World Cup: Groups G and H decided today

Posted: 06/26/2014 by levcohen in Soccer

Yesterday’s games went pretty much as expected. In Group E, Switzerland advanced second behind France thanks to a Xherdan Shaqiri hat trick. Meanwhile, France was not at its best but still got the point needed to clinch first place. Ecuador and Honduras are the rare American teams in this World Cup who looked average at best throughout. Honduras in particular has been one of the two or three worst teams in Brazil, and couldn’t even find an answer in an easy group. Their -7 goal differential is second worst to Cameroon. Again, Group E is the only group where the European teams clearly triumphed over the American teams. Ecuador and Honduras are the first two and perhaps only two American teams eliminated before the round of 16, which means that, depending if the US progresses, as many as half of the last 16 could be from the Americas. Meanwhile, Group F featured some more goals than the three total scored by France, Switzerland, Ecuador, and Honduras yesterday. Argentina defeated Nigeria 3-2 in an exciting game, but the Nigerians still became the first African team to advance when Iran lost to Bosnia. It’s really unfortunate that Bosnia were eliminated, because I think they played pretty well throughout the tournament and were a better team than Nigeria. If they were in a different group (maybe Group C or Group H), they could be looking ahead to a last 16 game. They’re a young-ish team, though, so could easily have more success in the future.

Group G is living up to its “Group of Death” billing. Shockingly, it seems like Portugal, the lone team in this group with a co-best player in the world, is the weakest link. With that said, all four teams are still alive, although it would take a huge win for Portugal or a huge loss for the US to overturn the US’s goal differential advantage; while Portugal is -4, the US is +1. If either game ends in a draw, the two teams that are ahead now, Germany and the US, will advance in that order. Barring a loss, Germany is probably the top team in the group, and there has therefore been a lot of talk about the US and Germany possibly playing for a draw. I hope that doesn’t happen, and don’t think it will. Both teams have said that they are going all out to win this game, and I would tend to believe them. The US has a German coach which makes the plot juicier, and it’s also important to remember the 2002 quarterfinal game between these two teams. Despite being outplayed by the Americans, Germany prevailed 1-0 in that game in controversial fashion, as the US were denied what looked like a clear penalty in the second half. With all that said, it seems like we’re in for an exciting game and not a boring 0-0 tie. The game between Portugal and Ghana is set up to have a lot of goals, both because both teams are explosive offensively and because a tie wouldn’t suit either team. There’s an added incentive to score a lot of goals and win by a wide margin, so expect both teams to come out with all guns blazing.

Group H is a lot more straightforward, even though all four teams are alive in that group, too. Belgium has already clinched progression, and will advance as the top team if they tie or beat South Korea. The Koreans are for all intents and purposes eliminated; like Portugal, they would need to win by multiple goals to make up goal differential. It seems very unlikely that South Korea will beat Belgium by multiple goals. That means that the game between Russia and Algeria is basically another elimination game. Algeria has been a big surprise: after being labeled as one of the worst teams in the tournament (I had them #28), they have looked explosive, with five goals and three points in two games. Because they already have a win, they can tie against Russia and still advance, while Russia would need a win to progress over the African team. Because this group plays after the other one, and because the teams that progress from these two groups will play each other, some interesting things could happen depending on what happens in Group G. If Germany wins the group, which seems likely, Belgium will try to beat South Korea so they can avoid Germany. But if the US knocks off Germany and wins the group, Belgium might try to lose to South Korea and hope for an Algeria win, because that would lead to the Belgians playing the US and Algeria being forced to play the supposedly tougher opponent in Germany. That’s just speculation, though, and it’s more likely that all four teams will be playing to win. If that’s the case, then Belgium will almost certainly have enough to eliminate South Korea, while the game between Algeria and Russia depends largely on which Algeria team shows up. If it’s the explosive team that we’ve seen so far in the World Cup, they’ll likely be able to take at least a point from Russia. But if it’s the team we thought we’d be seeing heading into the World Cup, it might be a long day for Algeria.

My Predictions: Germany will avoid a loss and win the group, while the second spot will go down to the wire. It’s a coin toss, but I think it’s likely that one of the two games would tie, which would put the US through in second. Meanwhile, I think Belgium will eliminate South Korea and Algeria will take the second spot.

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