Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Cup cheat sheet: Day 13

England's workforce will call an unofficial strike at 3pm (GMT) and productivity will plummet - it's crunch time as Fabio Capello's men take on Slovenia.

Tuesday's action 
France 1-2 South Africa - Group A - Bloemfontein

A desperate World Cup for France ended in suitably shambolic circumstances as they lost to the host nation. Captain Patrice Evra was among four men banished from the side after a players' revolt over the expulsion of Nicolas Anelka, while Djibril  Cissé started up front. Bongani Khumalo headed South Africa in front after an error by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, then France playmaker Yoann Gourcuff was sent off harshly for an alleged elbow. Katlego Mphela added a second to raise hopes the hosts might qualify on goal difference, but Florent Malouda grabbed a late consolation. Outgoing France coach Raymond Domenech refused to shake hands with opposite number Carlos Alberto Parreira after the final whistle.

Mexico 0-1 Uruguay - Group A - Rustenburg

These two teams could have played out a draw and both gone through, so it is to their credit that this was a competitive, full-blooded encounter. After Andres Guardado had rattled the crossbar with a long-range shot for Uruguay, Luis Suarez netted an unmarked header from six yards just before half-time. Francisco Rodriguez headed wide when given a glorious chance to equalise late on, but in the end Mexico went through as runners-up behind Uruguay.

Greece 0-2 Argentina - Group B - Polokwane

Few outside Greece will mourn the demise of Otto Rehhagel's ultra-defensive side. Even though they knew a draw may not be enough, the Greeks set out to get one, starting with four centre-backs and four central midfielders. For much of the game it worked, as an Argentina side captained by Lionel Messi but missing the rested Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain struggled. Defender Martin Demichelis finally rammed the ball into the roof of the net on 77 minutes, before 36-year-old Martin Palermo added a second late on.

Nigeria 2-2 South Korea - Group B - Durban

Greece's defeat meant Nigeria would have gone through with a win, but they fell just short in an absorbing encounter. Kalu Uche gave the African side the lead on 12 minutes before Lee-Jung Soo equalised before half time. Park Chu-Young scored a free-kick just after the break to give Korea the lead before Ayegbeni Yakubu was guilty of an incredible missed open goal. To his credit, Yakubu slotted a penalty shortly afterwards, but his fellow striker Obafemi Martins squandered a late chance to grab a place in the last 16.

Last 16 matches:
Uruguay v South Korea - Port Elizaberth - June 26 - 5.00pm

Argentina v Mexico - Johannesburg - June 27 - 9.30pm


Wednesday preview 
Group C - Slovenia v England (Port Elizabeth) and USA v Algeria (Pretoria) - 5.00pm

The key fact is this: if England win, they qualify. They can also guarantee top spot if they beat Slovenia and better the USA's result against Algeria. If they don't? A draw almost certainly won't be good enough - if either USA or Algeria win they will finish ahead of England. If England have a very high-scoring draw and the USA-Algeria game ends 0-0 that would be enough. If England draw 2-2 and USA draw 0-0 they would draw lots to determine second place in the group. Jermain Defoe has been tipped to start in place of Emile Heskey, while Aaron Lennon's place is vulnerable to James Milner or Joe Cole.

Group D - Ghana v Germany (Soccer City) and Australia v Serbia (Nelspruit) - 9.30pm

Having started so impressively with a 4-0 win against Australia, Germany need to win to ensure their World Cup does not grind to an early halt. Ghana top the group and will go through with a draw. Ghana's German-born Kevin-Prince Boateng faces the country where he is now public enemy number one, having inflicted the injury that forced Michael Ballack out of the World Cup. Serbia know they will go through if they beat Australia, while the Socceroos have only an outside chance even if they win.


What to say: 'England are going to beat Slovenia.'

What not to say: 'England are going to beat Slovakia.' - Slovenia boss Matjaz Kek was furious when the official media guide referred to his team as 'Slovakia'. And, as their kit contains no shortage of green, you wouldn't like Slovenia when they're angry.

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