Group A (written by TYAC Group A Expert Jon Levy)
First off, let’s address my predictions. I had the French winning the group on goal differential and Uruguay taking second place. I will admit that despite all the signs pointing to France taking a dump (Anelka) all over the World Cup, I believed they’d get it together enough to grab a couple wins. Wrong. But South Africa was a pleasant surprise. They may have become the first host country not to escape the group stage, but they beat on a European soccer power and can hold their heads high, national pride intact. Uruguay were the best surprise of the group though, squashing all doubts about their defensive organization and young goaltender. We knew Suárez and Forlán were a good striking partnership, but the midfield proved to be very good as well. Holding midfielder Diego “Ruso” Perez proved to be one of the unsung heroes, working hard and providing a great link between the defenders and the attack. The other Uruguayan players call him The Russian because he’s one of the few guys on the team not rocking awesome longish hair… that’s hilarious. Manager Oscar Tabarez also made a great change, moving Cavani into attack with Suárez and Forlán after the France draw. This change allowed Forlán to create more from right behind the other two strikers. As for Mexico, they did exactly what I expected and played just like everyone expected. They’re Mexico; they are who we thought they were.
Golden Boot – Diego Forlán with two goals. Not a monster haul, but a hell of a lot more than my predicted boot winner Thierry Henry.
Golden Ball – Luis Suárez edges out Forlán for this one due to his decisive goal against Mexico. His assist and drawn penalty in the South Africa match don’t hurt either. Luis started out slow against France but got better as the group went on while taking a beating to help give Forlán room to operate. (Predicted – Franck Ribéry)
Yashin – Fernando Muslera grabbed three clean sheets. He may have had a good defense in front of him, but three clean sheets is no goals allowed. Winner, winner, pollo dinner. (Predicted – Fernando Muslera)
Best Young Player – Giovani Do Santos outclassed teammate Carlos Vela and dominated the match against France. Also, Javi Hernandez and Fernando Muslera were just barely too old to win this award, 21 and below, kids. (Predicted – Carlos Vela)
Argentina versus Mexico
Track meet. This should prove to be one of the tourney’s most exciting matches. Mexico is still themselves with respect to their fast paced attack, but the Aguirre onus on counterattacking in this style might make the difference. But Argentina will not be denied goals against El Tri. The question is, can they keep the ball out of the back of their own net when facing a team who plays a style built to beat the likes of them? 4-3. Argentina just barely escapes.
Uruguay versus South Korea
Technical affair. Uruguay excels on the defensive end and is capable of clinical finishing, though their attack is usually very deliberate. Korea has a dynamic midfield full of offensive playmakers and quality. Might not be the boring match we all expect, I think it’s got a goal or two in it. 2-0 Uruguay.
Group B (written by TYAC Group B Aficionado… Puck!)
As everyone expected, Argentina was the class of Group B. They dominated play in the majority of all the minutes played. While they did show some defensive lapses, in my opinion, they have looked like one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament. Furthermore, “the flea” Lionel Messi has been the best player in South Africa. While he has not managed to break through on the score sheet, he has been instrumental in Argentina’s success. While everyone expected Argentina to win the group, second place was the more interesting debate. I had predicted that the Nigerians would make it into the second using the home field advantage of the African continent. Everything looked good for the Nigerians during their second game against the Greeks, and then the entire group was turned on its head when Sani Kaita took one of the most embarrassing red cards in the history of the World Cup. With the Nigerians playing with ten men, Greece came back to win the game. Nigeria still had a chance to move though with a win against South Korea, but they could not maintain their early lead. Give credit to the South Koreans for responding with their backs against the wall.
Argentina versus Mexico
This game will prove to be very exciting. Neither team is known for their defensive prowess. I fully expect there to be abundant chances and some marvelous goals. Both Mexico and Argentina did not plan on winning games in the World Cup 1-0. The game plan will always be, “create a lot of chances and score some great goals.” While I fully expect both teams to score, Argentina’s firepower will be too much for the Mexicans to handle. Hopefully, this is not the time for Maradona to dig deep into his bag of blow and totally fuck everything up. Even with the loose cannon manager I fully expect Lionel Messi to continue his brilliance and lead his team to a 3-1 victory.
Uruguay versus South Korea
This game could very well be a complete and total snooze fest. Uruguay has not conceded a goal in the tournament, and keeping cleans sheets is always a good way to win games. At the same time, South Korea is a very organized and compact squad that has given other opponents fits in the final third. If both teams decided to play a very defensive game, we could be looking a 0-0 through 90 minutes. However, I have one hope for this not happening, Diego fucking Forlán. While he has not shown the quality of Lionel Messi, Forlán has been brilliant in his own right. His vision and anticipation allows him to see the play before it happens. While South Korea will be a tough nut to crack, Forlán will create the chance that leads Uruguay one step closer to the promised land. Uruguay wins 1-0.