Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Cup Group Stage Wrap-Up: Groups C and D

I made it through the day, so you know England didn't lose. But there is quite a bit of intrigue heading into the next set of matches on Saturday and Sunday. Let's start with Group C.

Group C

USA: I was really hoping to start off this group with England, but the States played some thrilling soccer through their three matches. They got some fortunate breaks (Robert Green's howler), and more unfortunate breaks (Mo Edu's non-goal, and Clint Dempsey's non-offside goal), but in the end they got a great story in Landon Donovan's stoppage time winner over Algeria that saved them from certain elimination and vaulted them past England atop the group. They're lined up for a potentially great run.

England: Ah, let's try to keep this short. If I start to ramble, this would be the longest blog of all time. England were supposed to cruise through the group, but they certainly didn't make it easy. Beating Slovenia was huge, and squeaking by with a 1-0 victory doesn't inspire the greatest of confidence heading forward. If only Wayne Rooney scored then the group would be England's. Instead, he hit his shot off the post (credit to keeper Samir Handanovic for getting a hand on it - no pun intended). England have the toughest of possible roads to the World Cup final, but I say bring it on. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Let's avoid penalties, and maybe they can advance a round or two.

Slovenia: If not for Donovan's last second goal over Algeria, the little Eastern European nation would be off to the knockout stage. Lots of credit to them for pulling their weight, especially after beating out Russia to get to South Africa in the first place. It's too bad they couldn't hold on to their two-goal lead over the States in game number two, or else the group would have surely been theirs!

Algeria: The Desert Foxes gave up an ugly loss to Slovenia, were lucky England played the worst of worst games against them, and held the US quite honourably until the 91st minute. They certainly had lots to play for in the last match, as a win over the US would give them a fighting chance, but it wasn't to be. Yet another African nation on the outs.

Group D

Germany: The Germans certainly have had an up and down group stage. First, they systematically destroyed the Aussies, before losing to Serbia (Miroslav Klose's red card and Lukas Podolski's penalty miss are big factors in that). They finished off with a 1-0 win over Ghana which could have gone either way, so what to expect next? A date with England. Certainly one of the most juicy of Round of 16 matchups.

Ghana: As good as they've been, the Black Stars are simply lucky to be moving through, and will be the only African team to do so. They play USA next, but I don't see them beating the Americans. Ghana only scored two goals in three matches, and both via the penalty kick. They are flashy enough to create chances but can't finish at all up front. They're Africa's only hope, but I can't see them making it too much further.

Australia: It was quite the turbulent ride for the Aussies, and in the end they're out on goal differential thanks to the spanking they received from Germany in their opener. It's too bad they lost their talisman Tim Cahill to a questionable red card in that opener. The Everton man - who scored a typical Cahillian goal against Serbia - was sorely missed in the Aussie's 1-1 draw with Ghana. If he had played, the Socceroos could have been moving on. Instead, the dream is over.

Serbia: The Serbian team has always been built around a stymieing defence, and that was their downfall in South Africa, because they couldn't get anything going up front. They can boast a victory over Germany, but that required some luck. That win was sandwiched between two losses. Losing to Australia was especially tough, since they had a good shot to make it out of the group. Instead, they couldn't find another goal and end up last. Disappointing, to say the least.

Back tomorrow with Group E and F! Just who the heck is going to make it out of Group E? What's Italy going to do? We'll find out soon enough...

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