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THIS IS THE OFFICIAL WORLD CUP BLOG OF THIS BLOG -- PART II: Below in a separate post you'd find Part I encompassing the entire first round. This picks up with the round-of-16 elimination games and takes us the rest of the way. Wanted to break it into two posts because the other one was getting longer than that 70-68 Wimbledon set. This Futblog appreciates great soccer wherever it is seen but is unabashedly pro-American, shouted "U-S-A!" and wanted little more last week than for the entire nation of Ghana to be crestfallen in abject sorrow. Was that mean? Right after the new predict-the-winner poll you'll find the daily second-round compendium along with a summary of the best-and-worst from the first round.
THE NEW WORLD CUP POLL: I am again restricted to 10 poll answers so, rather than be arbitrary, I included the eight group-play winners, the group runnerup with best betting odds-to-win entering the tournament, and then an "others" category. I know it's tough to be dispassionate but try to make your pick with head over heart. Or not.
SUNDAY JULY 11
SPAIN 1, NETHERLANDS 0 (extra time) --- Spain wins its first World Cup championship in a 1-0 exra-time triumph over Netherlands, which once again is relegated to the dubious title of best soccer nation to never win the sport's grand prize. Andres Iniesta's volley shot from near range in the 116th minute in a match wrought with yellow cards. The final outcome was just, as Spain dominated 63 percent of time of possession --- Preview: It's doubtful Brazilians, Argentines and Germans are very excited about this final, but it fills a marquee pretty well for the rest of us. These are big teams, with Spain the 2008 European champion and ranked No. 2 in the world by FIFA coming in, and the Netherlands ranked No. 4 in the world. And yet there is an underdog quality to the match as well, since neither nation has won a World Cup. The winner will join that exclusive club; the loser will be relegated to being the best to not win. Can the robust attack of the Dutch solve the Spaniards' resolute defense? Should be interesting.
TUESDAY JULY 6
NETHERLANDS 3, URUGUAY 2 --- Holland seized 3-1 lead on goals in 70th and 73rd minutes by Wesley Sniejder off right post (on a sequence that could have been called offside but wasn't) and then Arjen Robben off left post. Uruguay's Maxi Pereira scored early in extra time to at least make the last few minutes frenetically interesting. Match was 1-1 at halftime on a pair of long-range missile-blast goals. Dutch led in 18th minute on a rocket from well outside the box into upper right corner of net by the elaborately named Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, a gorgeous shot from such unexpected distance it caught the goalkeeper flat-footed a split-second too long. Uruguay equalized in 41st minute on a similar-range shot by Diego Forlan that powered over the head and past the Dutch keeper, who got a lot of gloved hand on the ball but failed to lift it over the bar. Dutch now in finals vs. Germany-Spain winner --- Preview: Netherlands, the Oranje, stunned Brazil in the quarters and now must avoid a letdown against a Uruguayan side that is a clear underdog. Chances are Uruguay lost the support of nuetral fans when advancing due to a deliberate handball vs. Ghana, leaving the impression the team either cheated or got immeasurably lucky. An interesting something-to-prove dynamic underlies the matchup. Uruguay attempts to make its "We're back!" statement after winning World Cup titles in 1930 and 1950 but then being surpassed on the continent by Brazil, Argentina and others. The Dutch are in their first semifinal since 1998 and trying to finally shake the label of being perhaps the best team/country to never win a World Cup.
WEDNESDAY JULY 7
SPAIN 1, GERMANY 0 --- Spain's goal in the 73rd minute on gorgeous header by Carles Puyol off perfect corner-kick service proved enough, given the Spaniards' tenacious, unyielding defense. Figured the scoreless match deep into the second half had to make Germany more nervous than Spain. Now, iit's Spain vs. Netherlands this coming Sunday for the world title --- Preview: Spain, La Roja, is ranked No. 2 in the world by FIFA (best of any semifinalist and is reigning 2008 European champion, yet mighty Germany surely is the favorite here based on recent play. A caveat is that the Germans will be missing Thomas Muller with a card suspension, and that Spain has returned to form since an opening loss in group play. Still, Die Mannschaft has been the most impressive team in this World Cup.
