The Cup Running Over

June 23, 2010 4:32 PM

Thursday Preview: Groups E and F Decide Their Places

In these groups, Holland and Paraguay seem surely headed to the next round. The other two spots are up for grabs.


Cameroon-Holland: Holland has already clinched; Cameroon hasn't won a game in a disappointing campaign. With little at stake, it's always possible that the Dutch could mail this one in. But on paper, it should win comfortably. A meaningless game.

Denmark-Japan: The battle for second, unless the Dutch lose badly or someone wins very big here. On paper, the Danes are much the better team and are a threat to actually go to the quarters if they can win here. The best hope for the Japanese is to grab a goal on a set play. But the fluidity of the Danes should prevail -- perhaps handily.


Slovakia-Italy: Yes, Italy is in danger of not qualifying if it doesn't win this game. But this is standard practice for the Italians, who traditionally stumble their way through the first round before getting stronger in the late rounds. Still, their fans should be worried. Anyone who can fail to beat New Zealand is capable of losing to virtually any team on earth and the Italians have looked uncharacteristically spotty on defense. For its part, Slovakia has looked pretty awful -- its vaunted offense out of gear. The Italians should win. But it may be that the wheels are coming off of a very ancient bus, as this team is quite old.

Paraguay's strong performance at the Cup should not have been a surprise.

Paraguay-New Zealand: These two teams have been among the revelations of the tournament. Paraguay shouldn't have been really; it's a traditional over-performer on the world stage and its offense has been better than advertised. New Zealand is the Cup's wonder team -- a wretched squad on paper that has managed to tie both Italy and Slovakia. That means that it has a shot at getting to the next round if it can beat Paraguay. But frankly, we expect the dream to end here, as Paraguay still hasn't clinched its place in the next round -- even though it leads the group.


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