FIFA World Cup 2010: Knockout Kicks—Who Makes The "Elite Eight"? Part One
The 2010 FIFA World Cup has created many surprises in the First round of the tournament. Most notably, both finalists of 2010, Italy and France, have fallen like a house of cards in groups that were very winnable. Still, the Round of 16 is generally the moment where the "better" sides end up progressing and moving towards the point of glory. Who is in prime position to win each match up?
Uruguay vs. South Korea
Uruguay's ascension towards the Round of 16 is of surprise to no one because of their disciplined defensive style and two superstars up front in Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez. However, few would have bet them actually winning the group including France and Mexico and setting themselves up in this prime position against a seemingly weak South Korea team.
Except that this Asian powerhouse has shown to be a tough nut to crack, defeating a Greek side and holding Nigeria to a draw to send them through to the knockout stages. Furthermore, their attacking style has arguably made them the most entertaining group to watch, as Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung has shown to be the perfect orchestrator in their side.
While the heart of a soccer fan would like South Korea to win, because they do play a very attacking-oriented style, they simply are outclassed against a tough Uruguay defense. And with the striking partnership up front, I feel that this run for South Korea is over in 2010.
Final Result: Uruguay 2 South Korea 0
United States of America vs. Ghana
As a fan of the United States, I love the style the Americans played at. In my precursor to the World Cup I warned fans that the group was weak, because we were in it and not the other way around. Well this weak group is now won thanks in large part to the heroics of now soon-to-be rich Landon Donovan and certainly not the officiating. The talent of the United States is undeniable in the midfield with Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, supporting Donovan, all contributing the goals for the American team.
Ghana have restored African blushes at the World Cup, being the only African team to advance to the knockout round. Certainly, the crowd will be behind the Ghanaians in hopes of a deep run into the tournament for at least one member of the Confederation. Asamoah Gyan has scored two goals from the spot, meaning this team know how to take advantage of opportunities given to them.
In the end, Ghana's lack of Michael Essien and a weakened Sulley Muntari give the United States a major edge in this game. Ghana have played bright with their attacking style, however both goals have come from penalty kicks. The United States have also played very well in this tournament so far, rebounding from early defensive lapses to put on some entertaining displays even for a neutral fan. And this all without one of their strikers actually scoring a goal. I think this streak ends this game and the United States roll on, much to the chagrin of the African continent.
Final Result: United States 3 Ghana 0
Argentina vs. Mexico
Arguably, no team has played better in South Africa than the squad from Argentina. While scoring no goals, Lionel Messi has had a sublime string of performances, setting up virtually every goal for his side in each game. They tore through their group, getting all nine points and dispatching teams with seven goals while only allowing one on a defensive lapse.
Mexico came into this tournament as a cusp team with great offensive talent, but in a group where Uruguay and France looked better on paper. No more is Jared "The Desert Fox" Borgetti in front to head away crosses so Mexico would have to turn to its young trio of Dos Santos, Hernandez, and Carlos Vela. What this trio has lacked in experience is made up for in talent, as the Mexican counterattack has shown to be one of the best in the tournament, and more than two goals should have been scored from this Mexican side.
This matchup is extremely entertaining on paper, as both countries have reputations for being "glass cannons" (strong on attack, but very weak defensively). Every year there is one team that becomes everyone's favorite because of how they begin the tournament and then they fizzle out like a whimper in the knockout stages because they run into a team better tested. Against what may be conventional wisdom, I think Mexico have what it takes to defend against the Argentinian attack, whereas Argentina have not yet played a difficult side. Also, don't forget that it took one of the best goals in World Cup History to defeat the Mexicans in 2006 (pictured). I believe that a major revenge factor is put in play here as Mexico will work for retribution of that moment in Germany. Maradona will be wishing he brought along defenders Cambiasso and Zanetti because he will find difficulty controlling the forwards of "El Tri."
Final Result: Mexico 2 Argentina 1 (a.e.t)
Germany vs. England
Germany come into this match up after showing mixed results. After a four-nil demolition of an old Australian side, Germany were outmanned by a strong Serbian defense and a referee who I'm sure won't be welcome in Berlin or Munich anytime soon. Still, thanks to a wonderful strike by rising star Mesut Ozil against Ghana, the Germans won their difficult group and now find themselves with their striker Miroslav Klose back in a matchup against their European rivals.
Unlike Germany, who have seen more successes than failures, England has certainly not had the best experience in South Africa. The parts are certainly bigger than the whole, with Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, and especially Frank Lampard showing shells of their talent. Still, in the end they progressed as imagined and would have won the group had it not been for the heroics of Landon Donovan. Furthermore, England have only conceded one goal and that was no thanks to goalkeeper Robert Green.
Germany came into this World Cup with flaws, and England did not. However, the two have virtually switched fortunes and this seems to be a German win. However, England simply has more talent, and their defense has still been stout even without Rio Ferdinand in the back line. The goalkeeper howler came early, and I think the Germans are more worried about this matchup than England is. England have the better midfield and can control this game, making this is a disappointing exit for the young German side.
Final Result: England 1 Germany 0
After the final results tomorrow, I will preview the other four games of the World Cup, including a potential upset from rising star in Keusuke Honda and his Japanese side, and a potential whooping of Slovakia. Let's all hope I was wrong and that a second African team makes it, in the Ivory Coast, because that matchup possibility with Spain would be very interesting.
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