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The Cup Running Over


June 14, 2010 6:02 PM

Tuesday Preview: Slovakia-New Zealand, Cote d'Ivoire-Portugal, Brazil-North Korea

Tuesday's games should be a lot better than Monday's. Hopefully.

SLOVAKIA-NEW ZEALAND (Group F)

Slovakia, the surprise winners of its European group, loves to score. New Zealand is among the worst teams ever to appear in a World Cup tournament. Slovakia boasts an exciting attack, featuring Serie A mainstay Marek Hamsik, as well as former Twente star Miroslav Stoch, only 20. On paper, the only questions are how many Slovakia can put past the hapless Kiwi goalkeeper and if New Zealand can possibly notch one itself. A mismatch.
 
IVORY COAST-PORTUGAL (Group G)

On paper, one of the more intriguing games of the first round as these two teams battle to join Brazil in the next round. The two squads are mirror images of one another. Ivory Coast is an offensive juggernaut but leaks goals thanks, in part, to yet another hapless keeper. Everyone will recognize Didier Drogba, who looks set to play despite his recent broken arm, and he will be flanked by Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou and the exciting Gervinho. Despite its reputation, Portugal is one of the strongest defensive teams at the tourney but struggles to score. Key for the Portuguese could be its strong wingers - Cristiano Ronaldo and Simao - outclassing the defensively weak Ivory Coast wing-backs. Usually in such matchups, defense prevails but . . . .
 
kaka.jpgIf healthy, look for Brazil's Kaka to have an outstanding tournament.


BRAZIL- NORTH KOREA (Group G)

The world's favorite team takes on the world's pariah. North Korea -- of whom little is known for obvious reasons -- plays super-defensively. This Brazilian team is more back-conscious than the usual Brazilian variety, meaning there may be fewer goals than expected. The North Koreans -- who often play five at the back and nine or ten behind the ball -- may hold out longer than expected but Brazil should eventually prevail.

 

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