Four on the floor as we head for the door of the group stage. We’ll wrap up groups A and B today (mercifully so, for the French and Nigerians), and start seeding up the Sweet Sixteen, which is where the real soccer starts. The winner of Group A will draw the second place team from Group B, and vice versa. Groups C and D are identically paired.
Group A (all matches 10AM ET)
Uruguay v. Mexico
Uruguay and Mexico each have 4 points, with Uruguay ahead on goal differential following Diego Forlan’s rampage against South Africa. Both teams would automatically advance with a draw, which, let’s be honest, makes a draw a very likely result here. Mexico has slightly more reason to attack, given that a draw would leave them staring at an expected Sweet 16 game against Argentina, instead of Greece or South Korea. But Mexico are also a little nicked up, with attacking winger Carlos Vela out for a week. So long as nobody does anything stupid, this one’s going to end tied.
Prediction: Uruguay 0-0 Mexico
France v. South Africa
Well, what the hell can you say about France at this point. By general agreement, the coach is an idiot, yet circumstances have so conspired to make it that just about everyone associated with the French team has quit other than him. We have no idea who will show up for this last game, and neither do you. France should have incentive to try, because they can somehow get through if they win big and there’s no draw in the other match. But somehow we doubt that’s going to get the blood going. South Africa, on the other hand, is looking at their last match as hosts (again, barring a miracle). This is their World Cup final, and they will no doubt throw themselves into it. Also, the crowd is going to be berserk.
Prediction: South Africa 1-0 France. Because why not?
Group B (all matches 2:30PM)
Nigeria v. South Korea
We suppose that someone has to come in second in this group, and South Korea is our first candidate. After an impressive win over Greece, South Korea sort of naively walked into the bear trap that is Argentina and acted surprised when they lost a leg. Korea have tons of self-belief and energy, but sometimes those things can bite you when the guy on the other side is just better than you—everyone else plays 10 behind the ball against Argentina for a reason. In any event, South Korea should have a much better time with a disappointing Nigerian team that is just waiting for its vacation at this point.
Prediction: South Korea 2-0 Nigeria
Greece v. Argentina
Hmm. On the one hand, Greece are lucky to still be in with a chance, having gotten into control of its match with Nigeria only after Nigeria went down a man. On the other, they should be able to roll up into a ball and defend against an Argentina team with nothing to play for, and might get lucky again if the Argentines get bored or frustrated (which, let’s be honest, they sometimes do). For some reason, we see Argentina’s subs coming out and giving Greece a taste of the back of their hands.
Prediction: Argentina 3-0 Greece
So, for the record, we’re calling Argentina-Mexico (big names, fun) and Uruguay-South Korea (not big names; don’t be fooled, still fun) for the Sweet 16.