Break out the coffee. Let's dance the samba. Paddle the Amazon. Visit Machu Pichu, because to this point, this World Cup is being dominated by South American teams.
Through 2 games played for almost every team, South American teams lead each and every group which has a South American team in it. Now its not as though South America is an upstart continent. South American teams have won 9 World Cups, the same number as Europe. However for each qualifier to lead their group seems fairly amazing. Maybe instead of a home continent advantage, we have here a home hemisphere advantage. I mean isn't New Zealand now the official darlings of the Cup as well.
Tuesday begins the final round of games in the group stage. Brazil and the Netherlands (who do not have to deal with any of those juggernaut South Americans in their group) have clinched advancement. Cameroon and North Korea have been eliminated. Here's a preview of the final round of games and what's at stake in each:
Mexico-Uruguay; South Africa-France (Tuesday 10:00AM Louisville time). On the surface this looks like a game where each team gives a wink, a nod and a nudge, play it to a tie and both advance. Cue Corso- "Not so fast my friend." It would be in Mexico's best interest to win this game. Right now they trail Uruguay by goal differential and a tie would not change that. We all know this is significant because the winner of the group gets South Korea/Greece/Nigeria in the knockout stage. Second gets Argentina, maybe the most dominant team thus far in the tourney.
Much has been made over the discontent in the France camp, but almost impossibly to believe, the winner of this game could still advance. It would have to be a drubbing to make up the horrible goal differential, but if Mexico doesn't volunteer to play Argentina in round two (which I contend they should not), then the winner of this game can finish with 4 pts., tie the loser of the above game and maybe make up the goal differential to advance.
Argentina-Greece; Nigeria-South Korea (Tuesday 2:30PM) Argentina has been one of the best teams in the tournament so far, but hasn't even clinched. They likely will not be caught for first in the group, but both Greece and South Korea can conceivably finish with 6 points and tie Argentina.
If some freakish blowout by Greece of Argentina occurs, and South Korea has a freakish blowout of Nigeria, then Argentina is left out. The second spot in this group is wide open with all 3 teams needing a win and a little help in the other contest.
USA-Algeria; England-Slovenia (Wednesday 10:00AM) I will be heading to Molly Malone's in St. Matthews to see this play out Wednesday morning. Slovenia, USA and England all control their own destiny. If they win, they are in. Slovenia can clinch with a tie as well. Algeria will need to do something they haven't done yet in South Africa- score a goal if they hope to advance.
Ghana-Germany; Australia-Serbia (Wednesday 2:30PM) If Australia and Ghana win, they will be the two to come out of this group. That would be an upset if you ask me. Australia who lost 4-0 in their opener and Ghana who hasn't scored a non-PK goal in the tournament, are the two lower rated teams in this group and just goes to show at this level the difference is quite thin.
This group is still wide open, but Ghana, Germany and Serbia control destiny with wins. If any ties creep in there is a whole mess of possibilities.
So, during the Brazil-Ivory Coast match Sunday afternoon, I found myself unable to stop checking over on the golf. No, not the Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Grahme McDowell golf, but did you see the show before it?
It took 3 celebrities and one average Joe (or in this case Jane) golfer, threw them out on the US Open course, from the US Open tees, to see if they can break 100. I have often wondered what I'd shoot at a US Open, and Sports Director Matt Hobbs and I were discussing that very question Saturday about Pebble Beach.
My handicap is similar to Gretzky's, he shot 102. So maybe I'd shoot 102. But Drew Brees was a 4.5, and he shot like 105! Meanwhile Mark Wahlberg had the worst handicap of the group and was the only to break 100 (98). I will not discuss what the Average Jane shot. The length would bug me, but not as much as the tight fairways.
I think I could do it. GMK anchor Andy Trienen shot 110 at Valhalla in Ryder Cup conditions. The little bit of time we spent together on the course, I was a better player. Those greens though, and the rough, and the wind. Maybe I'd shoot 115.
Japan-Denmark; The Netherlands-Cameroon (Thursday 10:00AM) The Japan-Denmark match is an elimination game, making it a must see. Japan holds the tiebreak, so look for them to be a little more conservative. The contrasting team styles and make-up have this fixture as an interesting one even if it weren't for advancement. The other game plays as a friendly in South Africa and one would have to imagine the Netherlands will at least be able to keep their tie-breakers and win the group.
Paraguay-New Zealand; Italy-Slovakia (Thursday 2:30PM) Italy, like England, have a chance to make up for their underachievement to this point and advance, simply by winning. This group is similar to group C in that three of the teams can win their way in and the other can still qualify with a win and some help.
Brazil-Portugal; North Korea-Ivory Coast (Friday 10:00AM) With Monday morning's drubbing of North Korea, Portugal put a death grip on the second advancer in this group. A win over Brazil and Portugal wins the group. Meanwhile it would take a minor miracle for Ivory Coast to make up the goal differential tiebreaker with Portugal now, needing at least 7 goals to take it.
I will preview the final round of group H games tomorrow, but as I type this at 9:00AM, the South American team (of course) leads this group.
-Was a little embarrassed for my Italian heritage (i know, Brindle Italian? It's not, but my mom is Montanaro- now that's Italian!). These guys, handsome as my wife may think they are, flopped, dove, writhed in faux pain and attempted to cheat their way to 3 points.
Truly they didn't even earn that one, and FIFA should be embarrassed that what was done to Micheal Bradley among others on that fateful free kick the other night was not a penalty kick, while the jersey tug and dive netted Italy a point.
And yes, i think the New Zealand goal was onside.
-The Brazil game was a dud, even though the first Fabiano strike was dynamite, and the final goal was set up well by Kaka. I wasn't a fan of Fabiano handling the ball twice, but the juggling act outside of that was impressive.
I was intrigued by the physicality at the end of the game. Even though both teams were willing participants, ultimately I identified with the Brazilians, as they had their man Elano carried off and Kaka got an undeserved ejection.
-Finally, WHAS editor and spiked mohawk sporting USA fan Jeff Costelle called the Portugal-North Korea blowout, predicting 5-0 shortly after kick off. As Rachel Platt is fond of saying- "kudos!" But hey Jeff, you missed the goal total by two- what's the matter with you? Nice call, I didn't think Portugal had the goals in them.