Semifinals summary: With due respect to the two nations, I don't know that Spain-Netherlands is the sexiest or most exciting World Cup final imaginable. But it is a worthy final between two countries aiming for their first WC championship. The Dutch are likely the greatest soccer nation to never win the Cup, and Spain entered this tournament as the slight betting favorite, so the matchup, if not scintillating, is credible.
SATURDAY JULY 3
GERMANY 4, ARGENTINA 0 --- Um, what was that you were saying about the great South American tour de force in this World Cup? First Brazil falls, now Argentina, while European teams rise hugely. Germany made it an overwhelming 4-nil in closing minutes on a second goal by the great Miroslav Klose. Was 3-0 in 74th minute on Arne Friedrich goal capitalizing on more porous defense by the now-crestfallen Argentines. It was 2-nil in 68th minute on tap-in goal by Klose off a short cross after a defensive breakdown by Argentina. Germans had led 1-0 in 3rd minute, stunning Argentines with Thomas Muller header from a gorgeous, curling ball off set-play --- Preview: Argentina-Germany, like Brazil-Netherlands yesterday, is a heavyweight quarterfinal with the heft of a final. Adding spice: Die Mannschaft and Albiceleste have traded verbal volleys portending a match that could be full of as much acrimony as brilliance. Teams also met in the 2006 World Cup quarters, with Germany winning on a penalty-kicks tiebreaker. Argentina is fancied by many now as the best team in play and the likely World Cup champion, but the youthful Germans have coalesced as a force to be reckoned with. Call Argentina slight favorite. Winner faces Spain in semifinal on July 7.
SPAIN, 1 PARAGUAY 0 --- Consternation caused by Spain losing its World Cup opener in group play seemed long ago after David Villa's goal in the 83rd minute proved enough in a 1-0 quarterfinal win over Paraguay. That was after both teams missed a penalty kick within a few minutes' time --- Preview: Spain has seemed to gather back a sense of momentum and should be counted on as a solid favorite to dispatch an underdog Paraguayan squad. Spain, La Furia Roja, fights a reputation for underperforming in World Cups and needs this victory for its good name. Paraguay, La Albrirroja, is the farthest it has ever been in a WC. Winner faces a rugged July 7 semifinal vs. Germany.
Saturday summary: Another big day for Europe over South America, with Germany utterly humiliating an Argentine squad that fancied itself a likely World Cup champion, and Spain asserting itself (if not dominantly) over Paraguay.
FRIDAY JULY 2
NETHERLANDS 2, BRAZIL 1 --- Oh my, oh my. Dutch shock Brazil 2-1 on score by Wesley Sneijder in 68th minute, after tying match in 53rd minute on own-goal by Brazil's Felipe Melo. Later Melo was red-carded and Brazil played a man down late. Brazil had led 1-nil early on a remarkably easy Robinho goal after a through-pass that found a gaping seam in the Dutch defense. Almost looked like a failed offside trap, so in-the-free was the goal-scorer, and so helpless the goalkeeper. In the end, though, Holland moves on and the World Cup favorite, mighty Brazil, is out. Next: Netherlands vs. Uruguay in July 6 semifinal --- Preview: A heavyweight quarter with the heft of a semifinal or even a final. Brazil is most experts' World Cup favorite, while the Netherlands is a European power with the ability to win it all. Call the Selecao a solid but not overwhelming favorite to beat the Oranje. The Dutch have suffered some internal bicking and heard legend Johan Cruyff say they lack style, but this still is one of a handful of national teams with the ability to play with the best. Brazil has a few midfield issues due to injuries or card suspension. A highly anticipated match that should be hugely entertaining.
