Curate Omnes

Pay attention, everybody

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Groups G and H settled
Round of 16 starts tomorrow

Groups G and H were finalized yesterday. Not too much of interest to report, except that France were able to redeem themselves and edge South Korea out of the second round in group G. The expected sides from group G are progressing, just not in the order people were expecting. I think it would have been great for the Koreans to make it through again, but they just didn't have quite enough to keep the Swiss at bay. As for the Swiss, I have to give them credit for pursuing the win. A tie would have seen them go through as group leaders unless France managed a three goal margin of victory, but they weren't going to be satisfied with that result.

Group H came out exactly as expected with Spain and Ukraine progressing. It's admirable to see how Ukraine was able to pick itself up after that thrashing Spain gave them in the first match. Saudi Arabia and Tunisia weren't able to stand up much to the Europeans and their single point each came from their 2-2 tie.

In the next round, it's Switzerland versus Ukraine and Spain versus France. There's not a lot to separate the Swiss from the Ukrainians in terms of form at this point, but my sense gives Switzerland the edge. Ukraine has gotten the victory in these last couple of matches, but they haven't exactly been dominant.

The other matchup set today was Spain against France. I don't see the French as having what it takes to get past this Spanish side, but then again, Spain has had a deserved reputation as underachievers in the past. However, this team genuinely seems to be different. Their play in the group was impressive and a team with various reserves was good enough to get past the Saudis for full points. In my opinion, France's only chance is if Spain collapse. I don't see that happening at this point in the tournament.

Round of sixteen (Eighthfinals)

I like the term that exists in Spanish and Portuguese for this round, which translates as eighthfinals. I think I'll use that from here on out, because second round and round of sixteen sound lame to me. Anyway, the first matches are tomorrow with Germany facing Sweden and Argentina facing Mexico. Both the favorites should be able to get past these matches, but they should be some excellent games. The Swedes played exceptionally well in their second half against England and their morale is high. The Germans, however, are surging after pounding Ecuador 3-0 and it's hard to see them producing a letdown in the eighthfinals.

As for Mexico, they started well in their group with an impressive victory against Iran, but were flat against Angola and Portugal. Against an Argentina that demolished the Serbians 6-0, the Mexicans look like heavy underdogs. Soccer being soccer, anything can happen, but I don't see Mexico taking the Argentines by surprise.

So far, this Cup hasn't had the zany energy of 2002. Australia, Ecuador, and Ghana are the only "surprise" teams in the 16 eighthfinalists, replacing the Croats, Poles, and Czechs that most people would have put in for those slots. But true upsets of the France-Senegal were pretty much non-existent and the eighthfinals have a very conventional look to them. Let's see if the quarterfinals follow that same trend.

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