FIFA World Cup 2010: 12 Teams That Can Still Make It To the Semifinals
In the World Cup, it is far more important how a team finishes rather than how it starts.
No team can play or has ever played seven great games in winning the Cup. A team needs luck on the day they have an average game.
Often teams that look like world-beaters in their first game stumble later on.
The tournament is still wide open. These are 12 teams that I think still have shown enough to make it to the semifinals. Listings are by group, so the numbers are meaningless.
Group A: France
France have already been written off by many. All we hear about is the turmoil in the camp surrounding Raymond "dead coach walking" Dominech.
They looked awful against Uruguay, but they looked as bad in their first two games in 2006. They scraped through the group in 2006 and destroyed Spain, who had looked like world-beaters, in the Round of 16.
They have the talent, and if Dominech selects the right mix of players, they can advance well into the competition.
Much depends on their performance against Mexico later today.
Group A: Uruguay
Uruguay proved they are a quality team in beating an admittedly subpar South Africa.
In their first game they focused on defense and stifled France. Against South Africa they added a forward and stifled South Africa.
Diego Forlan can turn any game, and Luis Suarez showed what he is capable of (other than going down far too easily).
Credit to Oscar Tabarez for making the adjustments to accomplish the task. That is coaching that can take a team deep into the competition.
Group B: Argentina
Argentina has some of the world's best talent. It was obvious in their game against Nigeria.
They only scored once but could have had considerably more but for errant shooting, especially by Lionel Messi, who admitted to nervousness in his World Cup debut.
The wild card is Diego Maradona, who barely managed to lead the team through the qualifying stages.
Talent abounds. Their win against South Korea should seal the top spot in the group and a relatively easy game against the team that comes second in Group A.
If things go right, a place in the final is a distinct possibly.
Group C: England
England are, as always, an enigma. Loaded with talent as usual, they are once again off to a stuttering start.
Their toughest game is behind them, and they have the means to beat both Slovenia and Algeria and finish top of the group, which will prevent a potential game against Germany.
Their penchant for self-destruction always lurks, but if they can hit their stride at the right time, they could go further than they have since 1990.
Wayne Rooney was kept quiet by a resolute and tough American defense, but he will still stamp his mark on the tournament before it's done.
Group D: Germany
Germany demolished Australia with ease and had the game won even before Tim Cahill's dismissal.
They showed that Michael Ballack might not be missed, but two far tougher games are coming up. There is little doubt that they will advance though.
Germany always finds a way to win, and that should see them advance deep into the competition. Whether their lack of experience is enough to get them to the final remains to be seen, but you can never count Germany out.
In Mesut Özil they have a world-class player about to burst on the scene. The supporting cast is talented enough to take on any team. Their typical discipline and organization are strengths that other teams envy.
Group D: Ghana
Ghana were able to grind out a win against a resilient Serbia despite the absence of Michael Essien, gone from the entire tournament, as well as Sully Muntari, who will be available for the rest of their games.
The victory against Serbia gives them a huge leg up for qualifying from the group.
They have talent throughout the team and could become the first African country to reach the semifinals. They will need a bit of luck along the way, but that and talent could be enough.
Group E: The Netherlands
The Netherlands had a solid start, disposing of a pesky Denmark without hitting any high notes. That is the perfect start—taking three points without coming close to one's best.
The team is, as usual, loaded with talent and few visible weaknesses.
The usual suspects such as Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie, and Mark Van Bommel performed well, but the real surprise was Eljero Elia, who came on late, caused problems for the Danish defense, and created the second goal.
They should negotiate their next two games fairly easily.
Their penchant to self-destruct could strike, but it might be late enough in the tournament to reach at least the semifinals.
Group F: Italy
Italy had to come from behind to draw with Paraguay but still showed enough to prove that despite the skepticism, they have the talent and the experience to do what they do best—win the tough games.
The loss of Gianluigi Buffon is a blow, but they should negotiate the group in first place, which gives them a relatively easy tie against one of the three teams in Group E that isn't the Netherlands.
Group G: Brazil
A hard-fought win against a surprising North Korea with a little scare thrown in at the end was enough to get Brazil rolling.
While the game didn't reveal enough to gauge just how good this version of "The Beautiful Game" is, they should negotiate the next two against Portugal and the Ivory Coast with enough points to win the group, helped by these two teams playing to a draw.
A hiccup on the road could be Spain, who might now finish second in group H. If form holds true and Brazil wins the group, they could then meet Spain in the round of 16.
Group G: Ivory Coast
Despite drawing 0-0 with Portugal, the Ivory Coast by far had the better of the game.
A welcome sign for "The Elephants" was the late appearance of Didier Drogba who, despite looking somewhat tentative, almost won it but for the rain-soaked surface when he scuffed the ball in front of the goal.
They have experience as well as one of the shining new stars of football, Gervinho, who excelled in the Portugal match.
Qualification will rest on how they perform against Brazil and whether they can pad their goal difference in the final group game against North Korea. If they can then avoid Spain in the round of 16, the quarterfinals are attainable.
Group G: Portugal
Despite looking second best against the Ivory Coast, any team with Cristiano Ronaldo must be considered a threat.
They are strong in defense with Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho, both of Chelsea, as well as having a strong midfield with Deco, Tiago, and others.
Once again experience comes into play, and they are likely to get tougher the further into the competition they go.
Group H: Spain
They were victims of the upset of the tournament thus far but can still win the group with good wins against Chile and Honduras.
Chile will prove troublesome, but I can't see Spain losing a second game in the group.
Fernando Torres, left on the bench for the opener, will probably start the next game, and a team that looks as good as Brazil on paper can only get stronger from here on out.
Their history in finals weighs against them, but if Spain finds its rhythm, the final is still within reach.