Today’s column is brought to us by the letters A through H. Every team has played one group game. Now comes the most important game of the group stage. Game two. (You can read my reasoning on why it’s the most important here.)
Let’s take a look at each group and see where everyone stands, who’s in good position, who needs a little help and how they got there. Just to make sure everyone is on the same page: teams get 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, 0 points for a loss. Goal differential is the first tie breaker. (i.e. if you score 3 goals and give up 1 you have a +2 goal differential. Teams are listed in order of place in their group.)
Teams: South Africa, Mexico, France, Uruguay
Each team gained one point in their first game with a draw. Mexico and South Africa actually have a slight advantage as total goals scored is the second tie breaker and they have least put one Jubalani in the net. (As I write this the South Africa v. Uruguay game is later today.) South Africa has looked the best of the four teams. France has looked the worst. They also have complained the most. I really hope the French don’t make it out of this group.
Who I Like: I think South Africa and Mexico get out this group. The just looked really good, while France and Uruguay were both really sloppy. Plus no host country has failed to get out of group. I never bet against never, ever.
Teams: South Korea, Argentina, Nigeria, Greece
South Korea shocked many when they dominated the Greeks in their first game. They are tied with Argentina on top of the group and one will take a strangle hold on the group if they can secure three more points as they face off Thursday. Nigeria and Greece will both be playing hard for a win which would keep them in good position heading into the final group game. A tie for the two teams will all but seal their fate.
Who I Like: A win in the first game is huge. Being the best two teams in the group means a lot as well. I think South Korea and Argentina advance easily.
Teams: Slovenia, United States, England, Algeria
The Slovenians grabbed a late goal against a 10 man Algerian side to take the top spot in Group C coming out of the first matches. The team from the small country of only 2 million people hold their own fate in their hands. The USA/England draw has forced the two favorites hands a bit coming into game two. Both teams will be looking for a win Friday to put them in a position they expect to be in. (Man I feel bad for Robert Green, the English Goalkeeper. As a former keeper, things happen sometimes you can’t explain. But when I would mess up and allow a bad goal I was never Lego mocked.)
Who I Like: I still think the United States and English get out of group. They hold their destiny in their own hands.
Teams: Germany, Ghana, Serbia, Australia
Germany looked amazing in their first game against the Soccer-roos and are sitting in control of this group thanks to their +4 differential. Ghana got a late Penalty kick to gain three points and be in good position heading into their match against the Aussies on Saturday. (The Ghana PK has been the only one of the tournament so far, which is a little surprising.)
Who I Like: Germany will skate into the next round. I am not sure if Ghana is good enough, but they just have to win one of their next two, one of those being Germany. I think Australia wins both of their next two games and advances. SOCCER-ROOS! (Now I kinda wish they did have a Kangaroo kicking a soccer ball on their crest. Everyday I’m liking this nickname more and more.)
Teams: Netherlands, Japan, Cameroon, Denmark
The Dutch looked how the Clockwork Orange is supposed to look. Ball control, solid fundamentals and amazing team skill pushed them past the Danes. Denmark helped by giving Holland an own goal to get them going but Orenje still dominated. Japan is easily the best hair team in the tournament. That had to help them beat Cameroon.
Who I Like: The Flying Dutchmen and Denmark move on. The Danes have great team defense and a fantastic counter attack. (I just used six different names to describe the Netherlands…that is ridiculous. The USA can’t get one, the Netherlands have six!)
Teams: Paraguay, Italy, New Zealand, Slovakia
Another group like Group A where all the teams came away with a tie. Paraguay shocked Italy with the first goal, but in the most dramatic goal of the tournament the All Whites scored in the third minute of extra time to get their first ever point in World Cup play. (Yeah, New Zealand has a freaking nickname!)
Who I Like: Italy always finds away to win their group, they’ll get through. Boy I want New Zealand to do it. I would love for them to advance, but they aren’t quite there yet. Paraguay looked pretty good, I think they will get one win in their next two and that will be enough to get through.
Teams: Brazil, Ivory Coast, Portugal, North Korea
Kim Jung Il openly rejects both of Brazil’s goals and is convinced that North Korea got the three points. However that is not the case. North Korea did play a great game against the best team in the World Cup. The three teams that really make this the Group of Death all looked a little shaky in their first game. We’ll see who gets beat up the most.
Who I Like: Brazil has the early advantage getting three points, but they still have to play Ivory Coast and Portugal. Since I can’t pick all three teams to advance, I’m going to pick Brazil and Ivory Coast. Strictly because I hope Ronaldo chokes and never scores a goal.
Teams: Chile, Switzerland, Spain, Honduras
The Swiss Keeper, Diego Benaglio, was absolutely fantastic against Cup favorites Spain. Spain is in a big hole now that two teams in their group won their first games. 8% of teams that lost their first game in the group stage advance to the knockout round.
Who I Like: Spain is done. With Chile and the Swiss gaining 3 points they just have to win or tie in their next two games and they are through. Sorry Spain here is another World Cup disappointment for you.
I have thought this first set of games have been extremely exciting. And unlike 90% of the people, I don’t mind the Vuvuzella. I now have the ability to just ignore them. It’s an inherited trait. Thanks Mom.
Please send any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Kyndra de St. Aubin and I will also be back with another podcast sometime this week. If you missed our first one, .