Monday, June 21, 2010

World Cup Game 30: Portugal 7, North Korea 0

Well, excepting Germany's 4-0 result against a ten man Australia side this World Cup had been lacking the good old fashioned rout. Portugal kicked an extra point in the first half and then put a touchdown on the board in the second. Legend has it that when the United States beat England in the last century that everyone assumed the 1-0 score was a misprint and that the score must have been 1-10. Well this was no misprint.

Because Portugal has Brazil in their last game and a tie breaker is on goal differential, they can be excused for pressing for every goal. North Korea is officially eliminated and Ivory Coast all but. (They would have to have a Portugal loss to Brazil and make up a nine goal differential.)

Portugal showed why, despite a lack of success on the biggest stage, people continue to think them favorites to make deep runs in every tournament. They scored goals of all kinds: counter attack, build up, header off a cross, individual strike. Since I picked on Christiano Ronaldo for diving let me say this: with Portugal up 3-0 Ronaldo had the the ball in the box and an opportunity to take on a tiring Korean defender. He layed the ball off to the top of the box for a charging teammate to make an easier strike. With the outcome not really in the balance a lot of players would begin to think about their own stats, much like the basketball players who pad their stats in the fourth quarter of a rout. Ronaldo did get a goal later after springing a defensive trap and winning a mad scramble in the box.

Portugal's win means that, most likely, if Spain recovers and qualifies out of their group they will likely have to play either Portugal or Brazil in the Round of 16. That means a match up of one of the following: World Ranking #1 (Brazil) vs. #2 (Spain) or #2 (Spain) vs. #3 (Portugal). Forget the "Group of Death" (Ivory Coast was hurt by an injury to their best player) the real story of the draw may yet be that three of the top four teams in the world ended up slated for the same quadrant of the knockout stage. Oh, and for all you non-geography majors, remember that Spain and Portugal are neighbors. The plot thickens...

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