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19th FIFA World Cup - South Africa 2010

11 June to 11 July 2010




  • Group G - Portugal 7, North Korea 0
  • Group H - Chile 1, Switzerland 0
  • Group H - Spain 2, Honduras 0


The final matches of the second set of group-stage games is now in the books, leaving us the perfect opportunity to look ahead and assess where everyone is at going forward into the eliminations tomorrow. After the first series of matches, we were left to decry the dearth of goals. Scoring was down nearly a goal a match from historical levels. Everything from the Jabulani ball to the vuvuzela-blowing fans in the stands was blamed for the drought. As teams played their second contests, we saw scoring normalize somewhat as players adjusted to the surroundings and equipment.

No, the big story of the second round was not scoring but officiating. Koman Coulibaly, the now-infamous arbiter during the Slovenia-USA match, was merely the most egregious example of referees running amok in South Africa. But not everything can be blamed on the officials. The mere fact that so many of the questionable calls have come as a result of superb acting jobs from athletes who look to be training for a second career on film has been problematic. With only one referee on the pitch, making the final call, all it takes is a slight step out of viewing position to incorrectly assess what has happened in an incident. Has the officiating been worse than in years past, though? Stay tuned for my weekly column, A Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America, on Thursday, where I will break down the historical record to really settle the question...



With Brazil having sealed a spot in the next round yesterday in their 3-1 victory over the Ivory Coast, Portugal and North Korea opened the festivities today with both teams hoping for a win to kick-start their campaigns. The Koreans looked like the stronger of the two teams in their first match, frustrating the Brazilians all the way despite losing 2-1. Portugal, stacked with more talent just in enigmatic midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo than North Korea employs in its whole starting XI, could only muster a 0-0 draw in their opener against the Ivorians.

And then the Portuguese slipped out of their malaise and awakened to play some of the most attractive attacking soccer possible to post the most lopsided result of the tournament to date. North Korea, for all their defensive discipline, simply had no answer for the pace and flow being perpetrated by Portugal. They were trying to display both stout stonewalling and scintillating scoring, and neither proved itself viable in the end.

It still looked normal at halftime. Raul Meireles had put the Portuguese side up 1-0 just before the first half-hour was complete, the only goal of the opening frame. North Korea still justifiably had hopes of getting some kind of result -- or at least another eye-opening loss a la their result against Brazil in the opener. But then the second half started, and Carlos Quieroz's side turned on the afterburners and started charring the Chollima. But even then it really came in two offensive bursts. The first trio, in the first quarter-hour of play after the break, found Korea beaten by Simao, Hugo Almeida and Tiago... and all in the span of seven minutes. The second, coming in the final ten minutes of the game, saw Brazilian-born Liedson score the fifth of the match, Cristiano Ronaldo shuck his scoring drought to put up the sixth and then Tiago getting his second goal in the past half-hour.

It was a beatdown that, thanks to goal differential, effectively puts the Portuguese into the next round. Though the Ivory Coast, with whom they drew in the opener 0-0, could still tie them up on points, the Portuguese would have to lose to Brazil by three goals and Drogba and company would have to beat North Korea by at least seven goals as well. It will be a tall order... which likely puts Quieroz and his crew into the knockout yet again, after going all the way to the semifinals in Germany four years ago...


And then I went to work, Switzerland came back down to earth and Spain righted its ship. Stay tuned through the next four days, as we find out our Round of 16 matchups with each group finish!


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