Tuesday, June 22, 2010

World Cup 2010 Games 35 and 36: Group B

Argentina 2, Greece 0
South Korea 2, Nigeria 2

I was mostly watching the South Korea-Nigeria game, so when I turned to the Argentina-Greece match I was really surprised to see the Argentine side wearing navy blue. How odd. While not quite as iconic as the Dutch orange, the power blue with white stripes is so associated with Argentina that I actually did a double take when the announcers called a guy in the darker blue "Messi."

In my Yahoo! Pick'em Group, I predicted a 2-0 Argentina win. My thought process was that they were the better team and that Greece, behind on goals scored, would have to play aggressively. I figured they would give up a goal eventualy and once they did have to keep attacking. That is pretty much what happened.

The Nigeria-South Korea game was definitely the more entertaining of the two. Because Nigeria still had a decent chance, but only with a result, and because South Korea knew a tie might not be enough (if Greece were to upset Argentina) we had two sides pushing for the victory.

We also had a rarity in soccer--a seesaw battle. Nigeria took an early goal, but South Korea equalized and then took the lead on a free kick that curved in when the goalkeeper (previously very good for Nigeria) broke the wrong way. Nigeria tied it on a penalty kick and on the last ten minutes, with both sides knowing that Greece had gone down 0-2 knew a goal would for Nigeria would win it.

And they had some chances. South Korea definitely looked gassed at the end, and even though they were the better side, you could feel the crowd, desperate for an African team to get behind, swelling for a goal. Two lasers in the last ten minutes were just wide right and eventually Nigeria didn't lose so much as run out of time.

Ultimately it was Nigeria's foolish red card against Greece, for a frustrated kick after a shove, that will haunt them. Greece, coming off of an 0-2 drubbing from South Korea, was dead in the water; being able to play with a man advantage got them back in it.

Argentina has a show down with Mexico while South Korea will meet Uruguay. South Korea is a work horse team, but I think Uruguay's discipline, talent, and experience will make the difference. I'll have to think about the other game for awhile before making a prediction.

My one surprise was the lack of urgency on the Greek side. They needed a result, were basically playing Argentina's "B" side (Maradonna put in six subs to protect players with yellow cards), and yet they let Argentina control possession and lean on them the whole game until the inevitable breakthrough.

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