World Cup’10 – Day 15: PREVIEW


Group G
Durban, Durban
25th June, 2010, 7:30 PM IST 

Group of Death – as many would call it – might already have been decided even before we have the last round of matches. The empathic display by Portugal against the North Koreans has almost sealed the fate of Group G. Brazil are already certain to go through whereas the Portuguese just need to turn up. But this could still decide a lot more important thing, topping the group might be a priority – or might not be – as Spain lie in store if the Europeans manage to get through. Come what may, a clash between two of the top three teams in the world is sure to grab the attention of the football world. 

Portugal comes into this one after the most inspired display they, or for that matter any one, have put in a very long time. They decimated the hapless North Koreans as they scored seven unanswered goals past them. Importantly their inspirational leader Cristiano Ronaldo got on the score sheet and even provided an assist or two, now that could be an ominous sign not only for Brazil but everyone who stand in their way. However there was some one else who was the real star performer against the Koreans. Fabio Coentrao was a menace down Portugal’s left wing and Carlos Queiroz seems to have unearthed a rare gem. The left-back was an impressive attacking outlet and his surging runs proved a constant threat. His pinpoint cross set up Hugo Almeida’s goal and he also claimed an assist for Liedson and Tiago’s goals. Combining well with Cristiano Ronaldo and Tiago, it was refreshing to see a full-back play with such freedom. Also the inclusion of Tiago was a major boon as he unexpectedly grabbed a brace. Now with Deco fighting to be fit it would be interesting to see who gets the nod. 

Portugal’s thumping win over the Asians has almost assured their place in the last sixteen, even if they loose and Ivory Coast win their encounter, they should go through by virtue of a better goal difference. The Ivory Coast needs to turn round a nine-goal deficit, which looks highly unlikely. 

If a team has lived up to its hype so far, it’s definitely Brazil. With Luis Fabiano leading the line and Kaka pulling strings in midfield Dunga’s men surely look like world beaters. The coach and the players seemed the most prepared nation coming into the world cup, the numbers 1-11 took the field against Ivory Coast – now that’s knowing your personnel for the occasion; Fabio Capello are you listening. On a slightly somber note Kaka is ruled out of this one following his absolutely comical red card in the last encounter.  Kaka looked to be coming into his own and sitting out an important match would be the last thing on his mind. Elano too got a knock and Dunga may be contemplating giving him some more recovery time. Not a problem though as the Samba boys have enough ammunition in their ranks to fill the void with quality replacements. 

Brazil are already certain to go through and would top the group if they beat or draw with Portugal in Durban.  But Brazil seldom just play games for getting a point, be rest assured they will give it their all. 

World Cup Head-to-Head Record: The only World Cup encounter between these two sides was won by Portugal, 3-1 in 1966. 

World Cup Win-Loss Stats:
Portugal: Played 19, Won 11, Lost 1, Drawn 7
Brazil: Played 94, Won 66, Lost 14, Drawn 14 

Other Key Facts: 

1)      Brazil have won 12 of their 18 encounters against Portugal, losing four and drawing twice.
2)      Portugal scored as many goals against North Korea (seven) as they had in their nine previous World Cup finals games.
3)      Brazil have lost just one of their 32 World Cup first round matches since 1966. 

Player to watch out for: Luis Fabiano (Brazil) 

Fabiano might not be as famous as the more illustrious Brazillian strikers of the past, but he has the same deadly effect in front of goal. His brace against Ivory Coast was undoubtedly master-class, that people will be talking about for years to come. 

June 22, 2010 - Johannesburg, SOUTH AFRICA - epa02216613 Brazilian national soccer team players (L-R) Kaka, Michel Bastos, Felipe Melo, Luis Fabiano and Robinho warm up during their team's training session in Johannesburg, South Africa, 22 June 2010. Brazil will face Portugal in the FIFA World Cup 2010 preliminary round group G soccer match on June 25. 




Group G
                                  Mbombela, Nelspruit
25th June, 2010, 7:30 PM IST


Defeated, humiliated and embarrassed, the North Koreans would want to get back home as quickly as they can, however, this encounter gives them one last chance to salvage something out from the hitherto disastrous campaign. Portugal handed them a real good hiding but they can take heart from their showing against Brazil where they looked rather solid. Ivory Coast however would have other ideas and no one can imagine them showing any mercy. Les Elephants need to win and win big to stand any chance at all. 

 The Koreans were completely exposed on the counter-attack as the midfield was non-existent when asked to track back and defend. Their good performance against Brazil was based on a solid defensive display; a repeat performance would come in handy. Cha Jong-hyok and Jong Tae-se had half chances for North Korea against the Africans but their offensive game was mostly absent. 

For Ivory Coast it might be a bit too late. A win might not be good enough; their destiny is longer in their own hands. The Ivory Coast needs to turn round a nine-goal deficit, which looks highly unlikely and bordering on the impossible. The manager Sven Eriksson has to take much of the blame for a listless performance which saw the team only come to life when they were three goals behind. The youngster Gervinho needs to start as he gave them the much needed spark coming in off the bench against Brazil. 

The result might not be in much doubt but the margin is of significance. Drogba and his men need to have their shooting boots on as they need to grab the game by the scruff of its neck and even then the Ivoirians might bow out. 

World Cup Head-to-Head Record: First meeting in a World Cup. 

World Cup Win-Loss Stats: 

Ivory Coast: Played 5, Won 1, Lost 3, Drawn 1
North Korea: Played 6, Won 1, Lost 4, Drawn 1 

Other Key Facts: 

1)      The Ivory Coast have never drawn against Asian opposition, winning four matches and losing three.
2)      North Korea have lost their last three World Cup games, conceding 14 goals in the process, although only three of those came in the first half.
3)      North Korea have not won any of their last eight international fixtures, losing six and drawing two. 

