So this is when we see how my predictions fared…
I made a mistake in underestimating the Uruguayans, they have been excellent in the group stage, with Diego Forlán probably the player of the tournament so far.
My other mistake was underestimating the embarrassment the French team have become. All the signs were there in Euro 2008, the poor performances, early exit and arguments and in-fighting, none of these problems were rectified before this tournament. Include the crazy decision to let Raymond Domenech continue as team manager and all these things met in a perfect storm to leave the French bottom of a group they should have won comfortably. The tournaments biggest disgrace, until England play tomorrow. Nobody will be sad to see them go, just like nobody will be sad to see Domenech go. Laurent Blanc over to you….
I was right about Mexico though. They play Argentina in the next round which will probably signal the end of their tournament but they have been great to watch and deserved to qualify.
South Africa for all their pride and passion were just not good enough.
Argentina have been brilliant so far in this World Cup. They have so many talented players that they can field Milito and Aguero as a second choice attacking line! Take that Crouch & Defoe. They have entertained and Messi has been brilliant, although he hasn’t yet scored. Maradona has been great to watch on the touchline and they deserve to go through if only for the look of sheer joy on Martin Palermo’s face as he became the oldest debutant goalscorer in World Cup history against Greece.
Greece were outplayed by the South Koreans, got lucky against Nigeria and needed to win against Argentina to make sure they went through. Instead super coach Rehhagel played his normal restrictive, defensive tactics presumably so that if Greece got a draw and Nigeria won, the Greeks would go through. This nearly worked but thank God it didn’t. I hope this is the last time we see Rehhagel managing anyone at a major tournament, the Greeks (and everyone else) deserve better. Set the Greeks free!
Nigeria were unlucky against Greece, and indiscipline and terrible finishing (mainly by Yakubu) let them down against South Korea, they had enough chances to win it but became the third African side to go out at this stage.
South Korea did just enough to get through to the next stage, although that will be as far as they go.
Almost despite themselves these two teams managed to get through. England, aside from the first halves against the US and Slovenia, were terrible. Like Franz Beckenbauer said they return to the old “kick & rush” game & lump it up to the big man when they are under pressure. Their problems are not solved because they changed the team and beat a poor Slovenia side. Although there were promising signs, like a commitment to passing the ball, the improved performances of Barry, Milner and Defoe and a return to a 4-4-2 formation that they understand, they will struggle in the next game. Wayne Rooney is another issue, he had another poor game, growing more frustrated as he missed chance after chance before he left looking angry and injured. Capello was right to substitute him. England have qualified with their best player playing badly in all 3 games. By finishing second in a group they should have easily won they have made things hard for themselves later in the tournament, the only good thing is that there will be a later in the tournament.
The US were going out until the last few minutes of their final game. Like England they have no-one but themselves to blame. They were poor in all of their games, apart from the second half against Slovenia. By virtue of scoring more goals than England they have won this group and in theory should have got themselves an easier draw in the next round.
Slovenia at least played to the highest standard they could and can count themselves a little unlucky, they beat Algeria and played well against the bigger sides in this group. They would have qualified if the US hadn’t scored late in their final game.
Algeria again played up to their full ability. That ability is just not good enough. They worked hard in all their games, and have some terrible finishing to blame for not winning and not scoring. Unfortunately another African team leaves the tournament.
Ghana look like being the only African team to make it into the next round but they should expect to do well in their next game. They play the USA and will be confident of progressing to the quarter-finals.
Germany were excellent in their first game, unlucky in their second and just about deserved victory in their third. Mesut Özil’s great strike from outside the area gave them the victory. They should beat England in the next round.
Australia finished by beating Serbia but by then it was too late. Major changes are needed to this team but they lack a new generation of talent necessary to make these changes.
Serbia ultimately paid the price for losing their discipline in their first game and for not being able to beat a poor Australia side. Some great players but I am glad that Ghana qualified along with Germany.
Holland totally dominated this group like they were expected to do without even playing very well. If they can start to develop their performances they will be a real force in this tournament. They will improve if Arjen Robben returns to full fitness but they have a relatively easy last 16 game, then should play Brazil in the quarter-finals.
I am very pleased for Japan, they were excellent against Denmark in the deciding group game and they fully deserved the win and the last qualification spot. They will also be confident of beating Paraguay in the next game.
Denmark were disappointing against Holland, played well against Cameroon and weren’t good enough against Japan. An over-reliance on the misfiring Jon Dahl Tomasson and the inconsistent Nicklas Bendtner meant that they lacked a real end product to much of their attacking play. In the final game the Japanese team worked so hard against them to prevent them from having any time on the ball all over the field and they couldn’t get any rhythm to their play. Thomas Sorensen can probably be blamed for the two free-kicks the Japanese scored but that shouldn’t take away from the quality of the strikes.
Cameroon were disappointing in every game, they failed to get the best out of Samuel Eto’o and most of the blame should lie with coach Paul Le Guen.
Again I made a mistake in over-estimating a big European team. Italy paid the price for their lack of urgency in the first two games and when they finally roused themselves, they were 2-0 down in the final game. Like France and England they should have easily won their group but the 2006 World Champions join the 2006 runners-up on the plane out of South Africa.
Also I misunderestimated how good Paraguay would be at this World Cup. They have played great football in their two draws and a win and deserve to top this group.
Slovakia had been disappointing until their final game, however on the strength of this performance alone they deserve to go through after knocking out the reigning champions.
I said New Zealand would struggle to get a draw in this group and in the end they got 3. They played with great heart and leave the tournament with their pride intact. They just didn’t have enough quality to go through.
Brazil were excellent in their first two games. They had already qualified when they played the last game and were not at their highest level. They and Argentina have been the best teams so far in this tournament, and could meet in the final.
Portugal qualified by virtue of one freak result against the worst team in the tournament. When they played against the two good teams in this group they could only draw but their 7-0 goals against the North Koreans ensured that they progressed to the next round. A draw against Brazil is nothing to be dismissed easily however Portugal will have to improve significantly to go further in the tournament.
Ivory Coast’s exit means that only Ghana remain from the African teams in the tournament. This really is a shame but the other African sides came up against superior opposition. 2010 is too soon for an African team to win the World Cup.
North Korea are the lowest ranked team in this tournament and they showed why. Apart from a spirited performance is losing 2-1 against Brazil they never showed like being able to compete. This group was one of the hardest and they never had a chance of going through.
After losing their first game Spain had to come back strong and win the final two games to ensure qualification, which they did. David Villa continued his Euro 2008 form scoring 3 goals and probably the goal of the tournament so far against Chile. By finishing top of the group they avoid Brazil.
I am so pleased that Chile made it through, they have played great football and entertained in all their games. They definitely have a nasty streak and will be without a couple of players for the game against Brazil. If they continue to play as they have so far (and coach Bielsa is not one for becoming defensive) Chile v Brazil will be a great game.
Switzerland got a lucky goal against Spain and then tried to press and defend their way to the next round. Thank God they didn’t and we get to see Chile instead of them against Brazil. Not enough attacking quality.
The step up in level was too much for Honduras. They lost their first two games and only got a draw against the Swiss because they aren’t very good either. Spain and Chile were too good for this Honduras team.
So France, Italy, Denmark and the Ivory Coast let me down. But not as much as they let the French, Italian, Danish and Ivorian people down. Maybe I should have listened to this guy…
See you in the last 16!
Best goals from the third round of group games
Di Natale v Slovakia
Quagliarella v Slovakia
Özil v Ghana
Palermo v Greece
Honda v Denmark
Endo v Denmark
Villa v Chile