Two matchdays to catch up on quickly. Teams advancing to the last 16 in bold.
Slovakia 3-2 Italy; Paraguay 0-0 New Zealand: The holders are out (Giuseppe Rossi is secretly pleased), and sadly so are the Kiwis. Fantastic return to the World Cup by the All Whites. Paraguay was the class of this group and proved it, barely.
Denmark 1-3 Japan; Cameroon 1-2 Netherlands: Holland continues its recent dominant form, albeit in a very weak group. Keisuke Honda is the only reason Japan is in the last 16, while Cameroon is the early choice for most disappointing team. Only North Korea joined them on 0 points.
Portugal 0-0 Brazil; North Korea 0-3 Cote d'Ivoire: Not much football in either match, though Nilmar did hit the post and played all 90 minutes. This group's finish sets up a pair of mouth-watering last 16 ties.
Chile 1-2 Spain; Switzerland 0-0 Honduras: After being knocked out of Germany 2006 without conceding a goal, the Swiss do the same in South Africa when playing with 11 men. Better than scoring against Honduras and missing out with 6 points, I guess. The ending of Chile-Spain was anti-football at its finest.
Now the real tournament begins. 2 matches on this Saturday:
Uruguay 2-1 South Korea: All 5 South American teams have qualified for the knockout rounds, a first. Uruguay must like its draw to the "medal round," though Diego Godin insists his side has achieved nothing yet. Godin again may miss out due to a knock, but look for Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez to fire the Charruas through.
USA 1-2 Ghana (a.e.t.): Full disclosure-- I live in the USA and have been a national team supporter for years. I wasn't sure how far this side could make it without Charlie Davies and with an injured Oguchi Onyewu, but look at the draw. Brazil or Holland in the semifinals, sure, but Ghana and then Uruguay or South Korea isn't so imposing. Of course, every side in this quadrant is telling itself the same thing.
Ghana now is a solid defensive side, a facet it lacked when it beat the USA in Germany 2006. But without Appiah and Essien, goals have been much harder to come by-- only 1 from the run of play in the group stage. Africa will be behind its last hope, but if the USA plays up to its potential, I think this country will be soccer-crazed for another week.
Villarreal news: The teams of Altidore, Capdevila, Godin, and Nilmar all have advanced to the last 16. Still looking for the club's first World Cup goal. And the club has arranged a friendly in London against Tottenham in late July.