With the World Cup right around the corner, it is time to follow suit from jgome and offer up my predictions on just what happens in South Africa over the course of the next month. Instead of waiting to unveil them day-by-day, however, I just decided to analyze every match in group play. So, with that being said, I bring you how I feel the world’s biggest sporting event will breakdown by group, followed by the Round of 16, Round of 8, Semifinals and, finally, Championship game within the coming days. Enjoy:
South Africa vs. Mexico: MEX def. SA (2-1) -> Expect Giovani dos Santos to have a monster World Cup. He begins this in the opener in South Africa, scoring a goal and leading his country to a defeat of Bafana.
Uruguay vs. France: FRA/URU draw (1-1) -> Neither of these teams excites me entirely. France forgot to add some firepower to their roster (Nasri, Benzema, Vieira might have helped) and, therefore, will suffer the consequences in South Africa. Uruguay has Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez…and now you’re hearing crickets. Why? Because nobody knows anyone else on this roster full of no-names. Still yet, they tough out a 1-1 tie in their opener against the French.
South Africa vs. Uruguay: SA def. URU (1-0) -> Call me crazy, but I see the South Africans pulling out a victory in this one. After losing to Mexico in the opener, Steven Pienaar and Co. play a defensive-oriented game and squeak out the ‘W’. I could see this game penalty-ridden as both teams like to play aggressive.
France vs. Mexico: MEX def. FRA (3-1) -> I am a big fan of the Mexican National Team and see them dominating France in every facet of the game in this one. Andres Guardado is the man of the match, as he chips in a couple of goals for El Tri. I’m just not sold on France this World Cup; the new 4-4-3, I believe, does not fit the personnel that the French have and will become apparent much sooner rather than later.
Mexico vs. Uruguay: MEX/URU draw (2-2) -> I see Mexico coming out a little flat in this one knowing they already have a couple of victories under their belt and look good to advance to the next round. It is also the last chance that Uruguay has in order to try and qualify for the next round, so they should come out pretty amped. I think Suarez finds the back of the net in this one for the Uruguayans; however, they can’t get the victory, tying with Mexico 2-2 after giving up a late goal to, guess who, Giovani dos Santos.
France vs. South Africa: SA def. FRA (2-1) -> What many people fail to take into account is that when you are a host country, you seem to always want to play a little bit harder knowing more is on the line compared to everyone else. This becomes incredibly apparent in this one as South Africa pulls off a miracle and upsets the French, scoring a late goal and sending the crowd in Free State Stadium into utter chaos.
Final Thoughts: Nobody could have foreseen what would ensue out of Group A. France finishing 4th!? That is just entirely not possible. However, anything is possible when it comes to the World Cup and the host, South Africa, does not disappoint it’s fans. Mexico looks like it is a major dark horse to do some more damage. They are clicking on all cylinders going into the Round of 16. I would not want to play them right now.
Group A Results:
South Africa (2-0-1)
(Mexico and South Africa advance to the Round of 16)
Argentina vs. Nigeria: ARG def. NGA (3-0) -> Argentina starts early and doesn’t let off the gas. Messi finally starts to perform in World Cup play and scores a goal for the Argentine National Team as they roll over Nigeria. Not much else to say here.
Korea Republic vs. Greece: GRE def. SKA (3-1) -> The Greeks play a very old-school style of soccer and it will work to their advantage against South Korea. Neither of these teams offer much in my opinion, but it doesn’t stop Greece from pummeling the South Koreans in both teams respective openers. Georgios Samaras scores a couple of goals and Greece gets superb goalie play. Should be an easy one.
Greece vs. Nigeria: NGA def. GRE (2-0) -> Somewhat of a dud for Greece as they can’t seem to find the back of the net in this one. Nigeria plays much better than it did against Argentina and Yakubu Aiyegbeni scores an absolutely marvelous goal for The Super Eagles. Great bounce-back game for Nigeria.
