throwing firecrackers, and drinking loooots of beer.

I think there is a good chance we haven’t seen it all yet, and predict that the Dutch team will go much further in the tournament.

Follow Drosophilista (Sarah) on Twitter or bookmark her blog.


Team USA’s Path to the Final 16

Team USA’s Path to the Final 16

The USA team got their revenge on Ghana by winning with a header from sub John Brooks late in the match. Unfortunately Clint Dempsey suffered a broken nose, while Jozy Altidore left the match in the 23rd minute with a hamstring injury and is questionable for play during the rest of the World Cup. USA will play Portugal later this week, and then will have to contend with Germany the following week.

Germany humiliated Portugal with a 4-0 win, with a hat trick from Muller and a goal from Hummels. Portugal’s Pepe earned a red card and will not play in the match against USA, and 2 Portuguese players were taken out of the Germany match with injuries. These events should give Team USA a good chance to beat Portugal, which would provide the USA men with a boost for the Germany match.

The Germans will be tough contenders for the USA team. The only way Team USA would likely beat the Germans would be to score early and then defend with all their might for the duration of the match, preventing the Germans from scoring any goals.  Tim Howard’s goal keeping in the Ghana match was spectacular. He will have to give the same effort and then some in the match with Germany to keep Muller & Co. from scoring. Good luck to the USA Men’s Team and let’s hope for the best with their upcoming matches against Portugal and Germany.

(Photo credit: AP/Ricardo Mazalan)