10:00 AM- ESPN- Paraguay (1st in Group F) vs. Japan (2nd in Group E)
The South American sides have really dominated the World Cup so far. The only losses by a South American side came when heavily favored Spain beat Chile ina game where Chile did not need a win and Spain did, and when Brazil played Chile and one had to lose. Basically, South America has been outstanding in the tournament. However, Paraguay have looked pretty lifeless their last few matches, and their most talented player, Roque Santa Cruz, has constant fitness issues and does not show up for the big games. Lucas Barrios has been pretty good, but Paraguay is not the goal scoring monster of some of its South American brethren. They are the crafty veteran side that find a way to win, not the juggernaut waiting to blow opponents out of the water. That is not a bad thing, but just a distinction that needs to be made.
Japan has been one of the more impressive sides to my estimation. They came out of the toughest top-to-bottom group with Cameroon, Holland, and Denmark, and did so in style, scoring 3 goals against the Danes, something they rarely, if ever do. Goal scoring is not Japan’s forte, but Honda has been worth yof every bit of praise bestowed upon him as he has been magical for them. He creates, scores, and makes runs that open things up for teammates. I get the feeling he is going to make a lot of money this summer after this performance. However, he has not stood alone as a standout for Japan. We knew the defense would be good, but Japan it putting it in the back of the net at a rate they are not used to. In short, Japan has been outstanding.
South American sides have been the story, but it is time for Asia to step into the quarterfinals.
Paraguay 0-2 Japan
2:30 PM- ESPN- Spain (1st in Group H) vs. Portugal (2nd in Group G)
On paper, this is one hell of a border war. However, I think Portugal is setting to fall flat. They really do not score much as a team, but that has kind of been forgotten after their 7 goal explosion against North Korea. They did not score in the Ivory Coast or Brazil matches, and that problem stems from the fact that they really do not have a forward. Cristiano Ronaldo is a great talent, but he is a winger, not a striker. They have no one specific to aim at on crosses, no one to count on whose sole job is pound it home, and no one who they know can break things open if the defense crowds Cristiano. Liedson and Hugo Almeda need to step up if Portugal wants to win this, but I cannot see it. One thing that does need to be said for Portugal is that they are the only side who have not yet conceded a goal. Do not expect them to get blown out even if they are losing as the defense has been fantastic thus far.
Spain is dangerous as always. They appear to be over that little Swiss fiasco and I do not see too many sides remaining who will sit back and defend so thoroughly as Switzerland. They will be free to attack the Portuguese side who might have to sink into a defensive shell just to survive the new Spanish Inquisition. Spain will be asking all the questions in this match, and although there is always a chance of some Ronaldo magic, I would put my money on a Spanish victory through Iniesta.
Spain 1-0 Portugal