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The Cup Running Over


June 21, 2010 4:49 PM

Tuesday Preview: Groups A and B Decide Their Places

These are the two groups in which there is the least excitement on the final day, as three spots are virtually assured, with only the second spot in Group B really up for grabs.

GROUP A

Uruguay-Mexico:
Barring some kind of miracle in which one of these teams runs away from the other, both these teams are headed to the next round.Still, this game counts for a lot. That's because the team that finishes second in this group will have to play Argentina; the winner either South Korea, Greece, or Nigeria -- a far easier draw. The way things stand, Mexico must win this game to win the group, which is why Uruguay will play about as conservatively as possible, venturing out on offense only on an occasional counter. On most days we think the Mexicans are better, but the question is whether Uruguay can play for the tie and pull it off. A tense game, if not a particularly attractive one.

France-South Africa: Barring a very odd turn of events in which one of these teams wins big (and the other game is similarly one-sided), this is the last game for both teams. As you undoubtedly know by now, the French team has taken the traditional French route to the barricades in protest against the coach, which means its head won't be in the game -- not that it's been there throughout the tournament anyway. For sentiment's sake, we're rooting for the home team to pull one out and go out -- if that's what happens -- with its head held high.


GROUP B

Argentina-Greece: Argentina has pretty much clinched a spot in the next round. The real question is whether the Argentineans will take their foot off the pedal, rest key players, and allow a team that normally wouldn't be competitive to be so and nick a close game. We don't see that happening but the possibility is there. Keep in mind that Greece hasn't scored at this tournament unless its opponent is a man down and Argentina is far better than those two opponents. All in all, Argentina should win comfortably, even in relatively meaningless game.


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Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama needs to have another superlative game for his team to advance to the next round.



Nigeria-South Korea: Nigeria has lost both its matches but such are things in weak Group B that if the Super Eagles can win here and Greece loses to Argentina, Nigeria finishes second and goes on. It says something about the performances of the six African teams in South Africa that this may well be the continent's best chance to have a team advance. The game is at sea level (Durban), meaning South Korea will be able to use its running style all day long. Nigeria's best hope? Hot keeper Vincent Enyeama has another great game and the team strikes on the counter. Otherwise, South Korea looks like the best of the three also-rans to advance, along, of course, with Argentina.
 

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