The second Group H match of the day is between South Korea, who drew with Russia last week, and Algeria, who lost to Belgium despite leading for much of the match. No Group H team really impressed in that first round, but it’s a new day. Both teams need to go for the win today.
Both Belgium and Russia will try to improve on weak first match performances that nevertheless saw the Belgians win and the Russians steal a draw. Belgium had to sweat for their three points against Algeria, who took an early lead and defended resolutely. Russia also fell behind against South Korea before Alexander Kerzhakov’s scrappy equalizer.
Group F’s second match of the day is between reigning African champions Nigeria and surprise European qualifiers Bosnia. In their first match against Argentina, the Bosnians proved that they offer defensive solidity in addition to the star power of Miralem Pjanic, Edin Dzeko (pictured above), and Vedad Ibisevic. Nigeria, meanwhile, are full of technical ability and counterattacking pace, but lacked the cutting edge in a dreadful match against Iran on Monday. This should be an open, attacking contest with both teams desperate for three points.
The second USA match isn’t until tomorrow, but play from the Yanks’ Group of Death returns today with Germany vs. Ghana. Germany whipped Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal by four goals, two injuries and a red card on Sunday, and they’ll certainly hope to continue their success against the Ghanaians, who lost to the US Monday despite enjoying almost uninterrupted possession of the ball. Not having the ball today might suit the Africans, though, so Germany must be careful against a side that will pose more counterattacking threat than ten-man Portugal.
Second-round play begins today with Lionel Messi’s Argentina taking on lowly Iran, managed by former Portugal coach Carlos Quieroz. Monday’s USA vs. Ghana match was perhaps the most one-sided of the tournament so far in terms of position, since the USA got a goal in the first minute and allowed Ghana to have the ball for almost the entirety of the match. Argentina vs. Iran should outdo that match. The Iranians are the most defensive team in the tournament and today face a loaded albiceleste squad.
The second match of the day is a meeting between two European neighbors. France and Switzerland both took three points Sunday; France beat Honduras 3-0 and Switzerland scored a late, late goal to beat Ecuador 2-1. Either team that wins today is in the driver seat to win the group and avoid Argentina in the next round.
The second match of the day from Group C features Japan and Greece, two sides who play very different brands of football. Japan sat back after scoring against Ivory Coast last week and eventually paid the price, surrendering two goals. Greece always sit back and play on the counterattack. But the talented Japanese midfielders usually like possession and will likely see plenty of the ball here. Tonight’s match might turn into a siege applied by the boys from the Land of the Rising Sun.
This jogo dos desperados should be the biggest scrap in the Cup so far. Both of these teams have strong footballing pedigrees, with three World Cup wins between them, but they both lost their first round matches. Uruguay’s defeat, 3-1 to Costa Rica, was one of the biggest surprises of the tournament so far. England’s 2-1 loss to Italy is probably considered a shock in England, if not in the rest of the world. Both of these sides are fighting for their World Cup survival today, and their attitudes should reflect it.
The first match of round two from Group C features the two winners from last week. Colombia dominated Greece, 3-0, before Didier Drogba (pictured above) inspired Ivory Coast to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Japan. The two sides play different styles, but both used width well last week. If this game gets stretched, it could be very exciting.
The two losers from last week’s Group A play meet today. Cameroon, who got blown off the field by Mexico on Friday but were treated to a flattering 1-0 scoreline by a sympathetic linesman, aren’t favored against the Croatians, who were better against Brazil than the 3-1 defeat suggests. Elimination awaits today’s losers.