Argentina vs. Korea Republic: ARG def. SKA (5-1) -> Poor, poor South Korea. Perhaps they were just happy to be here. This is obvious as they get decimated by Argentina in this one. Messi continues right where he left off against Nigeria and scores a hat trick. That ups his goal total to 4 in 2 games. Argentina is sitting pretty for the Round of 16 after this game.
Nigeria vs. Korea Republic: NGA def. SKA (4-2) -> South Korea gets out to an early lead, 1-0, and then looks like they are cruising to victory after scoring again in the 28th minute. However, that is when The Super Eagles turn it on and score 4 unanswered goals, highlighted by a beauty of a goal by Osaze Odemwingie. Well South Korea, maybe in 4 years…right?
Greece vs. Argentina: ARG def. GRE (2-1) -> A lot closer than it should be, Argentina just gets by the Greeks. Messi is held in check this game, but it opens the door for Gonzalo Higuain to get in on the action, scoring a nice goal and the difference maker in this 2-1 match. Argentina is now 3-0-0 and ready to rock ‘n roll into the Round of 16.
Final Thoughts: The first thing that jumps out at me is that there are no draws in this group. Kind of interesting if you think about it. Nigeria did a great job of bouncing back after getting creamed in the opener against Argentina. Speaking of, the Argentinians look like a beast. This should bode well for them heading into the Round of 16. The Greeks gave a nice showing in South Africa, but the 2-0 dud against Nigeria ended up costing them dearly.
Group B Results:
Korea Republic (0-0-3)
(Argentina and Nigeria advance to the Round of 16)
England vs. USA: ENG/USA draw (1-1) -> Don’t sleep on the Americans. England will come into this game supremely confident and it should be. They are the favorites to win this group; the problem is nobody told the U.S. They actually outplay England in this one and Jozy Altidore starts to become a household name, heading in the equalizer and giving the USMNT a tie with the Brits in the opener.
Algeria vs. Slovenia: ALG/SLV draw (0-0) -> 2 games down. 2 draws. This is, perhaps, the most boring game out of any group match. Neither team seems to get in rhythm and, as a result, neither team puts one in the goal. Slovenia comes close to scoring late, but it is to be denied. Polokwane could have seen a lot better game than this one.
Slovenia vs. USA: USA def. SLV (1-0) -> The U.S. fights in this one. It has to. Goals are at a premium as Clint Dempsey scores the only goal of the match, brought on by a brilliant pass from Landon Donovan. For the USMNT, I suppose a win is a win. The Slovenians, however, cannot be happy after their first 2 games. They have yet to score a goal and look incredibly vulnerable on defense. Nothing gets easier for them going forward as they still have to play England. Ouch.
England vs. Algeria: ENG def. ALG (4-1) -> Wayne Rooney puts on a show against the Algerians, scoring a hat trick and putting every team on alert that he has shown up to the World Cup ready to do work. The game against the U.S. was a disappointment to England, as it probably should be, so why not take it out on lowly Algeria? That is exactly what happens. Great bounce-back by the Brits.
Slovenia vs. England: ENG def. SLV (3-1) -> England goes back to what it does best and that is scoring in bunches. Rooney chips in another, and Steven Gerrard rips one from 30 yards out, scoring an amazing goal, as England cruises yet again. As for Slovenia, an incredibly disappointing showing for a team that had aspirations of advancing to the Round of 16. Better luck next time, boys.
USA vs. Algeria: USA def. ALG (3-0) -> The U.S. realizes that this could be a trap game. They are sitting pretty and cannot let up. They don’t. They roll in this one, 3-0, as Landon Donovan scores his first goal of the World Cup and Jozy Altidore scores his 2nd. The USMNT has to be thrilled knowing they will advance to the Round of 16. Algeria, on the other hand, followed the Slovenians and scored just 1 goal in 3 games. That has to be hard to swallow for The Desert Foxes.
