Sunday, June 25, 2006

World Cup: Week 2

A little later than planned, but week 2 of the World Cup saw the group stages finish and setup the round two clashes for the final 16 teams.

The Frontrunners

Brazil turned on the style in their final group game against Japan, running out 4-1 winners. However, they were very disappointing in their opening games and I still maintain that defensively they are weak (although that could be said of a number of the top teams).

For me, Argentina and Spain still look the strongest, although questions will be asked as to whether the two have peaked too soon.

The Disappointments

Again France remain the big disappointment of the teams that have made it through to the last 16. They struggled in their opening two games and were close to going out. They play Spain in the next round and I'll be very surprised if the 1998 World Champions don't crash out in style.

The Czech Republics failure to get through the group stages is probably the only real shock in the first round. Their opening game really made me feel that they could live up to their World ranking of 2nd. However, defeats to Italy and Ghana put paid to that!

The Underdogs

After the shocks of World Cup 2002 which saw Argentina and France crash out in round 1, and South Korea make a run to the semis at the expense of Spain and Italy, things seem to have returned to form this time out. Only Ghana have surprised people to make it through a very tough group. I felt sorry for Ivory Coast, who deserved more, but found themselves in a group with Holland and Argentina. Ecaudor (Englands 2nd round opponents) could be classed as the surprise package of group A, but their opponents (bar Germany) were poor.


And so to the 2nd best team in the World (according to the World Cup seedings). Well they've still failed to impress. I felt that the performance against Sweden was certainly better than in previous matches, but the defending was truly woeful. The loss of Owen is a major blow. He's the kind of player that may do nothing for 80 minutes but will then win a match for you.

Second Round matches

Germany v Sweden
Argentina v Mexico
England v Ecuador
Portugal v Holland
Italy v Australia
Switzerland v Ukraine
Brazil v Ghana
Spain v France

At the time of writing Germany, Argentina and England had booked their places in the quarter-finals.

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