Today, Paraguay tied New Zealand but won Group F with one win and two ties (similar to the U.S.), while the All Whites leave the tournament with the three tie record that allows them to say that they didn’t lose a game! Neither team seemed worried about putting together much of an attack, playing not to lose perhaps. In the other final of Group F, Slovakia and Italy shot it out but Slovakia sent 2006’s champs home empty-handed with the new distinction of having never finished last in their group. Thanks to ESPN who answered this question for me, but 2010 also marks the first time that both finalists from the previous cup (in this case, Italy and France) failed to advance into the elimination stage.
In the wrap up for Group E, Cameroon battled back with a penalty kick to equalize with the Netherlands while Japan jumped on Denmark in the seventeenth minute and lay claim to the second seed from the group. Either team could’ve made it as the winner advanced and the loser went home, but Japan showed they were better prepared to take hold of that, and either way, the Netherlands had beaten both of the other two teams.
Tomorrow wraps up the group play with the drama coming from Group H where (I think) Chile has one of the two spots locked up but gets the lead with a win over Spain, while Spain and Switzerland are battling just to advance (Honduras is already out). On the other side, there’s a bit of drama from Brazil versus Portugal because the winner takes first place in Group G. Either way, both of them will advance because the Ivory Coast would have to score a million goals to overtake Cristiano Ronaldo’s squad. (Okay, not a million, but their differential would have to be somewhere in the vicinity of Portugal losing and the Coast scoring eight or nine….)
One more day to go, and that Portugal-Brazil game was highlighted on my calendar before the Cup even started! Still, it’s 2:30 p.m. on Saturday that has the big red circle around it to save the date: bring on Ghana!