Final Thoughts: England did what it was supposed to do and wins the group (on goal differential), but the Americans look very intriguing. They could pose problems heading into the Round of 16, if they get the right match-up of course. England looks like a top-3 favorite to win the World Cup. Algeria and Slovenia never really had a chance to be completely honest.
Group C Results:
(England and USA advance to the Round of 16)
Germany vs. Australia: GER def. AUS (2-0) -> Man, I really love to watch the Socceroos. I don’t know what it is about them, but I just do. Sadly, it won’t really matter in this one as they get outplayed in every facet of the game by their German counterparts. The loss of Michael Ballack certainly hurts the Germans, but it is not obvious in this one, as one of the guy’s looking to pick up the slack, Mesut Ozil, scores a great goal. Germany rolls.
Serbia vs. Ghana: SER def. GHA (3-2) -> Beli Orlovi vs. The Black Stars. This is set to be one of the best group games in this year’s World Cup. Both teams believe that they can advance to the second round and both show off why they believe that in this one. Goal scoring is rampant in this match, with Serbia scoring a late goal in the 86th minute by Milan Jovanovic to put them up for good, 3-2. It really is a tough loss to swallow for Ghana.
Germany vs. Serbia: SER def. GER (2-1) -> Not as shocking of an outcome as some might believe after watching this match. Why? Because Serbia is for real, especially with a back-line that features Nemanja Vidic and Branislav Ivanovic. They come out of the gates early, scoring a goal in just the 8th minute. From there they play smart, albeit giving up a goal right before the half, but scoring the go-ahead goal just 5 minutes into the second half. Serbia looks very, very dangerous.
Ghana vs. Australia: GHA def. AUS (2-1) -> Ghana features a 21-year-old sensation in Kwadwo Asamoah, and he looks the part of a superstar in this one, scoring a pair of goals and leading them to a victory over Australia. Ghana realizes that it has to have a win in this one; it accomplishes just that. As for Australia, things look pretty much over for them.
Ghana vs. Germany: GER def. GHA (4-3) -> Definitely the most pivotal game in the group, this game flashes fireworks from the beginning, with 2 goals scored within the first 10 minutes. It goes down to the wire, and that is when Miroslav Klose rips one upper-90, scoring a goal in stoppage time, and giving Die Mannschaft the victory. An instant classic. And the game that puts Germany through to the Round of 16.
Australia vs. Serbia: AUS/SER draw (2-2) -> The Aussies fight hard in this one to muster up some dignity and not head out of South Africa with 3 losses. They do just that, but it results in a tie rather than a victory. Following suit from Mexico, the Serbs come out flat in this one and take the Socceroos a little too lightly. This, however, does not cost them, getting out with a draw and a first-place finish in Group D.
Final Thoughts: Very few people had Serbia winning this group. But Serbia came out with the tenacity to do just that and they did it. They look like a team that has hopes of going beyond just the Round of 16. With the way they played in the group matches, I would say that is entirely possible. Germany just did get in, with the defeat of Ghana, and looks to do some damage as well now that they are through to the second round. As for Ghana, they fought extremely hard without their best player, Michael Essien, but in the end, it was just not enough for them to advance.
Group D Results:
(Serbia and Germany advance to the Round of 16)
Netherlands vs. Denmark: NET def. DEN (4-2) -> Many people see the Danes as being a surprise team to advance to the Round of 16. It is not very apparent in this one, as Holland scores early and often. Wesley Sneijder, who I believe will be huge in this World Cup, scores a goal and leads the Dutch to a rather easy victory. Other than a late cheapie by Denmark, the Netherlands plays a very good game and looks to be in top form.
Japan vs. Cameroon: CAM def. JPN (3-1) -> Too much Samuel Eto’o in this one. Yes, I understand that he was acting like a diva before the World Cup. It doesn’t matter. He scores a couple of goals and Cameroon takes care of Japan like it was supposed to. Shunsuke Nakamura looks to be a man on an island; the only guy on his team that really looks like he can compete with the other teams in this group. That will probably spell disaster for Japan.
