“One Game Down ..."
Not a bad first round of group play in the 2002 World Cup. The tournament opened and closed this round of play with two fantastic shockers - Senegal upset France 1:0 in the opening game and then the U.S. upset Portugal in the last game 3:2. There were plenty of goals scored - 46 in total for a 2.87 goals-per-game average. There was plenty of solid defending as well, as seven of the 16 games produced shut-out victories. I would say at this point that the 2002 World Cup has caught most people’s attention - even back here in the good ol’ U.S.A.
I would have to say that many people who had picked their favorites in each of the eight groups will have to rethink them as the second round of group play begins. Who would have guessed that defending champion France, would be facing a must win situation in it’s second game? Spain was the favorite to win Group B, but with their previous WC first game disasters who really knew which Spanish team would show up? After the first game it looks like the real Spain has shown up to play in WC 2002. In Group C, many picked Brazil to win this group, but I was surprised it took a gift penalty kick to put them atop this group at this point.
After watching South Korea dominate Poland 2:0, the U.S. squad had to be thinking that a loss to Portugal and then having to play host South Korea in a must-win match didn’t sound too appealing, so they just went out and knocked off Portugal 3:2 to tie South Korea for the lead in Group D. (South Korea sits at the top based on goal differential.) Group E produced the rout of the tournament thus far with Germany defeating Saudi Arabia 8:0. The “Group of Death”- Group F - showed just how tight the competition will be for the two winning teams that advance from this group. Italy and Mexico have taken the early lead in Group G with strong opening performances. Group H has most people’s favorite to win the group – Russia - on top at the moment.
What will the second round of group play produce? Will there be any teams earning spots to the round of 16? Which player will establish himself the front runner for the “Golden Boot”? Will some of the injured superstars make their cup appearance in this round? I, for one, expect the intensity of each game to step up to the next level during this round. Germany, Spain, Senegal, Denmark, Brazil, Costa Rica, South Korea, USA, Argentina, Italy, Mexico and Russia will almost surely advance out of their groups with victories in this round.
Key match-ups this round have to be the always friendly Argentina versus England clash on June 7, the USA versus South Korea game on June 10, and the Russia versus Japan game on June 9.
As I said before - enjoy. (Go USA)