In the previous post we looked how groups A to D panned out. By the time I am writing this post, the group fixtures in the remaining four groups(E to H) have finished and the picture of “Round of 16″ is crystal clear.
Group E: Almost, all of us would have expected Holland to cruise through this group and unlike, few other giants, they did just that. Their passing was exhilarating. Their “build up” play really looked good. Also, to the surprise of many, they looked really solid at the back. They are really looking like “a team to beat” and I expect them to reach ‘at least’ quarter finals. Denmark were very inconsistent in this entire campaign. They looked patchy. I had high expectations from this team but, I was disappointed to say the least. Japan have really looked sharp in this tournament. They have looked organized. Their movement have looked quite terrific. They are well capable of providing one or two upsets and I would not be surprised if we see them reaching the business end of competition.I hate to say this, but Cameroon looked probably the worst team of the tournament. They lacked discipline. They were very naive in all the games. I afraid that if African teams don’t learn from this world cup, they would never be able to achieve big at the global level.
Group F : Italy were clear cut favourites to win this group. But this is football and not everything goes as per the plan. Forget about winning, “Azzuris” got knocked out in group stages itself. They looked toothless. They lacked creativity especially in the absence of playmaker Andrea Pirlo. Their defence,which was considered by many as “one of the best”, got breached many times.The injury to their talismanic goal keeper Gianluigi Buffon didn’t help their cause either.Overall,it was a very disappointing campaign for the Italians. Paraguay, like other South American teams, are really looking at the top of their game. They are maintaining good tempo throughout each game. Their forward line is in good form. They truly deserved their top place and I expect them to reach at least quarter finals.New Zealand exceeded all the expectations. They were clearly seen as “the whipping boys ” in this group. But to the surprise of many, they held all their opponents.They really surprised us with the resolute and organized defence. Though they would have missed the qualification(despite herculean efforts), I have no doubts in my mind that the football is really heading in great direction in this beautiful country. Most of us had written Slovakia off,even before the world cup started and we were been proven right until start of final round of matches. But Slovakians were magnificent in the “Do or Die” game against Italians. They were well deserved winners in that crazy game, which decided the fate of both the teams. But I dont expect them to cross the hurdle of next round.
Group G: This group was billed by many as “The Group of Death”. But it didn’t turned out to be. In fact, some other groups went right down to the wire than this one. Brazil were expected to top this group.They did just that and quite comfortably I would say. They looked breath taking while going forward as well as solid at the back at the same time. They are really “mixing it up” this time round. They didn’t look reluctant to take pragmatic approach when required. They have shown the qualities, which are required to become world champions and they will be very very tough to beat. Portugal, I think have played up to their potential. Much like Brazil, they have not felt ashamed taking ugly approach at times.But at the same time, they have scored goals against weak opposition. They truly deserve their place in the next round. But challenges will be tougher and tougher for them as the tournament progresses. Everybody had many expectations from Ivory Coast. Many thought they would keep the African flag flying in this world cup. But they failed to live up to the expectations. I thought they were too cautious in their approach at times. Also the players like Didier Drogba, Aruna Dindane looked out of form. DPR Korea were not expected to even threaten the other teams in this group and they didn’t surprise at all. They were just not good enough to compete with these teams. They looked good defensively,but that too in patches.
Group H: Spain, the favourites of many to win the trophy, were expected to brush the other teams aside. But their campaign started in worst possible manner with defeat against Swiss in the openeing game. But they got over that and got their act together in the other two games. They looked fantastic in their trademark “possesion and passing” play. Their movement has been terrific. The only criticism of Spanish is that they are not scoring enough goals, considering the great chances that they are creating. They will certainly be a force in the next rounds. Chile, much like other South American teams have looked good. They have looked organized. They have played with great tempo and I believe they were good enough to qualify ahead of the other two teams. Switzerland were in dreamaland after the first day win over Spanish. But in that game, they had to play on counter attack which suited them. When they came up against Chile or Honduras, they had to force the issue. They were never going to be that potent going forward. They lacked the quality in the final third. Their finishing was poor and they should not have any complaints with their exit. This was the first time after 1982 that Honduras qualified for a world cup.They played pretty OK for a very low profile team. But again, they lacked the quality which is so so mandatory when playing at this level.
Round Of 16 verdict:
Holland vs Slovakia : Holland to cruise through this one.
Brazil vs Chile : Brazil for sure.
Paraguay vs Japan : Huh!! I will go with Paraguay.
Spain vs Portugal : Spain, only just..