We’ve now entered the knock-out stage of the 2010 World Cup. To many, this is now the “business end” of the tournament, where one “off-day” may shatter your dreams and render all your long preparations meaningless.
After 48 matches, 16 of the 32 teams have been eliminated. These include the two finalists from 2006, Italy and France. All the five South American teams in action have qualified for the knock-out stage, four of them as group champions. Of these, Brazil and Chile meet each other in the pre-quarter finals, which means that there could be as many as 4 South American teams in the quarter finals.
Of the 13 European teams in fray, only 6 have survived. In general, this has been a dismal tournament for Europe, albeit a few exceptions. Strangely, each of the 6 remaining European teams play other European teams in the pre-quarter finals! The most intriguing contest should be the one between Germany and England, while Spain play their Iberian neighbours Portugal. The Netherlands take on Slovakia. Thus there will be three teams from Europe in the quarter finals, come what may.
Of the 5 other teams still in action, there are 2 each from North America and Asia, leaving Ghana as the only team carrying the banner from Africa. The 5 other teams from the home continent have all been eliminated, most of them without much flourish. The 2 Asian teams both play South American opponents in the pre-quarter finals, and it would be interesting to see if either of them manage to reach the next round.
The 48 group matches have produced 101 goals at an average of 2.10 goals per match. (At this stage the 2002 tournament produced 130 goals, and the 2006 version saw 117 goals.) Argentina and Portugal have scored 7 goals each, while South Korea, Germany, Netherlands and Brazil have scored 5 each. Of the 32 teams, only Algeria and Honduras have failed to score. Of the 16 teams that have qualified for the knock-out stage, Ghana and England have scored just 2 goals each. Three players, namely Gonzalo Higuain of Argentina, Robert Vittek of Slovakia and David Villa of Spain are currently the joint highest scorers in the tournament, with 3 goals each.
Defensively, Uruguay and Portugal have emerged as the best teams so far, not having conceded any goals in their group matches. Argentina, England, Germany, Netherlands, Paraguay and Switzerland have conceded just 1 goal each. North Korea have conceded 12 goals, while South Korea, Australia and Denmark have conceded 6 each.
Of the 16 surviving teams, 8 are as yet undefeated. Of these, Argentina and the Netherlands have the best records, with three wins in three matches each. Brazil and Uruguay each have two wins and a draw. England, Paraguay, Portugal and USA have one win and two draws each. Of the remaining 8 teams, Germany, Spain, Chile and Japan each have two wins and one defeat, while Mexico, Ghana, South Korea and Slovakia each have a 1-1-1 win-draw-loss record.
Rajat Subhra Banerjee