Why England Won’t Make It Out Of Group D
It’s been an enthralling World Cup so far. No draws, double the amount of goals as at this stage in South Africa 2010 and Spain’s conversion from the use of a false number nine to a false number one have all combined to make it one of the most entertaining tournaments in decades.
England may have won some accolades despite losing to Italy but they face an uphill battle to qualify for the second round, despite being 10/11 with Boylesports to do so. Since the competition increased to 32 teams in 1998, only four teams have lost their opener and went on to qualify for the knock-out stages.
There was no shame in Turkey losing their opener against Brazil in South Korea despite Rivaldo’s play-acting leaving a bitter taste. However, Şenol Güneş’ men entered their second match against Costa Rica knowing a defeat would end their tournament, the Costa Ricans having beaten China in their first game.
Current Assistant Boss Paolo Wanchope was Man of the Match for the Central Americans, who came from behind to level with just minutes remaining. With just one point from their first two games Turkey needed to beat the Chinese in their final game and hope an already qualified Brazil would beat the Costa Ricans. Even then they’d need a three-goal swing to progress on goal difference.
Everything fell into place for the Turks, with the eventual champions trouncing Costa Rica 5:2 and Hasan Sas inspiring his side to a 3:0 defeat of China. Turkey’s slow start didn’t halter their progress, eventually finishing third in the tournament, with Brazil ending their dream as it had begun with a narrow defeat in the semi-final.
Ghana made their first ever World Cup appearance in Germany in 2006 and couldn’t have asked for a tougher test in their first game – a tie with eventual champions Italy in Hanover. England’s latest nemesis, the ageless Andrea Pirlo, inspired the Azzurri to an academic 2:0 win, leaving the Ghanaians with an uphill task to make it to the second round.
They then faced a much-fancied Czech Republic side, themselves buoyed by a 3:0 opening win over USA. A surprise 2:0 win for the Africans, allied with Italy’s draw with the Americans, threw Group E wide open – with every country mathematically able to qualify going into the final round of games. Italy’s win over the Czechs secured top spot meaning Ghana’s clash with the US would determine the runners-up place – and set up a daunting clash with Brazil in the second round.
The two sides meet again tonight, and also did so in the 2010 group stage. A flutter on a 2:1 win to the Africans at 8/1 might be worth considering as that’s how it ended up in those last two meetings. Their subsequent second round fixture with Brazil was a step too far for the World Cup debutants, with Ronaldo grabbing a record 15th World Cup goal in a 3:0 win.
Despite a 4:0 hammering by Spain in their opening game, fellow World Cup new boys Ukraine took advantage of a weak group to still progress. They trounced a poor Saudi side 4:0, setting up a final game against Tunisia where a draw would suffice.
An Andrei Shevchenko penalty settled a dismal tie, winning the Ukrainians a second-round match-up with Switzerland. Shevchenko’s prowess from the spot was to let him down in a shoot-out against the Swiss but Ukraine triumphed 3:0 on penalties after a bore draw. Italy ended the Ukrainian’s progress with a 3:0 Quarter-final win.
Spain’s comeback after an opening defeat in 2010 couldn’t have been more perfect. They went into the tournament as favourites after claiming the European Championship crown two years previously.
However, a shock 1:0 reverse to Switzerland and Chile’s win over Honduras in an earlier group game piled the pressure on the Spanish. A 2:0 win over the Hondurans meant Spain faced a tough Chile side in their final game knowing they probably needed a win. They led 2:0 at half-time but a reply from Rodrigo Millar led to some nervy moments for the Spanish. As news came in that the Swiss were being held scoreless against Honduras both sides knew they’d progress as things stood – meaning the game petered out with Spain’s 2:1 win securing top spot.
They then went on to overcome their shock opening defeat by Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and Holland to clinch a first World Cup title.