The group stage completed, after 48 matches: European teams suck; Qatar wants World Cup 2022, sans beer; Brazil vs Portugal, yawn; Spain outplay Chile; Meet Paul, the pet psychic octopus.
Now that the group stages of the World Cup are completed, the number crunchers are having a field day. The general consensus, and it doesn’t take an expert statistician to work this one out, is that South America is having a fantastic World Cup, while Europe’s performance is abysmal. Only six European countries (out of 13 represented) have progressed to the second round – the lowest total ever. They are England, Germany, Portugal, Netherlands, Slovakia and Spain. And chances of a European winner aren’t looking good. Despite having been represented in every World Cup final match bar two since the tournament’s inception, a European team has never won the title when it hasn’t been played on European soil. Meanwhile, all five South American sides – Argentina, Brazil, Chile Paraguay and Uruguay – have made the cut. The other five countries in the round of 16 are Ghana, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the US.
Qatar is one of several countries to have submitted a bid to host the Fifa World Cup in 2022. The tournament would be held from June 3 to July 3, but officials are worried about the high temperatures in the country during these months. Earlier this week the temperature reached highs of 43?C and by 21:30 (when the late matches would kick off), it had cooled to only 35?C. The highest temperature at which Fifa allows matches to take place is 30?C, but the Qatari officials plan to construct solar-powered, air-conditioned stadiums with temperatures regulated at 27?C. Officials may be worried about the temperatures, but fans will probably have another concern on their minds – beer. In Qatar, it is illegal to drink alcohol in public, or buy alcohol from a liquor store without a licence. Today, one can purchase alcoholic drinks only at expensive hotels or restaurants. Hmmm, if Qatar wins its bid – and we think that’s highly unlikely – the fan parks might be a tad less festive than usual.
Brazil vs Portugal, the most eagerly anticipated encounter of the group stages, failed to live up to expectations, ending in a stultifying goal-less draw. The game wasn’t played in good spirits either, with seven yellow cards being dished out in the first half. While the majority of television sets would’ve been tuned to this match on Friday afternoon, soccer lovers would’ve done better to watch Ivory Coast vs North Korea. This match was an exemplar of fair play, with no cards at all being handled out, and the Elephants played to win – scoring three goals against the North Koreans. But Brazil and Portugal’s draw meant they both progressed, and the Ivorian’s sterling efforts in their last game couldn’t win them a place in the second round.
Spain needed a win against Chile to make it through to the next round, and win they did – defeating the Chileans 2-1. After two goals to Spain in the first half, and Chile’s Estrada being sent off after a second yellow card, the Spanish were always going to come out on top in this one. Chile had to rely on Switzerland being unable to defeat Honduras to be sure of a second-round place and, luckily for the South American side, their wish was granted. Switzerland and Honduras played out the final group match of the tournament to a goal-less draw, and will both be making their way home earlier than they would’ve wanted, although probably not earlier than expected.
Staff at the Oberhausen Sea Life Centre in Germany have been relying on Paul, their pet psychic octopus, to predict the outcomes of Germany’s matches this World Cup. And, so far, he’s been right every time. Paul is given food in two different containers – one bearing a German flag, and the other bearing the flag of the opposition. The container he eats from first is viewed as his pick for the match. But England fans might not want to trust Paul’s clairvoyant skills – he’s tipped Germany to beat them on Sunday. That said, you probably don’t need a psychic octopus to predict that the game will finish 1-1 in extra time, with Germany winning on penalties.
16:00 Uruguay vs South Korea, Port Elizabeth
20:30 US vs Ghana, Rustenburg
By Theresa Mallinson
Photo: Spain’s fans celebrate a goal as they watch the World Cup soccer match against Chile during an outdoor television screening in Madrid June 25, 2010. REUTERS/Susana Vera
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