Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Cup the final 16...without the two finalists from 4 years back!

I realize that is no longer a news bulletin - that France and Italy both ended bottom of their group and are already home. However there are 8 games coming up over the next 4 days to determine who reach the 1/4 finals. So let us look at the match ups:

Uruguay v South Korea: South Korea surprised me by emerging as the runner up from Group B, they did get throttled by Argentina but still took care of business against Greece. South Korea, as they have in the past, play very disciplined and take their chances when given to them. They are facing a slightly surprising Group A leader - Uruguay. The South American squad looked like their typical plodding self against France, but the last two games with Cavani slotted up front shouldering Suarez, permits Forlan to slot back as a true #10 which has completely changed their dynamic. They remain strong defensively, have yet to concede a goal, but with the 3 head monster on attack are very dangerous. Forlan has been given the freedom to roam and set up the top two strikers. I do not see the South Korean's stopping Suarez and Forlan for 90 minutes. Uruguay 2 - South Korea 0

United States v Ghana: Ah how things change and how quickly...watching the US v Algeria game I was texting with some friends, staunch supporters of the US, clearly as the misses were piling up it was clear that the frustration was growing and not much was expected. Of course Landycakes, who I must say was completely invisible until injury time, scored a famous goal propelling the US into the last 16. This game is difficult for me to call. Ghana is the lone representative from the African continent, same as 4 years ago. They have looked good at times but the fact they have not scored from open play is a concern. On the flip side, the United States have been prone to the dramatic - coming from 2 goals down against Slovenia and the 90+ minute goal against Algeria. However let us not forget that Ghana is not Slovenia or Algeria....Throw in the fact that the United States had more disallowed goals than France had goals...I was listening to a footy podcast from France and they made a great point, is the US midfield playing the best of all the remaining nations? Could make the case for Bradley, Dempsey, et al.  The key will be how Bradley will command the midfield, can he get involved in the offense without being burned by Ghanaian counters? If he is forced to hold defensively it will take away an important element to the US attack. I think this will be a very tight match, the US is prone to some defensive lapses but also ready for the dramatic. I think the latter will continue for one more game.United States 1 - Ghana 1, US through on PKs 4-3.

Germany v England: No need to set up this rivalry. Just waiting to see a British tabloid show Germany players with "pointy" helmets from 1914, or having some of the British players in the soup bowl helmets from 1939!! England probably never thought it would be in this position, but a poor showing against Algeria sees them through as the second place team, and the road to the finals include Germany and could include - Argentina and Spain...ouch. Of course now the "Capello is a genius" is back....sort of. Germany might be without Boateng and Schweinsteiger which could prove costly for the German midfield. Of course England have their own concerns with Rooney's ankle injury. Also, who on the English side will check Ozil? Barry? Not sure the Manchester City midfielder has the speed necessary to check the German creative player. I think the issues with England have really not been resolved - how to play Lamps and Gerrard, can Rooney turn it on, what about the defense and when will their goalkeeping cost them? I just see the German football machine overwhelming a English team still in turmoil and doing so in typical German fashion - penalty shoot out! Germany 2 - England 2, Germany win in PKs 5-3.

Argentina v Mexico: El Tri believe they are on the same level as their South American rivals - Brazil and Argentina - not sure I agree with that, but anyways. 4 years ago it took a Maxi Rodriguez lightening bolt to beat Mexico at the same stage.

Unfortunately for Mexico, I am not sure the game will be as close. Mexico did not look great in the second half against South Africa and not sure they ever really threatened Uruguay. Did they peek in their second game against France? Dos Santos will be the X-factor, not sure the Argentine back 4 has the right fullbacks to stop the young winger. However I am not sure Mexico can stop the offensive juggernaut that is Argentina. Messi - Higuain - Tevez will be hard to check. Argentina 2 - Mexico 0

Holland v Slovakia: The former other 1/2 of Czechoslovakia played an incredible match against Italy to knock out the 2006 World Cup champions and showed they are not afraid of playing the big nations of footballing...however Holland is not the Azzurri. The Dutch have won their 3 group games, but have not hit their peek...what you always need to do in a tournament like this - win and move on, build momentum. With Robben and Van Persie, getting Elia off the bench and Sneijder pulling some strings, the offense is something that Slovakia will not be able to match or check. Slovakia played their "finals" against Italy. Holland 3 - Slovakia 0

Brazil v Chile: This game might be tighter than it would appear. Brazil did defeat Chile twice in qualifiers on a combined 7-2 score line. However the Samba Boys might be facing some injury concerns - Melo came off today with what appeared to be a slight knock. Chile has played without fear during the group matches and have some offensive fire power, especially on the wings that might give the Brazilian full backs trouble. Maicon and Bastos are so prone to push high up the pitch, will that open up the space for the like of Sanchez who could punish the Brazilians. The question is can Chile contain - Elano, Kaka, Robinho and Fabiano...I do not think the Chile defense can. Brazil 4 - Chile 1

Paraguay v Japan: Um okay. I wonder what the odds were on this match up when the World Cup started. The South Americans topped their group with the defending champions, Italy,in last place. Not sure that reflects the ability of danger posed by Paraguay. On the flip side the Japanese have surprised many, especially myself. Scoring 2 great free kicks against a very lack luster danish side. Not sure what to make of this match, I think that Paraguay do not have the creative ability on the offensive side to break down the Japanese, while the Japanese have some great ability through the likes of Honda to break you down from set pieces. Japan 1 - Paraguay 0

Spain v Portugal: The Iberian derby! Spain has come into this tournament with the weight of a favorite clearly on its shoulders when it dropped its first game 1-0 to the Swiss. However they have since then put together 2 very solid performances. David Villa is completely unstoppable, Iniesta and Xavi looked like they did for Barcelona in their last match. If Torres ever wakes up, look out. On the other side, Portugal still have the same problems as to prior World Cup - who is their striker? Don't tell me that they scored 7 goals against North Korea so one should not worry about their scoring issues. They are playing Spain not North Korea next round. If the Brazil game is any indication, I think the Portuguese will play tough defense and look to counter through Ronaldo. While Spain will just keep the ball and bide their time to spring Villa or Torres. In the end I think Torres - Villa - Xavi - Iniesta are stronger than Ronaldo. Spain 1- Portugal 0

Should be a great round of 16, many teams we did not expect, but that makes an exciting World Cup. I think we should also have a World Cup 2006 replay between Italy and France, they both could use the practice!

The World Cup starts in earnest this weekend!


sheshel said...

Germany will meet Argentina in the quarter-finals.
Spirit Germany....Cayoooo...

GFC said...

I think that 1/4 final match will be the one to watch as well as Brazil v Holland. I think the winners of these two matches will meet for the title.

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