Round of 16 – Match 1
Nelson Mandela, Port Elizabeth
26th June, 2010, 7:30 PM IST
Uruguay have always lived in the shadows of their more illustrious South American neighbours. However, people tend to forget that they have the same number of World Cups as Spain, France and England combined. This time around too, they have come through a topped a tough group, comfortably. La Celeste Olímpica have been methodical in their approach so far, and yet, have displayed some wonderful attacking football. In a nut shell, they have answered all the questions being asked of them and nobody can have any complaints about their presence in the last sixteen.
Happiness – Korean style!
South Korea, on the other hand, have just about sneaked through from their group, with one win win and a draw. The Koreans have been patchy so far and after a brilliant display against the Greeks in their opening game, the wind seems to have blown out of their sails. One thing is certain, though, that they never give up and fight till the proverbial death. This should stand them in good stead as what they lack in quality, they usually make up through sheer gut and determination.
Uruguay’s man for the big occasion has often been Diego Forlan; a name that has become synonymous with late winners. Not only does he score goals, Forlan drops deep and creates space, and is the heart beat of the Uruguayan outfit. If Forlan is the heartbeat, then Diego Perez is definitely the engine room. The man charged with protecting the back four and snuffing out opposition’s attack is having a great competition himself and there is no surprise that the South Americans are yet to concede. A special mention must also go to the young starlet, Suarez, who is on the radar of big European clubs. Although he is yet to come to life in the competition, he sure has the talent to come out firing any time. Despite not being at his usual best, Suarez has already found the back of the net once. Uruguay’s strength has often been their swift counter attacks and with Forlan and Suarez in their side, its easy to understand just why.
South Koreans have always been good offensively but its their defense which looks a bit dodgy. Cha Du-Ri was very sloppy for the first goal against Nigeria and the penalty was something the coach will not want to see again. Ji Sung Park is the linchpin of the Korean midfield and the skipper makes Korea tick. Park Chu-Young has impressed one and all as he has been a constant menace up front. He was South Korea’s most inventive player and showed skill and vision in the final third. However, the question that remains is whether the back four will hold its own against the Uruguayans.
This is exactly the kind of closely-contested game that the business end of this competition requires. Though the South Americans might seem to have the edge, Koreans aren’t exactly the team to lay down and surrender…
World Cup Head-to-Head Record: a World Cup group stage victory in 1990 (1-0) for Uruguay
World Cup Win-Loss Stats:
Uruguay: Played 42, Won 17, Lost 15, Drawn 10
South Korea: Played 27, Won 5, Lost 14, Drawn 8
GO DieGO GO!
Player to watch out for: Diego Forlan (Uruguay)
Forlan has been a well renowned goal scorer for almost half-a-decade now. He is one player who thrives on challenges and craves for a fight. He gets our vote to shine through like a sparkling diamond.
Round of 16 – Match 2
Royal Bakofeng, Rustenburg
Stuff they make movies about, USA’s world cup campaign has been just that. What a Hollywood ending to their group stage. On the brink of elimination to topping their group, and in the process, avoiding a tougher road to Soccer City, Johannesburg; the ride has been pretty eventful to say the least. So there was hardly any surprise that the face of football in the United States, i.e. Landon Donovan, was the man that smashed them through to the next round. To be fair to them, the US deserved to be top as they were surely the best team of the group ahead of below-par England. However, Team USA would be well served not to get too caught up in the euphoria of the last gasp win over Algeria as Ghana will surely provide a sterner test.
Ghana have had everything going their way so far in the competition. From the gifted penalty against Serbia to another red card-aided draw against the Aussies; Ghana would probably be the luckiest team to get through. Even after losing against the Germans in their final group match they scrambled through on goal difference. Talk about having it easy, eh? But now that they are here, they might really turn it on as they are more than capable of defeating any one on their day.
USA’s campaign got off to a good start as they held England to a draw. A second-half performance got them out of jail against the Slovenians in game two. Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Josy Altidore have provided enough threat to scare any opposition defense. However, creating chances is one thing and finishing them off is a completely different matter. They have been guilty so far off missing a bag full of opportunities, none more so than Altidore who needs to sharpen up in front of goal. The Unsung hero so far has been Michael Bradley – the coach’s son. He has looked inventive on the ball and provides a creative presence in midfield, though he also tracks back hard. Bradley has shown plenty of industry in chasing back and breaking up possession when opposition has the ball and seems to be maturing into an impressive box-to-box player.
Ghana have to buckle up if they harbor hopes of making further in-roads in the competition. They seem to be going off the boil too often in matches and don’t really take games by the ‘scruff of the neck’. They have a good marksmen in the form of A.Gyan but the supply to him has been rather been scant at times. Kevin prince Boateng has been solid but lacks any real creative spark. They might find goals rather hard to come by and might be looking to feed off scraps.
The game could not be more tantalizingly placed, both teams have looked rather naïve in front of goal but both could spring back to life any moment. The best part about this one is the presence of match winners like Asamoah Gyan, Donovan and Dempsey – each capable of a moment of brilliance.
World Cup Head-to-Head Record: The only previous meeting between these two sides was won 2-1 by Ghana in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup.
World Cup Win-Loss Stats:
USA: Played 28, Won 7, Lost 16, Drawn 5
Ghana: Played 7, Won 3, Lost 3, Drawn 1
Other Key Facts:
1) Ghana are only the second African team to reach the knockout stages in two consecutive World Cups. Nigeria were the first team to achieve that feat in 1998.
2) The Black Stars’ last three finals goals have all come from the penalty spot.
3) If he plays, London Donovan will beat the USA’s all-time record of 11 WC finals appearances, previously held by Cobi Jones and Earnest Stewart.
The face of US ‘soccer’
Player to watch out for: Landon Donovan (USA)
The pin-up boy of American soccer is the man for the USA each time they find themselves in a bit of trouble. He is the inspiration behind many of USA’s triumph and could yet mastermind another victory to cherish.