Missed game #30. Darn. In any case, it was worth watching for a 7-0 drubbing.
Game #31: Chile vs. Switzerland
Why You Should Watch: Chile are flying high, and having seen Spain drop points, have a clear opportunity – if they can pummel Switzerland, they probably top the group, which can save them from having to play Brazil. They’re an attacking team, and more to the point, their best strategy is to rack up a huge goal difference. Which is to say, they don’t want to win 1-0 and defend. They want to win 5-0.
Player to Watch: Gotta go with the Chilean strikeforce again, who are going to be shooting like mad.
Friendly Bet to Make: Chile 4-0.
Game #32: Spain vs. Honduras
Why You Should Watch: Switzerland beating Spain was the upset of the first set of games. And now Spain simply have to win their remaining games. Period. Their options are this: 1) Win. 2) Start looking at flights home. So, you know. This should be a fun time. The best team in the world up against the wall. It’s the sort of thing that’s why you watch the World Cup.
Player to Watch: Fernando Torres, along with David Villa, are two of the best strikers in the world. One of them will be responsible for Spain’s salvation, or both will be responsible for Spain’s downfall.
Friendly Bet to Make: Eh, be the guy who slags Spain and bet for a 1-1 draw.
Games 33 and 34: Mexico vs. Uruguay and France vs. South Africa
New feature for these next few entries – the final matches of group stages are played simultaneously to prevent a repeat of an ugly incident where two teams basically stopped playing for 90 minutes because they had a result that had them both advancing. So you basically have to pick one game. (As a result, this should be called “Why You Should Watch 56 Games of Soccer in a Month, but hey) So I’m doing the games as joint sets, picking which one to watch, and, as an added favor, covering the advancement situations for every team, which are at times hilariously convoluted.
Why You Should Watch: For the history! France will likely slump out at the group stages for the second time in three World Cups. In fact, France will accomplish the bizarre feat of, since 1998, alternating between either crashing out at the group stage or making the finals. South Africa will likely be the first host country to fail to advance!
Rundown of the Outcomes:
Uruguay goes through if they draw or win against Mexico. Mexico go through if they draw or win against Uruguay. That’s the simple. Furthermore, unless South Africa/France produces a winner, both Uruguay and Mexico go through.
Here’s how France or South Africa can get through. First, they have to win. Second, someone has to win in Mexico/Uruguay. Then some complicated things have to occur.
If France beats South Africa, then France has to make it so the sum of their margin of victory and the margin in the other game exceeds 4 if Mexico wins, and exceeds 5 if Uruguay wins. If Uruguay wins, France can also make it through if they score at least 3 more goals than Uruguay does and the total of the margins equals 5.
If South Africa beats France, then South Africa has to make it so the sum of their margin of victory and the margin in the other game exceeds 6 if Uruguay wins, or exceeds 5 if Mexico wins. If Mexico wins, South Africa can also make it through if they score at least 3 more goals than Mexico does and the total of the margins equals 5.
In both of those last scenarios (the at least three more goals one), at three goals the winner would be determined by drawing lots.
Which Game to Watch: Uruguay and Mexico have no incentive to play – on a 0-0 draw they both go through. So that game will probably suck. France/South Africa is a game where to have any chance, the players need to run up quite a margin, so I’d probably watch that one.
Player to Watch: Nicholas Anelka – the most underscoring, sulky striker ever to walk
Games 35 and 36: Nigeria vs. South Korea and Greece vs. Argentina
Why You Should Watch: This group is completely nuts – nobody is actually guaranteed to go through, and only Argentina are masters of their fate. This is a good group – Nigeria are a solid team, Argentina are attacking mavens, and South Korea are shaping into my favorite underdogs. Greece, well, Greece sucks.
Rundown of the Outcomes:
Argentina advance if they get anything from their game against Greece, and fail to advance only if Greece beats them by 5 and South Korea beats Nigeria by 6. In other words, Argentina are almost certainly through.
South Korea will go through if they beat Nigeria unless Greece beats Argentina by more than South Korea beats Nigeria, or if they draw with Nigeria and Greece loses, or if they draw with Nigeria and Greece draws with Argentina while scoring less than two goals more than South Korea does in their draw. (I know.)
Greece will go through if they beat Argentina so long as South Korea does not beat Nigeria by an equal or better margin, or if they draw to Argentina and Nigeria beat South Korea., or if they draw to Argentina and South Korea draws to Nigeria while scoring at least two fewer goals than Greece does in their draw.
Nigeria will go through if they beat South Korea and Argentina defeat Greece.
Which Game to Watch: Tough to say. The possibilities that involve Greece advancing all require them to get a shock point against Argentina. If Argentina could so imperiously conquer South Korea, the much weaker Greece, who needed a moment of blinding idiocy from Nigeria to win, should be toast. That means that game is about 70% likely to be a predictable but flashy affair, and 30% likely to be an absolute thriller. Except, honestly, a side as defensive as Greece is unlikely to make the draw condition work, so let’s call it 90/10%.
Meanwhile, Nigeria and South Korea is a game that has seemingly guaranteed thrills, because you have a team (Nigeria) that cannot afford a draw, and two good teams. So do you want predictable but flashy, or unpredictable but less flashy (while still flashy)? If the former, Argentina. If the latter, Korea.
Players to Watch: Messi, always, for Argentina. Park Ji-Sung for South Korea.
Friendly Bet to Make: Argentina and South Korea to advance.