Tuesday, 22 June 2010

World Cup so far: Group A and B preview

So the last time I wrote, it was the end of the first round of matches, and there were serious concerns about the lack of goals and truly exciting games. As it turns out, our fears were proven wrong, with the second round of matches providing us with some of the really exciting and entertaining football that we associate with the World Cup. Now every team has played their second game, and we find ourselves with 8 groups with something to play for in each one.

Only two teams have qualified so far (Netherlands & Brazil), and only two have been eliminated (Cameroon & North Korea). From now on the early games are over, and we have 4 games per day. What this means is that there are two games at 3pm (11am here in Brazil), and two games at 7.30pm (3.30pm here). Now what I want to do here is write a wee bit about each group, and preview the two final matches that are ahead, giving you a clear idea about what is at stake, and the conditions needed for each team to progress. So let's begin with Tuesday's games, Groups A and B.


Remaining fixtures: France x South Africa, Mexico x Uruguay (both 1500 BST, 1100 BRT)

Group A has been an interesting one so far, from the exuberant and plucky hosts South Africa, to a failing France side, to the excellent Americans Uruguay and Mexico. Matchday 1 saw every team leave with one point, Mexico being held by a great South Africa performance, and Uruguay and France playing out a bore 0-0 draw. The interesting stuff came in the second matchday, with an impressive Uruguay bringing the hosts down to earth with a 3-0 victory, and Mexico pulling off a relatively unexpected 2-0 victory over France.

Uruguay and Mexico, both with four points, will be expected to qualify. While either France or South Africa would need a big win in their last game, and hope the two Americans do not play out a draw against eachother.

France x South Africa

This should be an interesting match. Both teams know that anything less than a win (and a big win at that) will see them eliminated from the tournament. From a French point of view, this is already a disastrous World Cup, and only reaching the final would redeem them. On the field, results have been extremely disappointing, with only one point from a possible six, and not even one goal scored. Off the field there are more problems, striker Nicolas Anelka has been sent home after criticising boss Raymond Domenech at half time during the Mexico defeat, and Patrice Evra had to be separated from fitness coach Robert Duverne after the two had a heated disagreement in training.

Things have truly gone from bad to worse for Les Bleus, and now Domenech has said there is a possibility that some of his squad "may boycott" this final game against South Africa.

Despite having the same results, the mood in the South Africa camp is much more positive compared to that of the French. Bafana Bafana are on the verge of becoming the first ever host nation to exit the tournament at the group stage, but they are looking to end on a high note with a memorable victory over France.

Mathematically speaking, both nations can still progress to the next stage if either side can win and overcome the goal difference of either Uruguay or Mexico. It may be unlikely, but it is still a definite possibility.

Prediction: Should be a really good competitive game, France will try to do whatever they can to avoid another defeat, but Bafana Bafana will be driven on by thousands of supporters to try and record a famous win.


Mexico x Uruguay

Before the World Cup, many would have expected this one to be the deciding match as to who would secure the second qualifying spot behind France. As it turns out, this is the match between the two sides who top the group and look big favourites to qualify. Mexico and Uruguay have both impressed so far, Uruguay put three past South Africa in their last game, and Mexico outplayed the French and won 2-0. As a reward for their performances previously, both sides now only require one point to qualify, and even a defeat for either side should still see them through to the last 16.

Despite the fact both teams have one foot in the next round, there is still a lot to play for here. Whoever wins the game will finish in first position in the group, meaning they should avoid big-guns Argentina in the last 16, so this game is still going to be competitive.

Prediction: My money is still going to be on a draw, but both teams will go out to win and we should see a good game with two good sides.

Mexico 1x1 Uruguay


Remaining fixtures: Nigeria x Korea Republic, Greece x Argentina (both 1930 BST, 1530 BRT)

Another interesting group so far, early favourites Argentina have strolled to the top as expected, but the real interesting battle will come for second place. South Korea got the group started, with a 2-0 win over Greece, and they were soon joined at the top by Argentina who defeated Nigeria 1-0. The next matchday produced more goals and excitement, as Argentina preserved their 100% record with an emphatic 4-1 defeat over Korea Republic, and Greece recorded their first ever World Cup victory with a 2-1 win against 10-man Nigeria.

Korea Republic look in the best position to finish in second place, but in truth either the Koreans, the Greeks or the Nigerians could find their way into the second round.

Nigeria x Korea Republic

Nigeria go into this last game with zero points and only one goal, but still with a possible chance of qualification. The Super Eagles have been a little unlucky to find themselves with no points, after a pretty good performance against Argentina losing only one goal, but the 2-1 loss against Greece was unforgivable.

Personal errors were to blame for the defeat. It began with star keeper Vincent Enyeama flapping at a long range shot to allow Torosidis to score, and then previously impressive Kaita got himself sent off after a silly outburst, leaving them with only ten men. Their luck seemed completely gone when striker Chinedu Obasi missed a golden opportunity to bring them level late in the game.

On the other hand, the South Koreans have impressed so far. A great performance against Greece got them off to the best possible start, but a 4-1 defeat against Argentina was harsh on the Koreans who had a relatively good game. Many will now believe that second place is South Korea's to lose.

Nigeria's objective is clear, the only scenario that allows them to qualify is if they defeat Korea Republic, and Argentina beat Greece in the other fixture. I'm sure you will agree that it is surely a possible outcome, and the fact that they know only a win will be enough may give them the encouragement and incentive to go for the win. However their opponents are in the completely opposite position, mathematically even if they were to win against Nigeria, they could still be eliminated if Greece were to achieve a better result against the Argentinians.

Prediction: Although the qualification of either of these teams hinges on the other fixture, this one will be exciting. Nigeria need a win, but do not expect Korea to give it up easily.

Nigeria 1x1 Korea Republic

Greece x Argentina

Now Argentina are virtually assured of qualification, needing to lose by three goals or more to have a chance of being eliminated. Even though they are under very little pressure, do not expect Maradona's men to settle for anything less than a victory. Some players may be rested, but there a lot of players who have a lot to prove and will be looking to make it into the first eleven like Kun Aguero, Milito etc.

Greece will be buoyed by the fact they managed to get their first World Cup win in their last game, and now the prospect of qualifying for the next round will have Greek confidence at an all-time high. Losing is not an option for Greece, and they will surely do everything they can to avoid that and better the result of their main qualification rivals Korea Republic.

Prediction: Being in Brazil, this is the game I'll be watching. Should be an interesting one unless Argentina flex their muscles and put the game to bed early. Greece will battle hard, and if they can avoid mistakes, they should give Argentina a good game.

Greece 0x2 ARGENTINA


Owen McGuigan said...

Hello Euan,
I don't watch or follow football at all but I was at my son Michael's wedding on sunday and your mum said I should have a look at your blog. So, I have, and if I was into football, I would certainly come here for a read. Very good. I tried in the sixties to get into football and followed Celtic for a year (66-67), a very good year for Celtic. My mate went to see them and when he came back, we went up in the bread van to Parkhead to see Celtic come back from Lisbon. A great memory. Keep up the good work.
Owen McGuigan

Chas said...

Hooooonnnndaaaaaaaaa!!!!!! What a shot!

CM said...

qual bummer!

Chas said...


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