Written by OrangeStar.
As the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa enters the knockout stages, there is a great feeling of anticipation. Over the next four days, spectators worldwide are going to be in for a feast of football, as the sixteen teams remaining in the World Cup gets cut down to just eight. At this stage of the tournament, absolutely anything is possible. Who will go on to win the most coveted prize in international football?
The kick-off for the opening game in the knockout rounds is tonight, and you will notice that some of the biggest names in international football aren’t represented. South Africa, the host nation, missed out on the knockout rounds on goal difference; the first World Cup host to fail to progress past the group stage. Also failing to progress from Group A was France; their implosion left them with just one point from their three group games.
Greece and Nigeria failed to make the cut from Group B, the Nigerians managing to take only a point from their three matches. Greece, in their second World Cup, managed to score their first ever World Cup Finals goal, their first win couldn’t get them into the knockout rounds either. Slovenia and Algeria missed out from a tense, tight Group C, which wasn’t decided until deep in injury time in the final Group Stage match. Landon Donovan managed to score the winner for the USA, and were able to leapfrog Slovenia, and send them home.
Australia, set an almost impossible task after their 4-0 humiliation against Germany in their first Group D fixture, missed out on qualifying for their second consecutive knockout stage, despite putting in a valiant effort against both Ghana and Serbia. Serbia too, missed out on the knockout rounds, even though they managed to pull out an upset win against a ten-man German outfit.
Japan’s amazing 3-1 win over Denmark in the final match from Group E saw the Blue Samurai progress to the knockout round at the Danes expense, while the Netherlands kept their perfect winning record in tact, and sent Cameroon home.
Group F contained possibly the most surprising result of the tournament, with Italy finishing at the bottom of their group; with only two points from their three games. Despite fighting right to the end, it was Slovakia who managed to hold on and win 3-2 in the final match of the Group Stage to send the Italians home. New Zealand was the other team to miss out from the Group. The Kiwi’s, in just their second World Cup, came home with three points, and an ‘undefeated’ status; including holding the World Champions to a 1-1 draw in their second group match.
North Korea got absolutely slaughtered in Group G, losing 7-0 to Portugal in their second match, and 3-0 to the Ivory Coast in the final match of the Group Stage. Unfortunately for the Ivory Coast, they also missed out on the knockout stage; their four points not enough to get past the undefeated Brazilians and Portuguese.
Finally, in Group H, Honduras and Switzerland bowed out of the competition after both gave up numerous chances on goal in their final group stage match, allowing Chile and Spain to progress to the Round of 16. Unfortunately for the Swiss, they couldn’t maintain the form that allowed them to upset the Spanish in their opening match; in fact, they didn’t find the back of the net again in the tournament!
With half the field left by the wayside, it’s now time to have a look at the matches for the Round of 16; to see who might have the potential to make it to the Quarter Finals, and beyond!
URUGUAY vs SOUTH KOREA
Port Elizabeth – June 26
The Uruguayans found some amazing form after their opening Group Stage match, which they drew 0-0 with France; before defeating hosts South Africa 3-0, and sealed top spot in their group with a 1-0 win over Mexico. South Korea turned on the style in their opening match, defeating Greece 2-0, but faltered to a 4-1 loss against Argentina in their second game. However, the Koreans bounced back to secure a 2-2 draw with Nigeria, and won a spot in the Round of 16. However, with their poor result against Argentina, it looks as though South Korea will bow out in their first match against Uruguay.
Uruguay 2, South Korea 0.
USA vs GHANA
Rustenburg – June 26
A goalkeeping error by England’s Robert Green gifted the USA a point in their first match, and a spectacular second-half comeback from a two-goal deficit against Slovenia secured another point for Bob Bradley’s men. However, it was a Landon Donovan winner in the last seconds of injury time against Algeria put the USA through to the Round of 16. Ghana won their opening match against Serbia thanks to a penalty for a handball, and managed a goal by the same means in their second match against Australia, which finished 1-1. In their final game, Ghana lost 1-0 to a German team who seemed content with the result. With the Ghanaians struggling against a ten-man Australia, it seems the USA ma be able to get the better of them.
USA 2, Ghana 1.
