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Another European exit?

We’re down to the last two groups before the Round of 16. Top-ranked Brazil are finally meeting their colonial masters, while Ivory Coast look to salvage some African pride, a la Ghana. Meanwhile, early favourites Spain are struggling against one more South American juggernaut.

Group G
Brazil: 6 pts., +3 GD, 5 GS
Portugal: 4 pts., +7 GD, 7 GS
Ivory Coast: 1 pt., -2 GD, 1 GS
North Korea: 0 pts., -8 GD, 1 GS

Brazil is already in. But they’ll need a win or a draw to secure top spot in the group.

Portugal is almost guaranteed to qualify, needing either a win or a draw. But if they lose, they can still get in, as long as they don’t lose their shirts to Brazil. That — or Ivory Coast runs up the goals on North Korea like Das Quinas did in their game against the Asian team.

Ivory Coast needs to win and they need to win big. There is a nine-goal difference between The Elephants and Portugal, which they would need to make up. Of course, that’s assuming Portugal loses.

North Korea are out.

Prediction: Brazil will beat Portugal in a close match. Ivory Coast will beat North Korea, but it won’t be enough. Brazil wins the group, Portugal follows.

Group H:
Chile: 6 pts., +2 GD, 2 GS
Spain: 3 pts., +1 GD, 2 GS
Switzerland: 3 pts., 0 GD, 1 GS
Honduras: 0 pts., -3 GD, 0 GS

Chile gets through with a win or a draw. If they lose, they need Switzerland to draw or tie. If Switzerland wins (and Chile loses), then the Chileans have to hope the Swiss don’t make up the two-goal difference.

Spain’s situation is a bit more complicated. A win is almost necessary for the European champions. But even with a win, they have to hope the Swiss don’t come out on top is well. The Spaniards’ only hope is a single goal: they lead the Swiss by one in goal difference and goals scored.

Spain can also go through on a draw, or even a loss, but they have to hope the Swiss do the same.

Not to dismiss Honduras either. They could sneak in with a massive win against the Swiss, and a Spanish loss.  But the Swiss defence is like a Zurich bank account: no names and tough to crack.

Predictions: Spain are reliving their old ways as chokers. They may have a tough time against an aggressive Chilean team. Meanwhile, the Swiss will likely stick to their conservative game plan against Honduras.  Spain draws Chile. Switzerland beats Honduras by a goal. Chile wins the group, Switzerland advances, leaving early favourites Spain to join France and Italy.

Tuesday Games: Brazil vs. Switzerland, Chile vs. Portugal

Brent Lanthier

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Dr. Z’s World Cup Predictions: Group H

Dentist by day, football prognosticator by night, our own Dr. Hadi Zogheib is scouting out each group at World Cup 2010 and predicting first round scores and standings. In his final scouting report, the good doctor says Spain will reign in Group H:

Spain: On paper, the best team in the tournament.  Absolutely no weaknesses to be found in this squad with world class players in almost every position.  The biggest problem facing manager Vicente del Bosque is finding the right combination of superstars to truly click.  As ususal, the red fury will heavily rely on Xavi and Andreas Iniesta of Barcelona to pull the strings from midfield.  David Villa and a newly-fit Fernando Torres can both legitimately claim to have a realistic shot at being the tournament’s top scorer.  A 6-0 thrashing of Poland in their final warm up game only cements their status as favourites.

Switzerland: One of the unsung European teams, the Swiss are always a handful, even though their star power is limited. Tranquillo Barnetta of Bayer Leverkusen will carry the load in midfield, while Alexander Frei of FC Basel will hope to add to his already impressive 40 national team goals.  The Swiss will no doubt be shooting for second place in this group.

Honduras:  The third place team in CONCACAF, the Hondurans qualified for the finals at the expense of Costa Rica and, of course, Canada.  The number one factor in their success was an impressive home record during qualifying, but South Africa is a long way from Central America and they will be hard pressed to make it out of this group. David Suazo of  Genoa and 36 year old Carlos Pavo, who plays in the Honduran league, will be relied upon to pop in a few goals up front, while former TFC boy Amado Guevara wears the captain’s armband.

Chile:  Manager Marcelo Bielsa has been here before, having led Argentina to the 2002 World cup.  He will be hoping for a better tournament this time around as Chile manager, and he could not have asked for a better start, leading his unfancied team to second in South American qualifying behind only mighty Brazil. Often playing with three defenders, Bielsa’s team will hope to run-and-gun their way to second in the group. And, with Humberto Suazo (who led South America with 10 goals in qualifying) and superstar in the making Alex Sanchez of Udinese up front, goals seem a certainty.

Predicted Results:

Spain 2-0 Switzerland

Honduras 2-3 Chile

Chile 2-2 Switzerland

Honduras 1-3 Spain

Spain 2-1 Chile

Switzerland 1-0 Honduras

Results:

Spain 9 pts

Chile 4 pts

Switzerland 4 pts

Honduras 0 pts

Related: Dr. Z doubts the host’s chances in Group A, expects Greece’s defence-first philsophy will pay off in Group B, and predicts an opening-round sweep for England in Group C. The good doctor expects a three-way dogfight in Group D and is happy to see the Netherlands healthy in Group E. He isn’t counting out the aging Azzurri in Group F, and is trying to find an arm specialist for Didier Drogba in Group G.

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