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Winners and Losers Day 7: Viva Copa Mundial

June 17, 2010

Yet another exciting day at the World Cup. Some teams seem to be hitting their stride (Argentina) while others are quietly packing their bags ready to go home (France). Another untimely (as if there’s ever a good time) red card cost a team (Nigeria) game they seemed to have in hand. And the South Korea we’ve come to expect on foreign soil revealed itself again. Tomorrow’s slate of game features a Serbian side desperate for points against arguably the tournament’s most impressive side, Germany. The US and England also return to the pitch in search of an elusive three points. But before we look ahead, a look back. All the winners and losers after the jump.

Winners:

Gonzalo Higuain – Lots of goals in the knock-out stage is a good recipe for winning the Golden Boot.  Higuain was the beneficiary of some incredible effort from the MESSIah. Without Lionel Messi’s ability, especially on the rebound he put off the post, Higuain would not be a contender for the award given to the tournament’s top scorer.

Javier Hernandez – Coming on as a sub in the second half, Mexico’s Javier Hernandez sparked the attack and made a timely run asthe France defense just stopped, expecting an offsides call. Hernandez proceeded to dribble around the hapless France’s keeper and scored easily.

Vincent Enyeama – His squad lost again, but he, once again, did most everything in his power to keep his country’s World Cup chances alive. These chances are now on life support, needing a win and a Greece loss to Argentina, among other things. He followed up his six-save performance in the Argentina game with nine in today’s game. While he should have save Greece’s second goal, he single-handedly kept Nigeria in the game despite only playing with 10 for more than half of the game.

Uruguay – By virtue of Mexico’s surprise win over France, Uruguay only needs to draw in their third match to not only advance to the knockout stage, but finish atop Group A and avoid a match-up with South American rival Argentina.

World Cup Fans – The Swiss upset of Spain has started a trend of more entertaining soccer over the course of the last 48 hours when compared to the previous five days. As is always the case after the second wave of knock-out games start, the group dynamics are much more exciting and the character of the teams are starting to take shape.

Losers:

Argentine Defense – To start, it is pretty non-existent. More importantly though, even in possession of the ball, the defense was unsure of its touch. A perfect example was the goal gifted to the South Koreans. Look for the attacking football to be halted once Argentina play a contender.

South Korea – Honestly, if you are a soccer fan, you already know this. Being the best in Asia holds about as much weight as being the best of Oceania – sorry, All Whites. The real bad part is that now every one knows just how bad the South Koreans are. Over-hyped after drawing the U.S. and unfairly (by cheating/paying off referees) advancing to the semi-finals in 2002, they have become kind of anonymous.

Sani Kaita – The one red card of the day and it proved costly. Nigeria was up 1-0 against an offensively challenged Greek side and looked to be moving on to the third group match with three points and a game with South Korea to determine the group’s runner-up. After a play was over, Kaita kicked tried to kick Greece’s Vasilis Torosidis in the knee. The ref did not catch Torosidis throwing the ball at Kaita, but caught the whiff and showed Kaita a straight red card. Greece went on to score two goals, putting Nigeria’s World Cup run on life support.

France – You knew this as well. The French are full of talent with the majority of their starting line-up playing for the top teams in Europe. Surprisingly, that has led to a lack of fluidity and teamwork. Despite the rarity of a unfathomable mistake by Domenech so far, you can still credit him with the overall disappointment of this squad. It’s still hard to understand why you bring Thierry Henry to the World Cup and then not play him when you need a goal. See you in four years, Les Bleus.

Ireland – Just as a controversial handball ended Ireland’s World Cup run, a controversial offsides call ended France’s. While the media will undoubtedly Harp on the French loss just as we will salute it with a Guiness for today, the fact of the matter is that the Irish are still at home roaming the hills with the goats and reading the Dubliners. Must suck to have a weekend of being reminded what you could have been doing.

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