GERMANY vs ENGLAND
Bloemfontein – June 27
The German’s played some brilliant football in their opening Group Stage match against Australia, dominating the match to win 4-0. However, after a shock 1-0 loss to Serbia, the Germans seemed surprisingly content with their 1-0 win over Ghana in the final match. England were let down by their last line of defence in their 1-1 draw with the USA first up, with a disappointing draw against Algeria in their second match leaving them in a difficult position heading into the final Group Stage match. Fabio Capello’s changes played off in the last match of the Group Stage, with the Three Lions taking a 1-0 win against Slovenia to book themselves in to the Round of 16. This match looks like it will come right down to the wire; with England struggling for form, though, and the glimmer of Germany’s scintillating outing against Australia posing a threat in the background, it’s possible the Germans may run away with the win.
Germany 0, England 0 (Penalty Shootout).
ARGENTINA vs MEXICO
Johannesburg, Soccer City – June 27
Argentina have shone throughout the group stage, qualifying for the Round of 16 with three wins under their belt. After defeating Nigeria 1-0 in their opening fixture, the Argentineans dominated South Korea in their second match, winning 4-1, before blasting home two goals in the second half to take down Greece. Mexico started slowly, though, with a 1-1 draw with South Africa on the first day of the tournament, before fighting to a shock 2-0 win against France in their second match. However, a 0-1 loss to Uruguay left them in second in the group, and a tough ask to progress to the Quarter Finals. If Lionel Messi shine’s for Argentina, this one could be all over before it’s even begun.
Argentina 3, Mexico 1.
NETHERLANDS vs SLOVAKIA
Durban – June 28
The Dutch made it three from three in their group, conceding only one goal on their path to the Round of 16. After opening their campaign with a 2-0 win against Denmark, the Dutch scored a second-half winner to beat the Japanese 1-0, and defeated Cameroon 2-1 in their final Group Stage match. Slovakia missed out on a first-up win against New Zealand after Winston Reid scored with just seconds remaining in the match, before faltering to a 2-0 loss to Paraguay in their second match. Needing nothing short of a miracle in their final match against Italy, the Slovaks pulled out a brilliant performance, winning 3-2, to secure their progress to the Round of 16. However, it looks as though their dream World Cup run may be over, with the Netherlands running on a very hot streak.
Netherlands 2, Slovakia 1.
BRAZIL vs CHILE
Johannesburg, Ellis Park – June 28
Brazil came to South Africa with big promises, but their campaign stagnated after Maicon’s brilliant goal from an insane angle in his side’s 2-1 win against North Korea. While Dunga’s men managed a 3-1 win against the Ivory Coast in their second match, their final Group Stage fixture against Portugal was a disappointing performance, to say the least. Chile opened their World Cup with a 1-0 win over Honduras, and backed up their strong first performance with a 1-0 win over Switzerland. However, they faltered in their third match, a goalkeeping error costing them their first goal, before they eventually were defeated 2-1. Brazil should have the skill to go the distance; but it could be a close match.
Brazil 2, Chile 0.
PARAGUAY vs JAPAN
Pretoria – June 29
Paraguay started their World Cup against the reigning Champions, and managed to secure a 1-1 draw first up, before storming to a 2-0 win over Slovakia in their second match. A 0-0 draw with New Zealand was enough for the Slovaks to make it to the Round of 16. Japan defeated Cameroon 1-0 in their opening game, but suffered a 1-0 defeat to the Netherlands in their second match. However, a 3-1 win against Denmark gave the Japanese a berth in the Round of 16. The Japanese look to have the Jubilani ball figured out, with one of the finest set-piece goals this tournament flying into the net off the boot of Keisuke Honda to open the scoring in their last game against Denmark. However, Paraguay may just have what it takes to knock off the Blue Samurai.
Paraguay 2, Japan 1.
SPAIN vs PORTUGAL
Cape Town – June 29
The Spanish, who were hot favourites coming into the tournament, suffered a shock loss to Switzerland in their opening match, which finished 1-0. However, the Spanish bounced back, beating Honduras 2-0 in their second match, before knocking off Chile in their final group match; largely thanks to some individual brilliance from David Villa. Portugal also looked good in the lead up to the tournament, but a 0-0 draw with the Ivory Coast in their first match had the doubters talking. However, a 7-0 demolition of North Korea, which included Cristiano Ronaldo’s first international goal in two years, served to answer the cries of the critics. Unfortunately, the Portuguese played it safe in their final Group Stage match against Brazil, which earned them this fixture. This game should come right down to the wire; definitely one to watch.
Spain 1, Portugal 1 (Penalty Shootout).
Unfortunately, eight of these fantastic teams have to go home, as only eight can move on to the Quarter Finals. One thing is for certain; anything can happen!
Next time: Quarter Finals! Stay tuned!