Netherlands vs. Japan: NET def. JPN (3-0) -> Japan never had a chance in this one. Wesley Sneijder picks up right where he left off and scores another and the Oranje put this one away with ease. The Netherlands now have 7 goals in just 2 games. It is obvious that they came to South Africa ready to do some major damage and they have done just that up to this point. Up next for them: Denmark.
Cameroon vs. Denmark: CAM def. DEN (1-0) -> A very defensive-oriented game, only one goal is scored in this one. Cameroon is the beneficiary of this one goal and it puts them right where they need to be to advance to the next round. Of course, they have to go through the Dutch to do so, but it is possible. As for Denmark, they really needed this win. At the very least, a draw. Now down 0-2, they are pretty much out of it. They have to be hanging their heads.
Denmark vs. Japan: DEN def. JPN (2-0) -> Denmark had been, pretty much, locked up heading into this one. Severely upset with their showing, and knowing they were going home, they still come out with some ferocity and take care of the Japanese, 2-0. Nicklas Bendtner finally gets on the scoreboard with his first goal of the World Cup. Still yet, a sour taste is left in the Danes’ mouth knowing they have to wait another 4 years.
Cameroon vs. Netherlands: NET def. CAM (3-1) -> Cameroon scores first in this one, but it is Holland who takes the victory, scoring 3 unanswered goals. Arjen Robben scores against The Indomitable Lions, and Wesley Sneijder chips in another, marking the third time he has done so in as many games. The Dutch seem destined to be one of the last team’s left standing.
Final Thoughts: The Netherlands look absolutely unreal so far. Wesley Sneijder has been on-point ever since he stepped off of the plane, and the defense looks incredibly stout. Cameroon had a very nice showing in group play and looks to continue this trend into the second round. Perhaps, with the right match-up, they can do just that. Denmark definitely has to go down as one of the biggest disappointments of the tournament. They really believed they had what it took to advance, yet never could find the right formula to gain victories.
Group E Results:
(Netherlands and Cameroon advance to the Round of 16)
Italy vs. Paraguay: PAR def. ITA (2-1) -> A huge upset in the minds of many, La Albirroja comes out clicking on all cylinders in this one. Because of this, Green Point Stadium is in for a treat, watching Paraguay steal one from the Italians. Roque Santa Cruz might become a name that many know after this game because he steps up and delivers the go-ahead goal just a few minutes before stoppage time and plays extremely well throughout the entire match. The Italians are left stunned after this game. They should be.
New Zealand vs. Slovakia: SLO def. NZ (4-1) -> Slovakia looks to play the part of bully in this one, thrashing the All Whites, 4-1. To be completely honest, this one was never in question as Slovakia keeps a steady diet of fast-paced scoring and hard-nosed defense. Boys and girls, get ready for Marek Hamsik to emerge in this World Cup. He scores twice against New Zealand. Slovakia did well to show the soccer world what they are capable of.
Slovakia vs. Paraguay: SLO/PAR draw (0-0) -> No goals are scored in this one, but it is far from what one would call a boring match. Tactically, both teams play brilliant. Both teams also have opportunities to score, yet fail to. Paraguay is sitting very nice right now with a victory against Italy under their belt and a date with New Zealand up next. As for Slovakia, playing a pissed off Italian team might not be real fun. They really needed this victory.
Italy vs. New Zealand: ITA def. NZ (6-1) -> Wow. Talk about bouncing back. The Azzuri had to have this victory, but let’s be honest, was there ever really any doubt that they would win this one? I didn’t think so. Marcello Lippi’s squad did exactly what it had to do with it’s back’s against the wall. Now, a game against Slovakia should dictate the outcome of this group.
Slovakia vs. Italy: ITA def. SLO (3-2) -> A very close game. Italy just edges Slovakia in this one, with a late goal by Andrea Pirlo. Marek Hamlik plays marvelous in this one, scoring another goal, but it is not enough to give his country a victory. What a tough loss for a Slovakian team that played so well this entire World Cup. As for the Italians, a huge win for them, and one that will propel them into the Round of 16.
