The final day of the group stage promises to be a cracker. The two fixtures of the day revolve around
PORTUGAL vs. BRAZIL
3.00pm – Durban Stadium, Durban
Two of the most closely aligned nations in this year’s World Cup collide in a group game that will go a long way to shaping the remainder of the knockout stage. Despite being solid, if not spectacular against North Korea, and then clinical against Ivory Coast, Brazil are still not guaranteed to top Group G. Although nothing is a given in the group, the team finishing second is likely to be paired with Spain – motivation, as if there needed to be any more, to come out on top. Even with the enormity of the game, Brazil are forced into two changes. The suspended Kaka misses out, while Elano’s injury keeps him on the sidelines. Carlos Queiroz’s side, fresh from hammering Korea DPR in the previous game, are set to be unchanged. An early tournament injury to Deco rules him out of the match against his country of birth, with Hugo Almeida, one of the six goal-scorers against North Korea, set to start alone up front.
KOREA DPR vs. IVORY COAST
3.00pm – Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Portugal’s thrashing of Korea DPR means this game pretty much pales into insignificance. Sven Goran-Eriksson’s side need a swing of ten goals over the afternoon, while North Korea are already out of the competition. Kim Jong-hun is likely to make wholesale changes to a team downhearted by a 7-0 defeat by Portugal, and like they started it against Brazil, will be aiming to end the tournament on a high.
Ivory Coast might have enjoyed the return of Didier Drogba, who eventually scored, but the Chelsea man’s presence did nothing to prevent Brazil steamrolling the African side. The massive swing in goal difference the Elephants need is so great chances of them reaching the last 16 are as remote as their aforementioned namesakes sprouting wings and taking off. Nevertheless Gervinho, who was dropped against Brazil, will return to the attack to help support Drogba who will need to produce his finest match in an orange shirt to bring his side even close to qualification.
SWITZERLAND vs. HONDURAS
7.30pm – Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Even defeat against Chile has not dampened the spirits in the Swiss camp, and victory in their final group game against Honduras is likely to see them pass to the knock-out stage – only goal difference could deny them. The worry for Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team is the lack of goals in their team. They looked devoid of creativity against Chile, and while they scored the only goal against Spain, they created very little else during the game. However given the light-weight nature of their opponents they will surely have the license to push further forward and find the killer goal. Even with two defeats Honduras can still qualify for the last-16, but as ever a big swing in goal difference needs to occur. The Hondurans will be looking to become the third CONCACAF side to reach the last 16 after the United States and Mexico and their passage would be in keeping with the success of the sides from the across the Atlantic, and the shocks we have had in this tournament. The stage is set for another twist.
CHILE vs. SPAIN
7.30pm – Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Along with Portugal’s meeting with Brazil, this may well be the best match of the tournament, as both sides have to win to keep their hopes alive, while both play exciting free flowing football. This match up could be especially easy on the eye.
Spain are the team in dire need of a win. Taking into account Switzerland’s possible victory over Honduras, Vicente Del Bosque’s side have to win against Chile, and pray goal difference in some way does not go against them. South Africa were denied in such circumstances at the start of the third round of group games and either of these sides could fall the same way.
Chile have been most impressive after they dispatched Honduras, and then Switzerland without conceding a goal and entertaining crowds with their wiz, bang attacking style. Blink and you miss this team. Spain might be slightly more methodical in their approach, but it is just as effective. The form of Fernando Torres may be the only concern for the Spanish, but David Villa’s contribution against Honduras was world class. It might be a case of more of the same, please, from the Barcelona striker.