URUGUAY 4, GHANA 2 (penalty kicks) --- My lord what a finish! Uruguay surviving on penalty kicks, 4-2, after a 2-2 draw through regulation and 30 minutes' overtime. Ghana has itself to blame, missing a penalty kick that would have won 3-2 in the last minute of OT, after an intententional Uruguay handball on the goalline. The two more misses by Ghana in the PK tiebreaker. Uruguay had tied match 1-1 in 55th minute on Diego Forlan goal off free kick. Ghana had led at half on goal by Sulley Muntari in extra time. Next: Uruguay vs. Netherlands in July 6 semifinal --- Preview: Least sexy of the four quarterfinals, and certainly on the undercard today. Both teams have an underdog aura. Uruguay is in its first quarterfinal since 1970; Ghana attempts to become the first African squad ever to reach the semis. Despite the will of the host continent, call La Celeste a modest favorite to beat the Black Stars of Ghana.
Friday summary: Two crazy results, stunning in their own way. Brazil losing always is a shock, although seldom an unpleasant one exceopt to their fans. Like the Yankees and their fans, Brazil soccer has an arrogance about it that welcomes comeuppance. And the Dutch with a chance for their first World Cup trophy is a great story. Uruguay's victory comes with mixed emotions. The mind cannot help but think this team ought to have lost 3-2 and that such a result would have been justice considering only a flagrant, intentional handball prevented a last-minute Ghana goal.
THE SECOND-ROUND: The knockout stage. It's eight games over the next four days, two each on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, winner-take-all, losers out...
TUESDAY JUNE 29
PARAGUAY 5, JAPAN 3 (penalty kicks) --- After a scoreless draw through 90 minutes and then 30 minutes of overtime, penalty kicks decided the match and sent Paraguay into the quarterfinals for the first time. The difference in the 5-3 PK verdict was a miss by Japan's Yuichi Komano that caromed off the crossbar in the third round og kicks. Next for Paraguay, July 3 vs. Spain --- Preview: Today's two games bring the second round to a close and set the quarterfinal schedule. Paraguay advanced as Group F winner with one win, two draws and 3-1 on goals. Japan moved on as Group E runnerup with two wins, one loss and 4-2 on goals. Paraguay, La Albirroja, should be favored over the Blue Samarai in this duel of two surprise second-rounders. Either country will reach the WC quarterfinals for the first time ever.
SPAIN 1, PORTUGAL 0 --- David Villa's goal in the 63rd minute was the difference. Hard to say the more deserving team did not prevail, considering Spain led clearly in ball possession and meaningful shots on goal. Next for Spain, July 3 vs. Paraguay --- Preview: Spain dvanced as Group H winner with two wins, one loss and 4-2 on goals. Portugal advanced as Group G runnerup with one win, two draws and 7-0 on goals. An intriguing match indeed here. Spain, La Furia Roja, will be out to reestablish itself as a championship contender but must survive a Portugal squad that has not conceded a goal in this Cup and has not lost in 19 straight matches overall. The winner in this battle of rivals and continental neighbors will be a strong bet to reach the semifinals.
Tuesday summary: The field of eight quarterfinalists is now set, with the World Cup pausing the next two days and then the quarters going two and two on Friday/Saturday June 2-3. Paraguay advanced today as sort of a lightweight, 5-3 on penalty kicks after a scoreless draw. Spain advanced with a tough 1-0 victory over a stout Portugal squad that plays defense as well as amybody in the tournament. Not sure Spain, a pre-Cup favorite, has reestablished that standing, but it has raised its hand to say, "Don't forget about us."
