Soccer Night In South Africa: A Last Stand

The twelfth day of action at the 2010 World Cup marked the beginning of the end of the group stages. All 8 Group A and Group B teams would be in action with four moving on and four going home at the end of the day. Uruguay and Argentina were favoured to move on leaving two spots realistically open for six teams.

Mexico 0 vs. Uruguay 1 – It was an odd game between the two heads of Group A. They had nothing to gain, save avoiding a knockout stage game against Argentina, and everything to lose if the score got out of hand. South Africa and France were within striking distance should either game get out of hand so both teams were expected to play conservatively. What resulted was considered a dull and dreary affair. The majority of the excitement was based on what was happening in the other Group A game as South Africa took an early 2-0 lead. Matters for El Tri got more dire in the 44th minute when Luis Suarez headed home the go ahead goal for Uruguay. Being on the brink of elimination, Mexico stopped sitting back and attacked but Uruguay played stifling defence to keep the score at 1-0. With the win, Uruguay clinched Group A and a knockout stage match against the Group B runner up. But who that was and who finished 2nd in Group A still had to be decided.

France 1 vs. South Africa 2 – Meanwhile, the host and the previous runner-up battled for pride and possibly a place in the Round of 16. France came in sitting 4 back of Mexico on goal differential and Bafana Bafana 5 adrift. However, Les Bleus were in shambles coming into the game. At one point, it was believed that they would forfeit this game in protest over the brouhaha between the team and the national football authority. The game did go on but the French forgot to show up. They gave up two goals in the first half as well as one man. The South Africans were only two goals back of Mexico and enjoying a man advantage at the half. Unfortunately, the storybook ending never came. The French buckled down defensively and even managed to get a goal of their own to silence the vuvuzela-weilding Bafana supporters. South Africa were able to put on some pressure but were unable to close the gap to Mexico. That means that Uruguay and Mexico are through to the knockout stage of the World Cup.

Greece 0 vs. Argentina 2 – Argentina came into the game fairly secure in the knowledge that nothing short of a catastrophe would stop them from advancing. As such, Diego Maradona made the smart call of sitting some of his players. That didn’t slow the Argentinians’ attack. The stifling Greek defence did that. Greece spent most of the game sitting back, content with defending. They didn’t even have a go at a goal in the whole first half. In the second half, La Albiceleste opened the scoring in the 77th minute as Martin Demichelis picked up a ball bouncing around the box and powered it home. Argentina put this one out of reach in the 89th minute as Leo Messi’s strike was parried straight to Martin Palermo who notched the insurance marker. With the win, Argentina locked up Group B and a date with Mexico in the second round. Greece’s fate depended on the other Group B game.

Nigeria 2 vs. South Korea 2 – There were countless permutations for the possible outcome of Group B but the outcome tended to be the same: The winner of this game goes on and the loser goes home. Nigeria looked strong in the early going with a 12th minute goal by Kalu Uchu. However, the Super Eagles quickly collapsed and South Korea found their form. A goal late in the first half and one early in the second half all but guaranteed South Korea a spot in the Round of 16. Nigeria burned a chance in the second half when Yakubu Ayegbeni missed a deflection from three yards out. He made amends in the 69th minute by scoring a penalty kick but it was too little, too late for Nigeria’s hopes in this World Cup. The draw was all South Korea needed to advance to the knockout stage against Uruguay.

Man of the Day: Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Group A Standings
1. Uruguay 2-1-0, 7 Pts.
2. Mexico 1-1-1, 4 Pts.
3. South Africa 1-1-1, 4 Pts.
4. France 0-1-2, 1 Pts.

Group B Standings
1. Argentina 3-0-0, 9 Pts.
2. South Korea 1-1-1, 4 Pts.
3. Greece 1-0-2, 3 Pts.
4. Nigeria 0-1-2, 1 Pts.

Wednesday’s Schedule:
Group C: Slovenia (1-1-0) vs. England (0-2-0)
Group C: USA (0-1-1) vs. Algeria (0-1-1)
Group D: Ghana (1-1-0) vs. Germany (1-0-1)
Group D: Australia (0-1-1) vs. Serbia (1-0-1)

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