Thursday, 10 June 2010

World Cup 2010: The 1st Round’s Key Games – Part 1

With the 19th FIFA World Cup beginning tomorrow, Fan With A Laptop looks at the key games which will shape knockout stages of this World Cup.  Part 1 looks at the first two rounds of the Group Stages.

Uruguay V France; Cape Town, 11 June 19:30
The first of the big guns in action, the 1998 champions (and Runners-up four years ago) do not have a good World Cup record against the team who won their last World cup 60 years ago. France lost 2-1 at White City in 1966, while 8 years ago Henry was sent off in a 0-0 draw in Busan.  Uruguay represent very tricky opponents in what will be Dominech’s last campaign as the French Coach.

Argentina V Nigeria; Ellis Park, Jo-Burg, 12 June 15:00
First sight of the Argentineans, featuring everyone’s favourite footballer at the moment, Lionel Messi. Their World Cup bow this campaign comes against the team their manager (need i mention Diego Maradona) made his last World Cup appearance. Caniggia bagging a brace in a 2-1 win in Boston.

England V USA; Rustenburg, 12 June 19:30
It’s England’s first game, what else is there to say. Well… plenty. England are traditional slow starters, but need to be quicker off the mark here as this USA team are ranked only six places below them. Defeat for England here would make it difficult for England to qualify. Should they finish second, they would be seeded to play Germany in the Second Round, while their probable quarter final opponents would be Argentina. Both side’s they have not beaten in the World Cup finals since 1966. Defeat for England would not be as seismic as the loss to the USA in the 1950 finals.

Serbia V Ghana; Loftus Versfield, Pretoria, 13 June 15:00
Group D features 3 sides which made the last 16 four years ago… and Serbia who relegated France to the play-off’s during qualification. Ghana were the standard bearers for Africa 4 years ago. Assuming that Germany will qualify from this group, both of these sides are playing for the other qualifying place, and presumably a last 16 game against England.

Cote d’Ivoire V Portugal; Port Elizabeth, 15 June 15:00
Vying with Group D for “Group of Death” status is this group (G).The Ivory Coast were unlucky enough to be in a tough group last time around, while Portugal went all the way to the semi-final,and are currently ranked third. Both sides will want a good start to this group, as the seed in this group is Brazil.

Spain V Switzerland; Durban, 16 June 15:00
First sight of the current European Champions and many people’s tip to win this tournament. Spain are up against the team who got to the last 16 of the last World Cup despite not scoring and not conceding.  A good chance for Spain to get some much needed momentum.  Their draw for the last 16 sees them play one of Brazil/Portugal/Cote d’Ivoire should they qualify.

South Africa V Uruguay; Pretoria, 16 June 19:30
The hosts second match, and a key match for the tournament. A win for South Africa could see the hosts get into a qualifying position. A draw or a loss could see them out, and a lot of the atmosphere disappear.

Germany V Serbia; Port Elizabeth, 18 June 12:30
A key game in Group D. A Germany win could see them through to the knockout stages. A Serbia win could blow the whole group, and that half of the draw, apart. These two sides have met 5 times in World Cup final’s under different guises, their last meeting was a 2-2 draw in Lens in 1998.

Cameroon V Denmark; Pretoria, 19 June 19:30
20 year’s on from their breakthrough performance in Italy, Cameroon can take a big step towards their first knockout tie since that Quarter Final with a win here.  They start this tournament as Africa’s highest ranked team at the tournament (Cameroon are ranked 19, Egypt are ranked 12 despite not qualifying for the World Cup). Denmark 2010 is not really the same vintage as either the 1986 or 1998 teams, but they do possess experience in Sorenssen, Gronkjaer & Tommason, as well as Arsenal’s Bendtner. Whoever finishes second in this group is seeded to play Italy in the Last 16.

Brazil V Cote d’Ivoire; Soccer City, Jo-Burg 20 June 19:30
The last of the key games in the group stages (of the first two rounds of matches) features what might be the best game of the tournament. Brazil 2010 are looking to be a more solid team and are currently rated number 1, but this game will be a test for them. The Toure brothers, Zokora, Eboue, Kalou are very well known to British audiences, even before their striking figurehead (and major doubt) Didier Drogba is mentioned. With Portugal also in this group (they will be meeting North Korea for the first time since 1966), a contender for this trophy will be going home early, while the second placed team will be seeded to play Spain.

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