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Gone are the pretenders, all that’s left now are the contenders.  Two will move on, two will go home….

Uruguay v S. Korea – so far this tournament has belonged to South American teams, with all five moving on into the round of 16.  Uruguay has been a bit of a surprise – they were the very last team to qualify for the Cup and had to win a playoff against Costa Rica to get here.  Since they arrived they’ve been a consistent unit, winning two and drawing one in the opening round, and did not allow a goal.

South Korea on the other hand have had a tougher run, with a win, a draw, and a drubbing at the hands of Argentina.  I have to go with Uruguay in a close match today – their skill level up front bests that of Korea and their pedigree in World Cups (winner of two) seems to be coming out.  Asian teams have come closest to  mastering the new ball and can be clinical with their set pieces, and if Korea are to win it will be with a deft free kick or two.

All said I have to apologize Hammy – it’s a Forlan conclusion….

FINAL Uruguay 2 Korea 0
FLEAROY Uruguay 1 Korea 0

US v Ghana – the US scored a stunning goal in extra time to see them go through as the top seed from Group C.  Ghana arrived at this point having played Germany tough, and should have come away with a victory had they been able to bury their chances.  All Africa’s hopes lay with Ghana, and in this close match up they could advance.  They’re moving the ball well and the US will find it tough to match their physicality.  On paper these two teams are a close match up, as both are strong in net and have suspect defences.  It will come down to who can be the hero for their respective teams – will it be Donovan or Dempsey for the US, or Ayew or Gyan for Ghana?  This one ends in a draw and comes down to penalties, where the US are the lucky ones.

FINAL US 1 Ghana 1, US win on penalties
FLEAROY Ghana 1, US 0

THIS JUST IN – live from his Moroccan honeymoon Mrs. Erica (aka Colin) lends his soccer prognostication prowess to my little game.

ERICA’S HUSBAND – US 3 Ghana 2

Only minutes ahead of game time – Group G and H today:

Brazil v Portugal – If there’s a winner in this game, they go through as the first seed from this group. Because both teams are essentially through (see below) this game could end up being a dud. Brazil will be without Kaka after his red card in the last game, and the question in the Portugal camp must be ‘has Ronaldo finally arrived for his nation’s squad?’. I am hopeful that Portugal will be playing for top seed and the street cred of playing the Brazilians hard, and I am hopeful that Brazil will stand up to the challenge. Time will tell.

FINAL Brazil 2 Portugal 1
FLEAROY see above

Cote D’Ivoire v N. Korea

Ivory Coast can advance if A) Portugal loses, and B) they somehow make up the goal differential gap, which if Portugal does not score is at 9. Can Ivory Coast win 9-0? I suppose anything is possible, but that’s truly improbable. N. Korea is not that bad a side, but Ivory Coast will be going for it all.

FINAL Cote D’Ivoire 4 N Korea 1
FLEAROY Cote D’Ivoire 6 N. Korea 0

Group H picks

Spain v Chile

Chile needs a draw or a victory against Spain to take top spot in Group H. A loss to Spain can put Chile in jeopardy of elimination, if the Swiss can beat the Hondurans and make up the goal difference which is at 2 goals. Spain has come in to the tourney as one of the favorites, and have hardly lived up to the billing. The Spanish coaching staff better have the team convinced that a dominating performance is required moving into the playoffs. Chile would be happy to draw as that will put them through in first place, avoiding a playoff match against Brazil. Until recently Spain had the habit of coming up short despite their talent, and the way they’re playing that’s a possibility today, but I see them squeaking through with a victory.

FINAL Spain 1 Chile 0
FLEAROY see above

Switzerland v Honduras

In order for Honduras to qualify they need a Chilean win and their own huge win against the Swiss (Spain has Honduras at 4 goals in differential heading into the games). After a rather shocking upset against the Spaniards in their opener the Swiss looked lacklustre against Chile. They certainly have the means to handle Honduras, especially since the central American squad will have to open it up if they stand any chance of moving on. Unless Chile upsets Spain Switzerland will have to win big to make up the goal differential. I think they’ll win, but whether or not the score is large enough is yet to be seen.

FINAL Switzerland 2 Honduras 0
FLEAROY see above

Are you scared Roy? Two of four scores identical!

Group E and F final first round matches go today – here’s my call:

GROUP E – Denmark v Japan

Tied at 3 points each, this is the game for second place. Japan can advance with a tie or a victory, while Denmark needs a win to go through, based on goal differential. Can lesser-ranked Japan break through the Danes’ stodgy defence with their speed and organized attack? I think it will be enough to send Denmark home earlier than expected.

FINAL Denmark 1 Japan 1

Netherlands v Cameroon

It is possible for Netherlands to finish second in the group, but that’s only if they lose. They’ve never lost against an African team in the World Cup and that record stands at the end of day today. Cameroon will likely play substitutes as they are already eliminated from advancement. The Dutch keep clogging along.

FINAL Netherlands 2 Cameroon 0

GROUP F – Can you believe that it’s possible Slovakia and New Zealand could advance from this group? It’s possible, but it won’t happen…..

Paraguay v New Zealand

Paraguay tops the group and has been the best team overall in Group F. The Kiwis have surprised everyone so far tying the Italians and Slovakia, netting them 2 more points than expected at this stage in the tourney. Should Paraguay avoid looking past New Zealand they should win this one easily. New Zealand’s best hope is for a tie and and an upset by Slovakia versus Italy. I don’t see the all-whites getting that close.

