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Five Games to Watch in the Next Cycle of Group Play

June 15, 2010

Wednesday starts the next round of games with South Africa and Uruguay in action for a second time. Some teams have already surprised: Germany dominated, Ghana won on home soil-ish, and Japan and South Korea won on foreign soil. While others disappointed: European powers France, Italy, and Portugal all drew against perceived inferior opponents while Greece and Cameroon mailed in two performances. In addition to these five games, you should also pay close attention to matches in Group A (South Africa-Uruguay and France-Mexico) and Group F (Paraguay-Slovakia and Italy-New Zealand) where everyone is even at one point each. Five games to watch, in order of appearance, after the jump:

Argentina – South Korea : One of only two match-ups between first game winners (the other: Netherlands-Japan). South Korea was one of only four teams to score at least two goals so far in the tournament. While the South Korea-Nigeria matchup may well determine who advances from this group with Argentina, this will go a long way to separating a good South Korea squad and a one-game fluke. Argentina’s Messi was impressive on the attack, but the rest of the loaded strike force was missing in action and will maybe open things up in this game.

Germany – Serbia : Germany has been the most impressive team in the tournament, netting four goals in a rout of 10-man Australia in their first game, but can they follow up that performance against a defensive-minded Serbia side. Serbia was a handball away from getting out of the Ghana match with a point, but fell 1-0 to the only African winners of the first round. With Ghana having Australia and a sure-to-be qualified Germany side remaining in group play, Serbia will have to play for the win instead of a draw. If Serbia has any kind of offense you will see it and if not, Germany will undoubtedly provide some offensive firepower of their own.

United States – Slovenia : Slovenia finds itslef atop the group, taking advantage of an opponent’s goalkeeping gaffe of their own. Slovenia will likely be playing for a draw, but the United States probably does not have that luxury given their history in last group games (0-0-7). Slovenia counter-attacked their way to a 1-0 victory over Algeria so the United States may also have to change strategies and possess the ball, making for a potential more entertaining and dangerous side.

Cameroon – Denmark : Coaching and an own goal doomed Cameroon and Denmark, respectively, in their first games so both teams’ backs are against the wall. When you get desperate teams, you get more spirited and, hopefully, better play. Japan was not expected to advance from this group and, like South Korea, will have to prove their first game was not a fluke, but the loser of this game will more than likely not advance to the knockout rounds. And if these teams draw, the advantage shifts back to Japan so both team will likely be playing for a win. Maybe Samuel Eto’o will see time at center forward and maybe Nicklas Bendtner will actually play a whole game for your viewing pleasure.

Brazil – Ivory Coast : Brazil disappointed in victory. The Ivory Coast impressed in a draw. Looking at the group as a whole, Brazil is, barring an unexpected collapse, through to the next round. Picking up three points against North Korea no longer seems as easier as originally thought so the Brazil-Ivory Coast and Brazil-Portugal take on greater importance. The Ivory Coast needs some kind of decision in this game because if Brazil wins they will likely play for a draw or rest their starters in their third game (against Portugal), sealing the Elephants’ fate. It’s time for the Ivory Coast to FINALLY live up to expectations and, given another week or so, Drogba may be able to go. And that’s reason enough to watch.

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