Monday, June 23, 2014

The World Game - Part One

At the time of writing this post. The second round of group matches has finished, and we can say that Spain, Australia and England are going home. Spain, joining Italy (2010) and France (2002) as the most recent World Champions going home after the group stage.

Running through the groups:

Group A: The hosts are through & Cameroon out, and the loser of the match between Mexico & Croatia joins them. Brazil still most likely to top the group. Edit - Brazil are eliminated, if they lose and Croatia & Mexico draw.

Group B: Netherlands & Chile are through - with the loser of that match expected to face Brazil in the second round.

Group C: Given Greece & Japan's draw, Colombia are through to the last 16, and with a win over Greece in their last match, the Ivory Coast will join them.

Group D: Costa Rica has qualified for the last 16. The winner of Italy-Uruguay joins them, a draw puts Italy through. For the first time since 1958 England go home at the end of the group stage.

Group E:  France has virtually qualified. Even if they were beaten by Ecuador, France's goal difference would put them through.

Group F:  Argentina have qualified. Nigeria needs one point to qualify. Iran will qualify if it beats Bosnia and Argentina beats Nigeria.

Group G: All four teams in with a shot of qualifying. Germany & USA will qualify if they draw their final game, Portugal & Ghana both need big wins to make it through

Group H: Belgium qualified for the last 16 with a 1-0 win against Russia. With their 4-2 win over Korea, Algeria look most likely to join them.

Here's the New York Times running through how the teams still in the running can make it through.

At this stage - the Australia-Netherlands match is the game of the tournament.  I lean towards Jones' (USA) goal against Portugal as the goal of the tournament too so far (see here for some other contenders, courtesy of The Age). Costa Rica and Chile are the surprise packets of the tournament. I suspect, very few would have picked either of them to get out of their groups.

After 32 games, there have only been 6 draws. The Brazil-Mexico game was a reminder that Football is a sports where two teams can be scoreless and you've seen a great spectacle. After 32 games, the average goals per game is 2.9. Apparently the highest since 1958.

On Australia, the most impressive thing about the Socceroos is that while they should be proud of their performances, the comments coming from the camp are tinged with disappointment.  They didn't go to Brazil to make up the numbers or compete; they came to compete playing a certain style of Football and to achieve results.  They had chances to get something out of the game with the Netherlands, and were disappointed they didn't.  Looking forward to seeing how they go in next years' Asian Cup.

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