MONDAY JUNE 28
NETHERLANDS 2, SLOVAKIA 1 --- Favored Netherlands won fairly comfortably, by which I mean it was 1-nil early on an Arjen Robben goal and 2-0 before the Slovaks finally scored on an extra-time penalty kick. In terms of Europe's best hope, the Dutch did not impress to the degree Germany had a day earlier. Next, Dutch face Brazil on July 2 --- Preview: Netherlands advanced as Group E winner with three wins and 5-1 on goals. Slovakia qualified as Group F runnerup with a win, draw and loss and 4-5 on goals. Netherlands, arguably the best soccer team/country to never win the World Cup, figures to have striker Arjen Robben back at full strength and qualifies as a clear favorite here. The Dutch looking to establish themselves as the equal of Germany in terms of Europe's greatest chance to claim the world championship.
BRAZIL 3, CHILE 0 --- Brazil put it away on first half goals by Juan and Luis Fabian within a four-minute span, placing a cherry on top with a Robinho score. Chile managed to control possession fairly well yet the mighty Brazil controlled the match. Next, Brazil faces Netherlands on July 2 --- Preview: Brazil advanced as Group G winner with two wins, a draw and 5-2 on goals. Chile advanced as Group H runnerup with two wins, a loss and 3-2 on goals. Brazil is fortified by three players returning from injury or card suspension, while Chile is missing some key figures. The Selecao of Brazil has dominated this all-time series 46-6 (with 12 draws) and is 5-0 with Dunga as coach. Anything less than a comfortable Brazilian triumph would be a global shock.
Monday summary: Brazil is too, too good. I can see Netherlands giving them their best match yet. But winning? Hard to envision. The World Cup final -- looming as Brazil vs. Argentina or Germany (sorry, Spain) -- could be one for the ages.
SUNDAY JUNE 27
GERMANY 4, ENGLAND 1 --- Germany took control with 2-nil lead and poured it on late with pair of goals off counterattacks to overwhelm England and establish itself as the great European hope in this World Cup. Consecutive goals by Thomas Muller within three minutes in the second half found England's defense vanished and socked the match away. England had drawn within 2-1 late in first half on header by Matthew Upson and seconds later appeared to equalize but a shot downward off the crossbar was not called a goal even though replays cleary showed it over the line. (When will FIFA relent and use replay at least on goal calls such as this?) Germans led 2-0, first on 12th career World Cup goal by Miroslav Klose, then on extreme-angle beauty by Lukas Podolski. Next for Germany: July 3 vs. winner of Argentina-Mexico. --- Preview: The U.S. is out, but remarkably, the World Cup goes on! Germany advanced as Group D winner with two wins, one loss and 5-1 on goals. England advanced as Group C runnerup with one win, two draws and 2-1 on goals. Germany must be considered the favorite based on group performance. I had a funny feeling for Wayne Rooney and the Brits. I could envision an upset in a volatile match both on the pitch and among the rival fans but was dead wrong. This was fifth World Cup meeting in one of soccer's great rivalries, and all four previous matches had been level after 90 minutes.
ARGENTINA 3, MEXICO 1 --- Mexico acquitted itself well yet was beaten handily as Argentina led 3-0 -- on two goals by Carlos Tevez and one by group-play hat-tricker Gonzalo Higuain -- before Mexico finally found the net. Argentina's first goal, by Tevez, appeared to occur on an offside play but was allowed. Neverthless, only Mexican fans might argue the deserving team advanced. Next for Argentina: July 3 vs. Germany --- Preview: Argentina advanced as Group B winner with three wins and 7-1 on goals. Mexico moved on as Group A runnerup with one win, one draw, onle loss and 3-2 on goals. Winner will take on Germany-England winner in quarterfinals on July 3. Argentina based on group play probably rank as tournament co-favorites along with Brazil right now, and there is no logical way to envision underdog Mexico keeping pace in either skill or firepower. Anything but a comfortable win by Diego Maradona's La Albiceleste would surprise. In the 2006 WC the Argentines struggled to beat El Tri, 2-1 in extra time, but think it will be easier this time.
Sunday summary: Saturday saw two small teams with little championship hopes advance. Today, the opposite. Germany and Argentina not only moved on to a quarterfinal meeting, but each demonstrated it is a legitimate threat to win it all. I have seen little of the Netherlands, but, with due respect to the Dutch, today's two winners along with Brazil (of course) look like the best teams in the competition.
