Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Predictions! For Groups E and F

On to the back half of the group-play matchups.

So far, we have no African or Asian teams advancing. We have one team winning its first three matches: England. And we have three failing to gain a point: Algeria, Australia and South Korea.

Any more extremes coming up? Take a look and see.

Group E:

Netherlands 3, Denmark 1; Cameroon 2, Japan 0.

Netherlands 2, Japan 0; Cameroon 3, Denmark 2.

Denmark 1, Japan 0; Netherlands 3, Cameroon 2.

Standings: Netherlands 9 points (plus-5 differential), Cameroon 6 (plus-2), Denmark 3 (minus-2), Japan 0 (minus-5).

My thoughts: The Netherlands is the class here, a team with panache and scorers galore, even with Arjen Robben out. Robin Van Persie, Dirk Kuyt, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, et al, should score enough to make up for the typical Dutch insistence on going forward, which inevitably yields some counter-attack goals by the opposition. ... Cameroon as the second team out of this group (and first African team to advance) isn't difficult, either. The Indomitable Lions, led by Samuel Eto'o, will have a chance to win the group, but we see the Dutch outscoring them in a madly entertaining third game. ... Denmark is fairly solid, but the other two have too much firepower, and Japan is just overmatched here. Coach Takeshi Okada will be roundly derided for his prediction of a semifinal berth, and fired before Japan gets on the plane home with not only no points ... but no goals.

Group F:

Italy 1, Paraguay 0; Slovakia 2, New Zealand 0.

Paraguay 2, Slovakia 0; Italy 2, New Zealand 0.

Italy 1, Slovakia 0; Paraguay 2, New Zealand 1.

Standings: Italy 9 points (plus-4 differential), Paraguay 6 (plus-2), Slovakia 3 (minus-1), New Zealand 0 (minus-5).

My thoughts: Italy landed in the weakest group of the tournament and may not even break a sweat while playing its usual conservative style -- packing it in on defense and coming forward just enough to get the goal or two it needs to win. If you're betting on the "one team most likely to make the second round," Italy is as good a choice as anyone. Yes, including Spain and Brazil. ... The Paraguay-Slovakia game is the pivotal in determining who gets out of the group. We think the underrated South Americans, led by Roque Santa Cruz and Oscar Cardoza, will not be deterred by their opening defeat against Italy and will bounce back to handle Slovakia, which hasn't played well in about a year and won't last long in its first World Cup appearance. ... But we like the Slovaks to handle semi-professional New Zealand, the weakest side in the tournament. Yes, weaker even than Japan, even though we see the Kiwis scrounging up a goal in the "means nothing" match with the Slovaks.

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