Player to watch out for: Didier Drogba  (Ivory Coast) 

 No one is in doubt about his pedigree and the Koreans might just be on the wrong end of his wrath. Drogba has scored the solitary goal that Les Elephants have scored in this world cup so far and you can almost bet on him adding to his tally. 



Lotus Versfeld, Pretoria
25th June, 2010, 11:30 PM IST 

The most anticipated clash of this group and now it has added a twist to it. Spain have been the bookies favorite going into the competition and nobody could argue with the choice. But things have not gone according to the script so far. Facing elimination Spain need to put their best foot forward or they would be going back with not the cup but the infamous “chokers” tag. Chile on the other hand have done themselves proud so far but bizarrely they could still miss out on the next round even after winning both their games. This certainly is organizers dream come true with unpredictability clouding the tournament and nobody seems to know what will happen next. 

Spain resurrected their faltering campaign with a much needed win against minnows Honduras. Bu they would be kicking themselves for not getting a more resounding win. David Villa got himself a brace but astonishingly missed from the spot. Del Bosque made several changes to the side that failed to break down the Swizz. Torres stared along with Sevilla winger Jesus Navas and Fabregas too got some playing time under his belt. However the Liverpool target man missed a number of chances and was finally substituted off. On the brighter side the Spanish were fluid and commanding in possession as their passing moves were a joy to watch. Iker Casillas in goal hardly had a touch which tells a thing or two about their domination in midfield. Things are back in their own hands now as any win would do and that should ease some nerves and allow them to play their game with flair and freedom. 

Chile have been truly efficient so far. The South Americans have hardly broken a sweat in their opening two matches but this one would surely test how far they have really come. The foundation of Chile’s impressive run so far has been their rock solid defense that is yet to concede. Alexis Sanchez nicknamed The Wonder Boy’ has not disappointed his admirers, exhibiting his repertoire of tricks on the right wing, Sanchez was the focal point of the Chile attack and supplied a constant stream of enticing deliveries. Still just 21, his use of the ball was superb and it is no surprise that clubs like Manchester United and Real Madrid are taking note. Despite the brilliance of Sanchez Chile have won both their games by a solitary goal and that could hamper their chances of progressing. Chile have six points already but need to draw with Spain to be sure of reaching the second round. 

This has the potential to be one of the ties of the tournament so far. Make no mistakes Spain might be favourites but if this world cup has taught us anything then that surely is to expect the unexpected. 

World Cup Head-to-Head Record: First meeting in a World Cup  

World Cup Win-Loss Stats: 

Spain: Played 49, Won 22, Lost 15, Drawn 12
Chile: Played 26, Won 8, Lost 12, Drawn 6 

Other Key Facts: 

1)      Spain are unbeaten against Chile: six wins and one draw, scoring 18 goals in the process and conceding just three.
2)      Chile have scored exactly one goal in their last five World Cup finals games.
3)      Spain have won the last 38 games in which they have scored, a run stretching back to 2007. 

Player to watch out for: David Villa (Spain) 

With Fernando Torres looking out of color Spain would be looking upto Vila to guide them to next phase of the competition. David Villa has already scored five goals in five starts in the World Cup including Spain’s last three World Cup goals. 

June 21, 2010 - South Africa - Football - Spain v Honduras FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 - Group H - Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa - 21/6/10..David Villa celebrates with Fernando Torres (L) after scoring Spain's second goal.

Villa and Torres- Partners in crime



Group H
Free State, Bloemfontein 

25th June, 2010, 11:30 PM IST 

Swizz did the unthinkable by beating the tournament favorites Spain but failed to capitalize on their dream start as they lost their next game to Chile. However all is not lost and a win could still be good enough to ensure further progress however it’s pretty complicated. Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men have to do something alien to their game plan i.e. score goals and may be more than a couple. Honduras for all their endurance and fight lack quality at this level but they will play for their pride if nothing else. 

A two-goal win over Honduras would ensure Switzerland’s qualification and even a draw would be enough if Spain lose. But before they can think of the result they must think of improving their performance. Hitzfeld’s side were inhibited by the dismissal of Valon Behrami in the first half and need to find more of a cutting edge though, as demonstrated by Eren Derdiyok’s late miss, and doubts remain as to whether they can chase a game. On the brighter side Diego Benaglio was fantastic between the posts and kept the Chileans at bay for large periods of the game. 

Honduras have nothing to play for defeated by both Spain and Chile and without a goal in the competition they are one of the weaker sides in the competition. Wilson Palacios is probably the only household name in that Honduras side and they are rather appalling infront of goal. They can battle hard and put in a good shift but that is not enough against the big sides, there is little to no cutting edge in their play. 

Swizz should be favorites to knick this one but Honduras for all their short comings haven’t been embarrassed by any means. Also Switzerland’s deficiencies on the goal scoring front shouldn’t be forgotten. So this could turn out to be a match where a good defense and a poor attack come face to face, not an ideal scenario for the neutrals. 

World Cup Head-to-Head Record: First meeting in a World Cup. 

World Cup Win-Loss Stats:
Switzerland: Played 26, Won 8, Lost 13, Drawn 5
Honduras: Played 5, Won 0, Lost 4, Drawn 1 

Other Key Facts: 

1)      In the match against Chile, Switzerland set a new record for consecutive minutes without conceding at the World Cup finals, nine hours and 18 minutes.
2)      Honduras are without a win in their last seven internationals, failing to score in six of these matches.
3)      Switzerland have failed to score more than one goal in their last seven internationals. 

Player to watch out for: Diego Benaglio (Switzerland) 

The reason for Switzerland’s clean sheet against Spain and another fine display against the Chileans has made European power house’s sit up and take note.