So before we move on to today’s picks, we should probably talk about the Switzerland-Spain game. I will try to avoid rehashing the details you will get pounded into your brains like how the 2nd place team in Group H gets Brazil in the 2nd round. That is all good and well, but I would rather talk specifically about Spain’s play. They possessed the ball constantly, something they do well, and were on the attack for much of the game, but did not win. However, I am tired of everyone defending them and saying they were just “unlucky”. Sure, Xabi Alonso’s lase beam deflected off the post, but Spain showed a complete lack of imagination in attacking. Everything was in the middle, most shots were from outside the box, and when Spain did get inside the box, they had brutish first touches that left the ball too far out in front to control, and over and over they saw well-worked passes rolling to the goalie’s sure hands. Jesus Navas’ substitution certainly helped them get some width, but for the most part, the Swiss just had to stand in the middle of the field and boot it when it came near. The Spanish did not make them move, did not make them work, and it showed as the Swiss remained composed.
Fernando Torres in particular disappointed me. His substitution was supposed to give Spain’s already fiery attack more oomph, but it did not. He was a bit iron-footed with his touches, failed to work any space at all (somewhat a function of their lack of width) and even though he lead the team in shots, none of them ever had a shot at reaching the back of the net. There is a man much-forgotten on this squad and his name is Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao). He would have provided the size and toughness that could have given Spain a change of pace, and given them a bit more of a chance on Navas’ crosses. Vincente Del Bosque, Spain’s manager, really cannot be blamed for substituting Navas or Pedro as both are phenomenal, but Llorente would have given Switzerland another dimension to defend.
All in all, Spain looks dangerous to still advance, but they certainly have not made things easy on themselves. They were lacking in creativity and tactical might, and as a result they find themselves 3 points behind both Chile and Switzerland. I am not advocating a change at keeper, but I thought going into the competition that perhaps Victor Valdes (Barcelona) may have surpassed Iker Casillas as the top keeper on the roster. Spain have plenty to fix going forward, but all bets are that they will indeed fix it.
Alright, picks time.
7:30 AM- Argentina vs. South Korea
This is a matchup up the favorite and the first-game wow. The star power still lies on Argentina’s side, but after South Korea’s outstanding team play and organized defending, this match is far from decided. Argentina was unlucky not to score more than once against Nigeria, and Lionel Messi created 5 or 6 chances without even being that impressive, which is a testament to his interplanetary ability. I cannot pick South Korea even though they were very organized, and were impressive against Greece in the opener. For me, Argentina is just too talented and is capable of too much magic to lose this match, but it will not be a blowout. South Korea is going to give Argentina one hell of a fight, but Argentina has a little more than South Korea can handle.
Again, I have a hard time picking a score with multiple goals with the kind of shortage there has been in this World Cup. Ok, I will do it anyway.
Argentina 2-1 South Korea
10:00 AM- Greece vs. Nigeria
Greece was truly one of the duds of the first round. They pride themselves on their organization in the back, and their ability to frustrate offenses with miserly defense. They did neither against South Korea. The only remaining question is which was worse, Greece’s economy or their performance against South Korea? I have no reason whatsoever to believe they will beat Nigeria, which makes this pick somewhat easier than the last one.
That being said, Nigeria has scoring issues. They battled valiantly with Argentina in their opening match and thanks to some inspired keeping, they managed to keep it to a 1-0 defeat. I do not think Greece is as bad against Nigeria as they were against South Korea, but that does not mean they can get a win out of it. While I am on record (just previously) of saying Greece cannot beat Nigeria, it is very possible that they weasel a draw out of it via some inspired defending against a team that struggles to score as it is.
There are two options for the result of this game and those are 0-0 and 1-0 in favor of Nigeria. Coin toss time. Tails.
Greece 0-1 Nigeria
2:30 PM- France vs. Mexico
After Uruguay’s 3-0 win, this game is now even bigger than it was because no one is topping Uruguay on goal differential. France and Mexico were both disappointed with their opening match draw, but now find themselves up against it if they fail to get all 3 points. This is especially true of Mexico as they have yet to face Uruguay, which will be a difficult match for them. This match just does not seem like a draw, as there will most definitely be goals between these two talented and attacking sides, which means that one of the two will be left even with South Africa on points at the bottom of the table. My picks for Group A have been sterling so far, so I am going to stick with them and pick France to win this one.
Mexico did not really have to deal with any sustained pressure from Bafana Bafana and any defense will be easier to break down than Uruguay. This should be an extremely entertaining match, but someone must come out ahead, and that will be France. Definitely worth your time.
France 2-1 Mexico