The group stage of the World Cup is coming to a close and before the start of play on Wednesday 10 teams had confirmed their spots for the round of 16. Out of the qualified teams are some of the usual suspects, such as South American giants Brazil and Argentina, but also some surprises, notably Greece and Costa Rica emerging from the group stage for the first time in their history.
The competition this week has shown that 90 minutes of football can turn around any prediction from the experts, but we have also witnessed the ugly side of football. On Tuesday Uruguay lined up against Italy in a bid to secure qualification, which they achieved, but not before Liverpool striker Luis Suarez bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini in a seemingly unprovoked act of madness. Football’s governing body FIFA is investigating the incident, which could see the Uruguayan banned for 24 matches or two years. Videos circulating on social media and the images of bite marks on Chiellini’s shoulder seem to prove Suarez’s guilt, although he dismissed it as a “bump” on Uruguayan television, saying it is just something that “happen[s] on the pitch”. It is worth noting that Suarez has a history of biting his opponents. In 2013 he bit Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic on the arm and received a 10-game ban and in 2010, when playing in Holland, he bit an opponent in plain view of the referee and was handed a seven-game ban.
With that nasty incident behind us, Daily News Egypt takes you through the last week of what has been a fantastic World Cup. (Q) indicates confirmed qualification for the next round.
Group A – Brazil (Q), Mexico (Q), Croatia, Cameroon
The hosts, Brazil, won 4-1 against Cameroon on Monday to secure their place in the last-16 and finished top of the group, with 22-year-old Neymar scoring twice to ensure Cameroon ended the tournament with no points.
Mexico also qualified for the next round, to the delight of their manager, who celebrated wildly when Adres Guardado put them 2-1 up against Croatia. The match ended 3-1, with Croatia scoring a consolation goal in the last few minutes.
Brazil will face fellow South Americans, Chile in the next round and Mexico will have a tough task against an in-form Holland side.
Group B – Netherlands (Q), Chile (Q), Spain, Australia
This group produced one of the biggest stories of the competition as defending champions Spain crashed out after losing two games to the Netherlands and Chile, conceding seven goals in the process.
The Netherlands secured their qualification beating Australia in a thrilling match, which saw Socceroos forward Tim Cahill hit the ball on the volley to score what is the leading contender for goal of the season. Dutchman Memphis Depay wrapped up the scoring in the 68th minute, which sent the Australians home without a point but definitely with a sense of pride, despite losing to Spain 3-0 in their final game.
Chile’s 2-0 victory over Spain last Wednesday sealed the holder’s fate as they struggled to make an impact on this year’s competition.
The Dutch completed a clean sweep of the group, beating Chile 2-0 in a hotly contested game with the stalemate only being broken in the 77th minute followed by a 90th minute goal from Depay to seal the win.
Group C – Colombia (Q), Greece (Q), Ivory Coast, Japan
Colombia sunk Japan with a 4-1 win on Tuesday to claim nine points in and top the group, having beaten both the Ivory Coast and Greece in their previous matches.
Greece secured their qualification through a controversial Georgios Samaras penalty in the closing moments of their clash with the Ivory Coast, who needed only a draw to go through to the next round. It looked like they had secured the result through a Wilfried Bony goal in the 74th minute. The last minute twist seemed unfair to the African side as replays showed Samaras was not fouled but had kicked the ground and fell in the penalty box. The referee awarded the penalty and the Greek kept his cool to send his side through to the last-16 for the first time.
Ivory Coast manager Sabri Lamouchi resigned following the match.
Group D – Costa Rica (Q), Uruguay (Q), Italy, England
Costa Rica has pulled off the shock of the tournament so far as they topped the group they were expected to finish last in, also qualifying for the first time in their history. The Costa Ricans pulled off shock win against Uruguay, a 1-0 win over Italy and completed their group stage games with a 0-0 draw against a lacklustre England.
Uruguay ended England’s World Cup beating them 2-1, with two goals from Suarez topping a tapped in equaliser from Wayne Rooney. The Uruguayans beat 10-man Italy 1-0 after Claudio Marchisio was shown a straight red card for what the referee deemed a stud-up high challenge on Egidio Arevalo. Diego Godin scored in the 81st minute, just after Suarez’s biting incident, to send Uruguay through in second place.
Group E – France, Ecuador, Switzerland, Honduras
Sitting in top spot with six points ahead of their Wednesday clash with Ecuador, France look set to qualify for the next round barring some miracle results (although you never know with this World Cup). Mathematically, all four teams have a chance of qualification but Honduras would have to put on their scoring boots to thrash Switzerland to have any chance; this seems unlikely given they have scored just one goal in a match they lost to Ecuador 2-1.
The strong French team fired 5 past Switzerland last Friday in a game that ended 5-2 with seven different goal scorers.
Group F – Argentina (Q), Nigeria, Iran, Bosnia-Hercegovina
Messi secured qualification for Argentina with a late left-footed strike against Iran on Saturday. The South Amrerican’s struggled to break down Iran’s defence until Messi curled home a 91st minute strike denying the Iranians a point they probably deserved. Goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi produced some great saves to keep Iran in the game and they threatened a few times tom cause an upset, and even had a strong penalty claim turned down.
Iran can take some comfort in the fact they could still qualify for the knockout stage if they can beat Bosnia-Herzegovina by at least three goals and hope for Argentina to beat Nigeria who need just one point qualify in second place. The Nigerians beat Bosnia-Herzegovina with a Peter Odemwingie goal to put them second with four points ahead of Wednesday’s game.
Group G – Germany, USA, Ghana, Portugal
Germany and Ghana played out one of the best games of the tournament last Saturday in a 2-2 draw. The same result between the USA and Portugal means that it all goes down to the final games in Group G to determine qualification.
The USA looked strong against Portugal and looked as if they might clinch another victory until an injury time slip up in the defence allowed Portugal to equalise and stay in the competition.
Germany and USA are both on four points apiece going into their Thursday match in which a draw will see both sides progress. Portugal will be hoping for a German win to give them a chance to snatch qualification. Ghana is in a better position with a -1 goal difference compared to Portugal’s -4 (a hangover from the 4-0 thumping they received in their first game against Germany).
Group H – Belgium (Q), Algeria, Russia, South Korea
Belgium secured their spot in the last-16 with a last minute goal against Russia in a game that did not get started until the second half. Russia performed better than in their previous game against South Korea but was unable to break down Belgium. Substitute Divock Origi snatched the win in the 88th minute converting a cross from Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
Algeria beat South Korea 4-2 in some style last Sunday, scoring two quick goals to stun their opponents and scored another to go in at half-time 3 goals up. South Korea scored twice in the second half but Algeria scored a fourth to put the game to rest and give themselves a good chance of qualifying. A win against Russia will send them through although a draw could also do the job and only a win will see Russia qualify. South Korea will be looking to beat Belgium by at least three goals and hope for a scoreless draw in the other Group H match in order to progress.