We’re coming up on crunch time. By the end of Thursday, half of the teams in the World Cup will be eliminated. Let’s look at how things stand in each group – who will go through, and who will face the chop.
In Group A, Cameroon are out of the picture. They do have the potential to cause an upset, though, since the other three teams are very close together – Brazil and Mexico on four points apiece and Croatia right behind them on three. If somehow Cameroon were to beat Brazil by two or more goals, and Croatia and Mexico tied, Brazil would be eliminated.
In all likelihood, though, that won’t happen. I expect Brazil to get a win today, and then it comes down to whether Croatia can be the first to put a ball past the magnificant Memo Ochoa in the Mexican goal. Croatia need a win to join Brazil in the round of 16, Mexico can go through with a tie.
Personally, though, I’m betting on Croatia to find a way through, and progress in second. For this group, I’m standing by my original prediction of Brazil – Croatia – Mexico – Cameroon.
Group B provided the biggest shock of the tournament so far, with Spain being eliminated after only their second game. Sadly, but expectedly, Australia went with them. At this point, it’s just a matter of who goes through first and whom second. A tie will see the Netherlands through in first, whereas Chile have to win. I’m betting on the Oranje to come out on top, though, for a revised projection of Netherlands – Chile – Australia – Spain.
And so to Group C, where Colombia have already booked their passage, but any of the others could still join them. Ivory Coast are the next best placed, and a win over Greece will see them through regardless of the other result. Solid wins for both Ivory Coast and Japan could even be enough for Ivory Coast to claim the top spot – but I don’t see Japan prevailing over Colombia, so I’m going to call this one as Colombia – Ivory Coast – Japan – Greece.
*sigh* England are out. Group D offered up a surprise package in Costa Rica, who were widely expected to prop up the group, and are instead three points clear at the top with qualification to the next round already sealed. Italy and Uruguay are facing off tomorrow for the right to join them, which means at least one more footballing powerhouse will be getting an early flight home.
At this point, I think Italy are the more likely of the two, and the only question is whether they can score enough goals AND have England beat Costa Rica in order to move top. That doesn’t seem likely to me, so I’m giving my revised prediction as Costa Rica – Italy – Uruguay – England.
Group E has been unexpectedly entertaining, with France romping to two large wins and scoring eight goals in the process, a tally matched only by the Netherlands so far. It is still mathematically possible for Ecuador and Switzerland to take the two qualifying spots, but it would involve Ecuador beating France by at least four goals and Switzerland also beating Honduras by a similar margin. The latter seems possible, but the former is a tall order. I’m revising my original prediction and calling this as France – Ecuador – Switzerland – Honduras.
There is a possible wrinkle for the ages developing in Group F, where a 1-0 win for Argentina over Nigeria and another 1-0 win for Iran over Bosnia would leave the middle of the group so tightly tied that Iran and Nigeria would literally have to draw lots for the privilege of progressing to the next round. Neither of those scorelines are all that unlikely, based on the results so far. I’m confident in calling an Argentina win, and thereby top spot in the group. Bosnia are eliminated at this point, and so it’s very much down to whether Iran can prevail over them. If either of those scorelines above is 2-0 rather than 1-0, that single goal would be enough to send Iran through. Lots at stake here, and I’m going to call this (also rather revised) as Argentina – Iran – Nigeria – Bosnia.
Group G has produced some truly amazing moments already – last night, in the 93rd minute, the USA were headed for an historic victory over #4-ranked Portugal to seal their own progress. They were sadly denied by a last-minute goal, but are still very much in the running, level on points with top-placed Germany.
A tie between Germany and the USA will see both teams through, and you could perhaps forgive the Germans if they did one final favour for a former World Cup hero of their own, USA boss Jürgen Klinsmann. Ghana and Portugal will be fighting to push their way up into second place, and while Ghana have by far the easier task of it based on goal difference, they would both be relying on the USA to lose as well as getting a win themselves.
My prediction – ultimately revising only the bottom two – is Germany – USA – Ghana – Portugal.
And last but not least, Group H sprung a surprise, with Algeria notching four goals, matching their all-time best tally at a single World Cup over the last two games. Two more goals in the next game against Russia would see Algeria eclipse their total goals scored in all previous World Cups combined. Belgium, favoured to win the group, have laboured to notch up wins over both Russia and Algeria, but those wins will see them through to the next round. They face South Korea next. The right results could see any of the other three joining Belgium in the round of 16, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Algeria will get the job done with at least a tie, making it Belgium – Algeria – Russia – South Korea.
Read Full Post »