It’s not as wide open as we thought it might be going into Tuesday’s final matches, but no team has guaranteed themselves qualification or elimination just yet. Essentially Mexico and Uruguay, both on four points after great wins, will be battling for group supremacy, but will they play for a draw? Meanwhile, France and South Africa will try and hammer each other to improve their goal differential and qualify for second place in Group A, always hoping that the group leaders don’t draw.
Here are the team by team notes and scenarios:
France – 1 point – 2 goal differential – 0 goals scored
The trend of European soccer superpowers underperforming has quickly emerged as one of the biggest storylines in this World Cup, and unsurprisingly the French aren’t handling their humbling experience well thus far. In fact they’ve got England, Spain, and Italy in spades when it comes to infighting and dissent. It was amusing when the French players were openly critical of coach/crazy person Raymond Domenech’s decision to not start Thierry Henry in the tournament, and it’s downright hilarious now that Nicolas Anelka’s been booted from the squad after berating the manager at halftime of the Mexico match! Even better, the French team refused to train on Sunday in an incident that included team captain Patrice Evra getting into a heated argument with trainer Robert Duverne and team director Jean-Louis Valentin resigning in shame. This French team is a sideshow, a sideshow that hasn’t scored yet. In order to qualify for the knockout rounds they’ll have to make up a goal differential of four or five depending on whether Mexico or Uruguay wins the other game. Of course if those two teams draw France is screwed. Expect Henry to finally get a start against South Africa.
South Africa – 1 point – 3 goal differential – 1 goal scored
Sadly the hosts have done exactly what I expected and failed to build on their encouraging draw in the Mexico match. They got done in 3-0 by the Fighting Forláns, and they sit at last place in the group going into the final matchday. Like the French, they have very little to build on from their last game and will hope to somehow pull a big win out of their asses that helps eliminate a goal differential of either five or six. This is unlikely.
Uruguay – 4 points – +3 goal differential – 3 goals scored
Uruguay is in the best position possible. They’re in first place and will win the group with either a win or draw against Mexico. They’ll probably also go through with a tight loss, provided that France doesn’t absolutely throttle South Africa (or the other way around). The Uruguayan attack looked great once Forlán and Suarez were joined up front by Cavani, and this three striker approach is bound to score goals versus El Tri. Look for the group leaders to play more conservatively though since even a draw will help them avoid the likely Group B winners, Argentina.
Mexico – 4 points – +2 goal differential – 3 goals scored
Mexico is in the most interesting position of any team in the group. They can play for the draw against Uruguay and go through as the second place team, but that just ain’t El Tri’s style is it? Can you see Mexico playing for a scoreless draw? I can’t. Especially since that draw would mean they have to take on the Group B winner, likely Argentina. Carlos Vela is doubtful for the match, but Gio Dos Santos dominated the match against Mexico, and Javier Hernández was great as well. I’d expect to see both of them start while Guillermo Franco deputizes up top.
Enjoy the final day of Group A! Uruguay and Mexico should go through, but much stranger things have happened. Anyone remember that USA v. Egypt/Brazil v. Italy miracle from last summer’s Confederations Cup?
Tales of the Uninvited: Ronaldinho’s a lynchpin of Nike’s “Write the Future” campaign, too bad Dunga didn’t see fit to include him in Brazil’s World Cup squad. Dunga may be kicking himself now after Kaka’s unwarranted red card against Ivory Coast has left the squad bereft of an influential creator the likes of Dinho for their last group match against Portugal. Ronaldinho’s not sweating it though; he’s already contacted the United Nations and CONMEBOL about forming his own independent country and qualifying for next summer’s Copa América. He’s posted a Craig’s List ad recruiting the world’s elite attacking players to get naturalized and score fifteen goals a game (must be able to perform multiple stepovers and ill-advised backheels). Word is Robinho is in after the World Cup, lured by the promise that the as yet unnamed new state would be the only country whose national anthem featured “shots, shots, shots, SHOTS, SHOTS, shots, shots…”
Jon Levy is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.