Monday, June 21, 2010

World Cup: Judgment Week

With the conclusion of the Spain-Honduras game this afternoon, each of the 32 teams in the 2010 World Cup have completed two games. There have been some surprises, such as Switzerland beating Spain and New Zealand playing Italy to a draw. There have been some downright terrible calls, including the "no goal" in the US-Slovenia game.

Thus far, only two teams have been outright eliminated: Cameroon and North Korea.

Two squads have qualified for the Elimination Stage, but still have work to do if they want to win their groups outright.

The Netherlands have advanced from Group E

Brazil has advanced from Group G

Here are the scenarios in play over the next four days that will determine who moves on to the Knockout Stage and who goes home in shame.

If two teams have the same amount of points at the end of the group stage, the tiebreakers are as follows:
1. Goal Differential
2. Goals Scored
3. Head-to-Head

Group A

Games Remaining:
Uruguay vs Mexico
South Africa vs France

Tuesday June 22 10:00am

Uruguay and Mexico are obviously in the drivers seats in this group. In order for one of them not to make the next round, they would have to be caught on Goal Differential by the winner of the France-South Africa game. If either game ends in a tie, Mexico and Uruguay advance.

Due to goal differential, Uruguay can win the group with either a win or tie. Mexico needs to beat Uruguay to win the group. France and South Africa both need help. With a -2 and -3 goal differential respectively, the winner of their game will have to make up the goal differential between them and the loser of Uruguay-Mexico (teams with a +3 and +2 GD).

Most likely outcome: Uruguay and Mexico advance

Group B

Games Remaining:
Argentina vs Greece
South Korea vs Nigeria

Tuesday June 22 2:30pm

Interestingly enough, even though Nigeria has yet to win a game in the group, they have one of the simplest roads to advance: beat South Korea and hope Argentina beats Greece. Argentina is almost guaranteed to make the next round and would need a million things to happen for them not to. Diego Maradona's squad will advance with either a win or tie against Greece, or a South Korea loss or tie. The Argentinians can advance even if they lose, as long as BOTH South Korea and Greece don't make up the goal differential of 5 goals.

Greece and South Korea are both in similar scenarios. If both teams tie, South Korea advances. The easiest scenario for South Korea to advance would be to beat Nigeria and hope Greece loses or ties. In order for Greece to advance, they need to beat Argentina by more goals than South Korea wins by or score 2 more goals than the South Koreans.

Most Likely Outcome: Argentina wins the group in a walk. Greece was only able to beat Nigeria because Nigeria was down a man. I still like Nigeria to sneak in here, but South Korea is playing well and in all likelihood will probably advance. It would be great to see at least one African team advance to the Knockout Stage.

Group C

Games Remaining:
USA vs Algeria
England vs Slovenia

Wednesday June 23 10:00am

Everyone and their mother knows the scenario for the USA. Beat Algeria and you're into the next round. The US can also advance with a tie and a tie between England and Slovenia (if England doesn't score 2 more times than the US) or a tie and an England loss. Slovenia's road might be the easiest, but they play the toughest team in the group. A win or tie against England will get Slovenia into the next round.

England has been heavily criticized for their uninspired play this World Cup, but are still only a victory away from advancing to the next round. Algeria needs the most help to advance, needing to beat the US and Slovenia to beat or tie England.

Most Likely Outcome: If the US doesn't concede any early goals to Algeria and can keep their rhythm going they found late against Slovenia, they should be able to make the next round. I don't have much faith in England at this point after their flop against Algeria so I'm going to say that Slovenia gets in with a draw against England.

Group D

Games Remaining:
Ghana vs Germany
Serbia vs Australia
Wednesday June 23 2:30pm

Ghana represents the African continent's best hope for getting a team to the knockout stages. However they might have an even tougher test than Nigeria to get there. They are charged with securing at least a draw against a German team that is surely out for blood after their loss to Serbia. Germany and Serbia can also reach the next round with victories. Serbia still lags behind Germany in the tiebreaker department based on Germany's slaughter of Australia, but can make some of that up against the Socceroos. Australia needs a win and a victory by Ghana to make the next round.