SATURDAY JUNE 26
GHANA 2, UNITED STATES 1 (OT) --- U.S. dream dies in 2-1 extra-time loss to Ghana. Nothing was easy for this U.S. squad. Ghana went up 2-1 in 3rd minute of extra time after America had tied it 1-1 with penalty kick goal by Landon Donovan in 62nd minute after foul against Clint Dempsey in the box. U.S had trailed 1-nil after goal in 5th minute by Kevin Prince-Boateng -- a Prince then king of Ghana. Americans had been loose defensively and out of control in midfield early in game before gathering their composure. in almost 400 minutes of World Cup soccer, the U.S. led all of two minutes. Too many deficits. Too many holes. Too much to ask. Overall a solid World Cup run by the States, but also one that leaves you thinking it seemed to end one match to soon. Next for Ghana: July 2 vs. Uruguay --- Preview: U-S-A! U-S-A!" Americans advanced as Group C winner with one win and two draws and 4-3 on goals, and Ghana as Group D runnerup with a win, draw and loss and 2-2 on goals. Winner faces Uruguay-South Korea survivor in quarterfinals. The dispassionate observer might call this a near-even match, with U.S. perhaps playing better at the moment but Ghana sure to feel the love as Africa's lone surviving squad. Americans may draw incentive from 2006, when a 2-1 Ghana win in the group-play finale eliminated Landon Donovan and the U.S. This time it will be up to Donovan and crew to penetrate the defense-minded opponent nicknamed Black Stars.
URUGUAY 2. SOUTH KOREA 1 --- Luis Suarez late goal makes Uruguay first team to advance in knockout round. Next for Uruguay: July 2 vs. Ghana --- Preview: Uruguay moved on as Group A winner with two wins and a draw and 4-0 on goals, and South Korea as Group B runnerup with a win, draw and loss and 5-6 on goals. Uruguay, yet to yield a goal, bears the pressure of a clear favorite here. La Celeste last reached the Cup quarterfinals in 1970 but is 4-0-1 all-time vs. South Korea and has a real shot here. Two attacking teams could make for an uproarious match.
Saturday summary: Devastating loss for the U.S., presenting a Ghana-Uruguay match that will be the quarterfinal least-likely -- by far -- to either draw interest outside the two nations or produce a viable World Cup title contender.
Tuesday June 29: Paraguay vs. Japan, 10a; Spain vs. Portugal, 2:30p.
BIGGEST FIRST-ROUND DISAPPOINTMENTS: The sweeping story lines probably are the how good the South American teams look, how African teams as a whole did not live up and how the vuvuzela annoyed the hell out of everybody. But it all breaks down to individual countries. Our First-Round Calamity Top Five: 1. France (see right). Ranked 10th in the world but did more than fail to advance. Came apart in a riot of discord and outright mutiny. 2. Italy. Defending champions proved too old and stunningly were eliminated in group play. 3. England. Brits are still alive but qualifying second in their group and seeming like nobody's favorites have the legions back home wringing hands. 4. Spain. Ranked second in the world and entered the Cup as a 4-1 betting favorite but needed a game-three group win just to survive. 5. Ivory Coast. The most highly regarded team other than Italy and France to not move on, based on pre-tournament betting odds.
BIGGEST FIRST-ROUND SURPRISES: The five surviving teams with the longest pre-tournament betting odds: 1. South Korea (250-1, see right), 2. Japan (200-1), 3. Slovakia (150-1), 4. Uruguay (100-1), 5. Mexico (80-1). The five teams in the round-of-16 with the lowest FIFA World Ranking: 1. Japan (45th), 2. South Korea (40th), 3. Slovakia (38th), 4. Ghana (32nd), 5. Paraguay (30th). If you're wondering about the U.S., call us a semi-Cinderalla, ranked 14th going in and with 60-1 odds.