Sunday, June 20, 2010
World Cup 2010 Game 27: Paraguay 2, Slovakia 0
If yesterday was all about FIFA facing the possible nightmare of all six African teams going out in the first round, today was a reminder that South America is playing with a chip on its shoulder. There have been 18 World Cups and South American teams have won nine times: Brazil 5, Argentina 2, Uruguay 2. Perhaps more tellingly for the purposes of this tournament, no European team has ever won a World Cup that was not held in Europe. Brazil won the tournaments hosted in Japan/South Korea and the United States and Argentina took the tournament in Mexico '86.
Consider, too, that Argentina finished FOURTH in its qualifying and had to get a result on the last game to avoid a play-in round with Costa Rica (which was eventually won by Uruguay, the fifth place finisher). All five South American teams (Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina) could qualify for the round of sixteen though Chile still has work to do with Switzerland having posted a result against Spain. Add the likelihood of Mexico going through and possibly the United States (both who represent Concacaf, or North and Central America) and seven of the final sixteen could represent the Americas. Any chance that Honduras can step up?
The game itself shows the strength of the South American teams. Having to play Brazil and Argentina twice each, the South American squads really have to put a premium on not giving away any easy scoring chances--see also the Uruguay/France game--and put a premium on putting away scoring chances when they arise. There were larger periods of the game where Slovakia didn't really put any pressure on goal.
The second goal was important because the second place finisher of this group will play The Netherlands. Since Paraguay has tied Italy, that could mean it comes down to goal differential, assuming the Italians (who trail early to New Zealand) actually show up.