Most Likely Outcome: Ghana seems to be in the best position atop the group, but they face their toughest opponent yet. Their draw against Australia put them in a position where they need to get at least a point out of their game with Germany. Serbia seems to have the best chance of advancing, based on their matchup with Australia. Ghana's squad has a lot of injuries in the midfield, and I just don't think they'll be able to hold on against Germany (though as I said before, I would love to see African teams advance in the tournament).

Group E

Games Remaining:
Netherlands vs Cameroon
Japan vs Denmark
Thursday June 24 2:30pm

This might be the easiest group in the whole tournament to explain the scenario. The Netherlands have already clinched a spot in the next round, and will win the group even if they lose to Cameroon as long as Japan or Denmark do not make up the Goal Differential. The winner of the Japan-Denmark game will reach the next round. If the game ends in a tie, Japan will advance. Cameroon has been eliminated.

Most Likely Outcome: Netherlands and Denmark, even though Japan has the advantage of only needing a draw.

Group F

Games Remaining:
Paraguay vs New Zealand
Italy vs Slovakia
Thursday June 24 10:00am

If Group E was the easiest to figure out, Group F is the hardest. All four teams could still make the next round and any of the four could easily be eliminated. Paraguay has the easiest route, needing a win or tie against New Zealand OR an Italy loss or tie. Italy advances with a win OR a tie and a New Zealand loss. New Zealand can shock the world and advance with a win over Paraguay or a tie and an Italy loss. Slovakia can advance with a win and New Zealand loss OR a win and making up the 4-goal Goal Differential with Paraguay.

If both games end in a draw, Paraguay will advance and whichever team scores more goals between Italy and New Zealand will advance. If both games draw with the same score, a coin flip will determine whether Italy or New Zealand advance.

Most Likely Outcome: Wow, gotta say I would love to see New Zealand be able to advance here, but I honestly don't think it will happen. Italy has whined and cried and dove their way into two draws already, and I see them just squeaking by Slovakia (though a draw is a very real possibility). I don't think New Zealand will be able to hold on to their lucky streak to force a draw against Paraguay but they will still be able to go home with their heads held high for what they achieved in this World Cup.

Group G

Games Remaining:
Brazil vs Portugal
Ivory Coast vs North Korea
Friday June 24 10:00am

Brazil has already advanced and North Korea has been eliminated. That being said, Brazil-Portugal might be the best match of the first round. Portugal is coming off a 7-goal explosion against North Korea and Brazil is, as always, one of the best in the world. It will be almost impossible for the Ivory Coast to reach the next round after Portugal's hammering of North Korea. The Ivory Coast would need a win over North Korea AND to make up the 9-goal differential with Portugal.

Brazil wins the group outright with a win or tie, and Portugal wins the group with a victory over Brazil.

Most Likely Outcome: Brazil and Portugal. It's going to be one hell of a game. Set your DVRs.

Group H

Games Remaining:
Chile vs Spain
Switzerland vs Honduras
Friday June 24 2:30pm

Despite having more points than 28 of the 32 countries in the World Cup, Chile is still not safe. They play one of the top 3 teams in the world and will also have to hope for Honduras to play Switzerland close so that the Swiss don't catch them on goal differential. Chile advances with a win or tie or a Switzerland loss or tie. If Spain and Switzerland win, Chile will have to rely on goal differential against the Swiss to carry them to the next round. Spain can reach the next round with a win OR a Switzerland tie or loss. Switzerland needs to beat Honduras and for Spain to lose or tie in order to advance. The most likely scenario for advancing is for Spain and Switzerland to win and the Swiss to make up the 2-goal Differential against Chile. If the Swiss tie Honduras, they need Spain to lose in order to advance. Despite sitting at the bottom of the group with two losses, Honduras can still make the next round by beating Switzerland, Spain losing, AND making up the 4-goal Differential between them and the Spanish.

Most Likely Outcome: This might be one of the most messed up groups in the end as 3 teams could very well end up with 6 points at the end of the day. It will likely come down to goal differential and despite Chile sitting on top of the group, I think Spain and Switzerland have the advantage here heading into the final game. I don't think Chile's +2 goal differential margin will hold. All it would take is a 2-goal win by Spain and a Switzerland win to knock Chile out of the tournament.

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