Thursday, June 10, 2010

Predictions! Groups G and H

So far, we have two sides (England and Italy) blowing through group play unbeaten. We have five (!) not scoring a point (Algeria, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea).

And we have Europe up to its old tricks in dominating play. Seven of the 12 teams we have identified for the second round hail from Europe, with two from North America, two from South America and just one from Africa.

Today we look at groups G and H to see if any of the trends change.

Group G:

Portugal 2, Ivory Coast 1; Brazil 4, North Korea 0.

Brazil 3, Ivory Coast 2; Portugal 3, North Korea 0.

Ivory Coast 2, North Korea 0; Brazil 1, Portugal 1.

Standings: Brazil 7 points (plus-5 goal differential), Portugal 7 (plus-4), Ivory Coast 3 (plus-o), North Korea 0 (minus-9).

My thoughts: This is the so-called Group of Death (every World Cup has to have one; it's a Fifa rule), but the group looks a bit less deadly with Ivorian superstar striker Didier Drogba apparently out with a broken elbow. The key match is Portugal vs. Ivory Coast in Game 1. Whoever wins is going to the Round of 16, and we like Cristiano Ronaldo and the lads over the Drogba-less Elephants. Brazil also will take care of Ivory Coast in a game with far more goals than no-nonsense coach Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri (Dunga) would like to see put up and, later, with a second-round berth secured, will coast a bit in the match in a draw with the Portuguese -- but still win the group via goal differential. ... Ivory Coast will complete North Korea's utterly miserable World Cup by chalking up the third decisive victory over the Boys from Pyongyang. If it is true that North Korea never televises its team in matches it doesn't win ... well, there won't be anything to watch back home. North Korea was already in trouble, and that was before its national association listed one of its best attacking players as a goalkeeper -- the only position he will be allowed to play. Oops. Good thing North Korea has such a chilled-out government.

Group H:

Chile 2, Honduras 0; Spain 1, Switzerland 1.

Chile 2, Switzerland 1; Spain 2, Honduras 1.

Spain 3, Chile 1; Switzerland 1, Honduras 1.

Standings: Spain 7 points (plus-3), Chile 6 (plus-1), Switzerland 2 (minus-1), Honduras 1 (minus-3).

My thoughts: Spain hasn't been particularly sharp, despite its standing as co-favorite with Brazil, and with striker Fernando Torres not at full speed will be stunned by the on-the-rise Swiss in the opener. But then Del Bosque's crew will get it together, and his stars will shine, with Spain taking the group on the last day of group pay by defeating Chile. ... Chile, however, will have clinched a berth by then by taking care of business against the two lesser teams in the group. ... Switzerland's highlight will be its first-game stunner, but failing to defeat Honduras will doom it to an early exit. ... Little Honduras has had some good moments in the past year, but it has not looked good of late and Wilson Palacios apparently will miss the tournament.

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