Paraguay vs. New Zealand: PAR def. NZ (2-0) -> Another game, another victory for Paraguay. Who would have thought they would play this good? With the win, La Albirroja wins Group F. A stunning turn of events that almost nobody foresaw coming. The All Whites go home after losing all 3 of their games. Perhaps New Zealand should just stick to rugby.
Final Thoughts: By far, the craziest group winner in this year’s World Cup. Many thought Italy would win this one without so much as an inkling of effort. However, that was not to be the case as Paraguay came out of absolutely nowhere to take first-place. Even if Paraguay is ousted in the Round of 16, they have to be extremely pleased with the way their team has played up to this point. Italy received a major scare in the opener, but did what it was supposed to do and won it’s next 2 games. Slovakia had high hopes, but they were dashed in their 3-2 loss to Italy. All-in-all, a great group to watch due to the high drama involved.
Group F Results:
New Zealand (0-0-3)
(Paraguay and Italy advance to the Round of 16)
Ivory Coast vs. Portugal: IVC/POR draw (2-2) -> This, to me, is the most important match of the entire group. The Elephants realize this and come out firing against the Portuguese scoring the first goal of the match. Cristiano Ronaldo, however, scores the equalizer, and later on, the go-ahead. The Ivory Coast scores their second goal of the game quickly after that, and the game ends in a 2-2 tie. A great showing for both teams and an excellent opener for this group.
Brazil vs. Korea DPR: BRA def. NKA (2-1) -> I really believe the North Koreans are a good team. And Jong Tae-Se is a damn good player. The problem is, they are in a ridiculously hard group. Facing Brazil first doesn’t help, either. Defensively, North Korea has all the making’s of being a team that won’t surrender very many goals and they hold true to form in this one. However, they give up one too many as they fall in their opener, 2-1. But this still has to seem like somewhat of a moral victory for the North Koreans, who haven’t been to the World Cup since 1966.
Brazil vs. Ivory Coast: BRA/IVC draw (1-1) -> Sven Goran-Eriksson’s boys really show a lot of heart in this one against A Selecao. Didier Drogba scores his second goal in as many games and, going into the 80th minute, it looks like Ivory Coast might steal one from Brazil. However, that’s when Kaka does what he does best: puts one in the back of the net to tie up the match and knock the wind out of the Ivory Coast. What a win it would have been for The Elephants, who have just one World Cup win to date ever. And a huge save for Brazil who still have Portugal left to play.
Portugal vs. Korea DPR: POR def. NKA (1-0) -> The problem with North Korea is that what they have defensively cannot make up for what they don’t have offensively. And that is not a whole lot, outside of Tae-Se. Deco proves to be the reason for the Portuguese win, as he uses his header skills to put Seleccao das Quinas up for good sometime after the 60th minute. Another tough loss for the North Koreans who have played exceptionally well despite 2 losses.
Portugal vs. Brazil: BRA def. POR (3-1) -> Brazil always seems to deliver when it has to and this game is no exception. Knowing that a win is absolutely crucial, Brazil does what it has to do and controls the tempo of this match from start to finish. Luis Fabiano is dynamic in this one, putting 2 goals in the back of the net. Julio Cesar also does a beautiful job of goal-keeping for Brazil. Portugal does not do well with this defeat. They need some help from the North Koreans if they are to advance to the Round of 16.
Korea DPR vs. Ivory Coast: NKA def. IVC (2-1) -> What a heart-breaking way to go out of the World Cup if you are the Ivory Coast. Just when it looked like they might advance to the second round for the first time ever, the North Koreans wake up just enough offensively to propel them past The Elephants and push the Ivory Coast from a possible 2nd-place finish to 4th. Jong Tae-Se shows why he is a name that needs to be remembered scoring a huge goal in this one. Didier Drogba and Co. have to be in shock. And Portugal just breathed a huge sigh of relief. A gift basket of some type is surely needed to be sent the North Koreans way.
