In the last matches of the round of 16, Paraguay beat Japan 0-0 (5-3) on penalties and Spain prevailed 1-0 over Portugal. I really wanted Japan to advance to the next round but they did not attack enough in the game against Paraguay. Possibly the Paraguay/Japan match was the most boring of the round of 16. Sitting in the comfort of my living room 🙂 I always think that teams must do all they can to avoid penalty shoot-out (PSO). The PSO is a desperate measure to decide knockout stages and unless the team is 100% sure of their penalty taking abilities, it’s best to avoid them. Please. Portugal created several goal-scoring opportunities but failed to score in the game against Spain. Football is about what you do when you have or don’t have the ball. To score, you have to make good decisions when you have the ball. Good decisions, in turn, depend on a greater possession of the ball. Portugal had only 39% possession as compared to Spain. Dismal and perhaps that sums it up.
The teams that are still standing are Uruguay, Ghana, Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Paraguay and Spain. The matchups in playing order are;
- Netherlands v Brazil – All that orange against the hordes of Brazil’s fans! Both teams are playing really well and are particularly good at swift counter-attacks. It should be a very good match. I pick Brazil over Netherlands.
- Uruguay v Ghana – I’ve said before how painful it can be to watch my national team, Ghana’s Black Stars. How they can’t string two good matches in row. But I’m very excited about this team. The team includes players from the squad that won the last FIFA U-20 World Cup. I think it is vitally important that world cup squads include young players, the players of the future, even if all they do is sit on the bench. The experience is vital. So although I don’t fancy our chances against Uruguay, I’m glad that the team is playing and will forgive any pain that they inflict on me ;). Maybe, if Ghana can calm its nerves and shut down the advancing Uruguayan line of Forlan and Suarez, we can get through, barely. It should be a good match as well.
- Argentina v Germany – I think Argentina will win this one, given how they are playing. But the young guns in the German team are fearless. Both squads have proved that playing as a cohesive team is crucial for success. They both need to tighten up their defenses though. Should also be exciting.
- Paraguay v Spain – Well two teams in need of goals. Lucky for them that they are playing against each other. Spain plays a very good passing game, keeps a tight and short perimeter around the ball and so tends to retain a higher possession of the ball against their opponents. However, they are unable to score a great number of goals. But the greater possession means that players like Villa can make excellent scoring decisions when they have the ball. I tip Spain to win, if Paraguay still can’t find their scoring legs.
I hope that FIFA’s referees keep their errors to a minimum in this round. In other World Cup related news, the Nigerian President Goodluck Johnathan has suspended the national football team for two years after Nigeria’s performance in this World Cup. It’s clearly an over-reaction. Perhaps a six month suspension would have been better, if a suspension is what is needed. Like most African nations, what ails Nigerian football is a lack of planning, lack of adequate infrastructure, a dependence of foreign-based players, a preference for foreign coaches even when local coaching talent is available. Oh, and a reluctance to develop and include young talent in the senior national squad. I mean, Nigeria allowed Kanu, their 34 year old tired captain, to play. In a country of 120 or so million, are we to believe that there are no youthful legs to replace Kanu? Oh and is it now that the Nigerian leadership is waking up to the sad state of Nigerian football? Because of this World Cup on African soil? Didn’t they watch their national team at the CAN 2010 in Angola? Oh, I get it – the WHOLE World is watching not just some poor Africans. Please! In African football, the more things don’t change, the more they don’t change 😉 We can only hope that something positive comes out this two-year suspension.
That’s it for now. Let’s go Black Stars!