FINAL Paraguay 2 New Zealand 0

Italy v Slovakia

If pride were to be the factor that determined victory in this match Slovakia would go through, and not the Italians. The reigning champs have looked more like chumps, garnering only ties in matches versus New Zealand and Paraguay. Slovakia need a win to advance, and given the way the two teams have played so far that result has strong possibilities. I’d love to see an upset here, and I suppose my result is an upset of sorts, but it won’t be enough to send Slovakia through. Italy has the experience and will do just enough to advance as the second seed, unless New Zealand bests Paraguay. Slovakia will have to be contented with a tie against the Azzurri as they exit South Africa.

FINAL Italy 1 Slovakia 1

My record: 7-8 to date

FLEAROY’S picks have gone missing? Better late than never:

PAR 1 NZ 0
SLO 0 ITA 1
DEN 0 JAP 1
CAM 0 HOL 1

Group C and D play their final matches today. I take a brief look at the games and FLEAROY and I make our picks:

GROUP C

England v Slovenia

Slovenia only need a tie to advance, and that’s been their goal all along, so expect them to play a defensive minded, ball-control game. England needs to win to ensure they move on to the round of 16. I would imagine the Three Lions will be much more aggressive on the attack and I expect a new partner for Rooney up front (likely Defoe for Hemsky) in the hopes it will generate something for the Man U striker who has been lost so far in the tournament. My heart says Slovenia wins outright, my brain says England has to win as it’s written on paper, and my gut says England plays much better but can’t get the result that’s needed. To all my Scottish friends who will lament my pick below I say I am picking England to win since doing so will surely mean they won’t:

FINAL England 2 Slovenia 1 (GO SLOVENIA!)
FLEAROY England 1 Slovenia 1

US v Algeria

Algeria played a solid team game in holding England to a 0-0 draw in their last game, while the Americans mounted a great comeback and were jobbed out of a victory thanks to the referee in their match against Slovenia that ended 2-2. The US advances with a win and they’ll get it today, which would be a first for them at the World Cup, as they’ve never won the 3rd game in group play. They’re too well coached and motivated to waste this opportunity (England could do well to take the lesson from the Americans):

FINAL US 2 Algeria 1
FLEAROY US 1 Algeria 0

GROUP D – Germany v Ghana

Ghana has been my pick since day one to be the lone African team to qualify, but they’re in tough to do so, up against a German team who needs a win to go through. The question is which German team will show? The one that dismantled the Aussies or the one who meekly lost to Serbia 1-0? Even without striker Klose (suspension) Germany should overpower Ghana, but somehow I see the Germans checking the scoreboard to see if the draw was enough to put them through.

FINAL Ghana 2 Germany 2
FLEAROY Ghana 0 Germany 3

Serbia v Australia

The ‘socceroos’ (gawd don’t you just hate some of these nicknames) think they can still make it through, but it will take a miracle, and I don’t see any seas parting today. Serbia has got to play a full 90, not like they did against Ghana. Sorry to say it Roy, but I think the Australians do enough to keep your team out.

FINAL Serbia 1 Australia 1 (GO SERBIA!)
FLEAROY Serbia 1 Australia 0

For the record I’d like to see Slovenia and the US advance in Group C and Ghana and Serbia in Group D.

Well isn’t FLEAROY a star – called all three winners yesterday, including two scores bang on. To hear him talk about his prowess in all things sporting you would think he should have called the 7-0 drubbing by Portugal yesterday, but even the most seasoned punter couldn’t have pulled that score out of their hat. Well done Roy. I managed to go 1-2 yesterday, bringing me back to 5-6.

Today’s where the real excitement begins – it’s qualification day. With that group games go simultaneously to avoid any match dodginess. Here’s the Group A and Group B breakdowns, along with predictions:

Mexico v Uruguay – A tie sees these two teams go through, with Uruguay atop the group and Mexico second. The second place finisher gets the honour of facing Argentina in the next round, so there should be some impetus for Mexico to go for the win, but Uruguay is the better squad and will curtail those ideas early. I see these teams playing to a draw, leaving the French wondering what could have been.

FINAL – Mexico 0 Uruguay 0
ROY – Mexico 0 Uruguay 0

France v. South Africa

FLEAROY made a good argument last night for a French win, but I can’t remember it. I just think they deserve nothing for the way they’ve utilized their talent this far, and there would be something nice about South Africa going out with a win or even a tie. Both these teams are still alive, but barely. For example, France would need to win 4-0 and have either Mexico or Uruguay to win. France leaves the tourney winless.

FINAL France 1 South Africa 1
ROY France 1 South Africa 0

GROUP B

Believe it or not, Nigeria is still alive with 0 points through two games. Argentina is in full control, and guarantee top spot with a win over Greece. If that happens, and Nigeria can defeat S. Korea, the Nigerians go through. Greece need an unlikely win or a tie and a S. Korea loss. South Korea essentially goes through with a win and can advance with a tie and a Greece loss or tie.

Argentina v. Greece
Greece has to play their game of defence-first and counterattack where possible if they want to stay in this game. Any kind of opening given to the Argentinians and they will make the Greeks pay. I doubt that the Greeks can stem the tide for the full 90 minutes to get them the result they need, but they’ve got pride so be wary.

FINAL – Argentina 2 Greece 1
ROY – Argentina 2 Greece 0

S. Korea v Nigeria

This should be a spirited match, as both teams have the incentive to go for the win – a tie in no way guarantees an escape from the group for either team. Nigeria has to figure that Argentina will defeat Greece giving them all kinds of incentive to play their best. I think their fitness lets them down against a South Korea side that is well organized, quick, and tight on the back end. This should be a South Korean win or at best for the Africans, a tie.

FINAL – S. Korea 2 Nigeria 1
ROY – S Korea 1 Nigeria 0

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