Knock-out football starts today! It's the
World Cup last 16, and this is where it gets really exciting.
Portugal 0-0 Brazil - Group G - Durban
What was billed as a football carnival
turned out to be one of the worst games of the tournament. The first half was
niggly beyond words, with seven players booked amid a poisonous atmosphere.
Nasty tackles flew in and Portugal's Brazilian-born defender Pepe was
particularly lucky not to see red. The second half was just as unedifying in
its way, as both sides settled for a goalless draw and could hardly be bothered
to mount a meanginful attack between them.
North Korea 0-3 Ivory Coast - Group G -
Sven-Goran Eriksson's side started the day
knowing their only hope was to hope Portugal lost, and thrash North Korea in
the hope of achieving the massive goal difference swing they needed. They
started purposefully enough, with Yaya Toure stroking in a precise shot from
the edge of the box after Didier Drogba had seen a goal chalked off for
offside. Romaric doubled the lead on 20 minutes, heading in after Drogba
smashed a shot against the underside of the bar. Salomon Kalou added a third
late on but the draw in Durban meant both sides went out anyway.
Chile 1-2 Spain - Group H - Pretoria
Spain got the win they needed to go
through, but did not completely impress in a weird game. Chile started
strongly, but fell behind after a rush of blood made keeper Claudio Bravo
charge out of his box, and David Villa skilfully found the empty net with a
first-time shot from distance. Andres Iniesta added a second, sidefooting in
from the edge of the box, and Chile's Marco Estrada was harshly shown a second
yellow card for a supposed foul on Fernando Torres in the build-up - the
striker tripped himself up. Rodrigo Millar pulled one back with a deflected
effort early in the second half, but the game petered out with both sides going
Switzerland 0-0 Honduras - Group H -
A two-goal win would have taken the Swiss
through, but they failed to rise to the challenge having concentrated only on
defence in their opening two games. The Hondurans tackled lustily, with Premier
League pair Wilson Palacios and Hendry Thomas among four booked. Eren Derdiyok
started up front but failed to take numerous half chances. He also provided a
superb ball for strike partner Blaise Nkufo, who inexplicably tried to chest
the ball down instead of heading it in.
Last 16 matches
Brazil v Chile - Johannesburg - June 28 -
Spain v Portugal - Cape Town - June 29 -
Uruguay v South Korea - Port Elizabeth -
The knock-out stages kick off with the
impressive winners of France's group against an industrious but fallible Korean
side. Uruguay's three-pronged attack of Diego Forlan, Edinson Cavani and Luis
Suarez will be in full effect, while Korea's best hopes lie with the two Parks
- Park Ji-Sung and Park Chu-Young.
USA v Ghana - Rustenburg - 19.30
Thousands of England fans had tickets for
this one, bought in the optimistic expectation they would win Group C. Instead
it is the US who take on Ghana. Oguchi Onyewu is expected to come in at
centre-back for the US, while striker Robbie Findley is back from suspension.
Lee Addy could come in to the centre of defence for Ghana. The winners of today's
two games meet in the quarter-finals.
Water cooler chat: England's Germany jinx
The consensus is the main thing holding
England back against Germany is that they always beat us - the problem is
mental, not technical or tactical. I would suggest they always beat us because
they are better than us, but there's no doubt psychological demons contributed
to England's scared-stiff displays against the USA and Algeria.
And there's no doubt the Germans are
confident. A quick anecdote: I was on a ferry yesterday (hence the shameful
lack of Twitter action, incidentally) and had a quick chat with a nice German
family. They were lovely, but as they prepared to get off the boat, they dug a Germany car flag out of the boot, fixed
it to their window and drove off grinning. The look on their faces said they
KNEW they were going to beat us. That's the task that faces England.
What to say: 'It's 1966 all over again.'
What not to say: 'It's 1970, 1990 and 1996
all over again.'
World Cup jargon: 'In earnest'
Nobody really knows what it means, but
you'll hear no end of people saying that today the World Cup begins in earnest.
What they mean is that the chaff of North Korea, Honduras and France has been
waved off, and we're down to serious countries now. And England. It's knock-out
football, win-or-go-home stuff with extra time and penalties ready to unleash
on the frayed nerves of 16 nations. See also: 'This is where the World Cup
really starts', 'Business end of the tournament', 'Main event'. Anything to
make the French and Italians feel really bad.