Final Thoughts: What an exciting group. Brazil was favored to win and they did what they needed to do, even though they started off somewhat sluggishly. The real battle, it seemed, would be between Portugal and Ivory Coast for second-place. It looked as though The Elephants could sneak in, however, it was not to be as the North Koreans played spoiler and took care of them, pushing them all the way down to fourth-place. Speaking of North Korea, they played extremely well and were strong from the get-go. If they had another goal scorer to go along with Jong Tae-Se, perhaps they could have been the one’s advancing. Still yet, great showing for Choilima.
Group G Results:
Korea DPR (1-0-2)
Ivory Coast (0-2-1)
(Brazil and Portugal advance to the Round of 16)
Honduras vs. Chile: CHI def. HON (2-1) -> I really think Chile could be a breakout team in this year’s World Cup and they deliver in the opener against a very athletic Honduras team. Led by injury fill-in Esteban Paredes, La Roja does what it has to do to get the win against Honduras. Defensively, Chile looks amazing; a surprise to many who thought the defense would suffer, especially against an athletic team like Honduras. That, however, is not the case. A huge win to start out the 2010 World Cup for Chile.
Spain vs. Switzerland: ESP def. SWI (2-0) -> This may actually come as a disappointing game to the Spanish who are the favorites to win the World Cup. However, a win is a win in the World Cup and none should be taken lightly. A huge goal by David Villa puts the Spaniards up early and they notch another later on in the match. Switzerland looks very slow in this one. Of course, matching up against a superpower like Spain can certainly have that effect. Not a good showing for the Swiss at all.
Chile vs. Switzerland: CHI def. SWI (4-1) -> Nobody knows what got into La Roja, but they deliver a second consecutive victory, this time at the hands of the Swiss. Again, Switzerland looks overmatched from the get-go and can never seem to regain their composure. 21-year-old Alexis Sanchez delivers 2 goals for Chile and looks magnificent in this one. Back from injury, star striker Humberto Suazo also chips in another. Chile looks incredible. The same cannot be said for Schweizer Nati.
Spain vs. Honduras: ESP def. HON (3-0) -> Even though the score indicates 3-0, a wide margin, the game is even more lop-sided than that. Honduras is a team that loves to run, but they play very poorly in this one and basically get blown out. Fernando Torres scores his first of the World Cup as well as Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos. An excellent match for La Furia Roja who are now, along with Chile, completely in control of this group and ready to advance to the Round of 16.
Chile vs. Spain: ESP def. CHI (1-0) -> A battle for first-place in the group, the game is marred by costly penalties to both teams and ugly play. Spain, however, squeaks in a goal later on in the contest and pulls out the victory. Chile seems very agitated after the game and realize they let a winnable game slip out of their hands. Nevertheless, both teams will be advancing to the second round, so not all is lost.
Switzerland vs. Honduras: HON def. SWI (3-2) -> Honduras finally show off their athleticism and beats a weaker Swiss team. Defensively they struggle, but Wilson Palacios and David Suazo lead the charge. For Honduras, it’s somewhat of a bittersweet win, allowing them to build off of this for the next World Cup. For the Swiss, it’s just the topper to a horrible showing.
Final Thoughts: Spain performed like they should, winning all 3 of their games and advancing to the next round. Expect Torres and Villa to continue to shine. Chile was somewhat of a surprise team, but not too much of one. Talent wise, they showed they could play with the best (Spain) and took care of the game’s they needed to win (Honduras & Switzerland). They are an interesting team to watch going forward because with the right match-up, they could possibly advance another round. Switzerland performed about as badly as any team in this year’s World Cup (I put them right up there with France and Denmark). Not a very good distinction to have.
Group H Results:
(Spain and Chile advance to the Round of 16)