The Other Hand

Balanced commentary from an unbalanced mind.

SA2010: Group A and B scenarios

OK, here we go: the final games for the group stages start this morning. Now we find out who moves forward and who goes home.

First, a note about positions. In the knockout stages, the groups are paired up: A & B, C & D, and so on. The #1 team from Group A plays the #2 team from Group B, and vice versa. So today we’ll not only find out who advances, but set the first two games of the knockout stage. (Both games will be played Saturday 26 June.)

For reference, here’s how FIFA decides which teams should advance:

  1. greatest number of points in all group matches;
  2. goal difference in all group matches;
  3. greatest number of goals scored in all group matches;
  4. greatest number of points in matches between tied teams;
  5. goal difference in matches between tied teams;
  6. greatest number of goals scored in matches between tied teams;
  7. drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee. (Also known as “armageddon”.)

Group A

In theory, this group is still alive. In practice, it’s all but finished. (That is, other than watching to see how badly France will self-destruct in the final game.)

                 P  W  D  L  GF GA  GD  PTS
1  Uruguay       2  1  1  0   3  0   3   4
2  Mexico        2  1  1  0   3  1   2   4
3  France        2  0  1  1   0  2  -2   1
4  South Africa  2  0  1  1   1  4  -3   1

The problem is that the two leaders, Mexico and Uruguay, play each other. So if they draw, they both advance; they can only go home if they lose. That means that a boring, defensive draw is the most likely outcome.

That leaves France and South Africa scrabbling for hope. Even if either Mexico or Uruguay lose, one of the other teams has to win by enough goals to make up the goal difference. The closest case — Mexico vs. France — has a four-goal gap. Of course, if Mexico lose and France win, that narrows, but at 1-0 in both games, France would still need to make up another 2 goals. So the most likely scenario sees Mexico losing 1-0 and France winning 3-0. It’s not out of the question, but it is unlikely. South Africa would need to make up a five-goal gap, so that’s even worse.

The one ray of hope is that Mexico may be motivated to take #1 within the group. Whoever comes in #2 will likely have to face Argentina in the first round of the knockout, and that’s not going to be fun. Perhaps that will draw Mexico out of their shell a bit; they certainly wouldn’t turn down a win.

But that hope is tenuous at best. The most likely outcome sees Uruguay and Mexico advance thanks to a 0-0 draw in which neither side advances much past midfield.

Group B

The short story is this: Argentina should win the group; South Korea and Greece will battle for the #2 spot. Nigeria actually have a decent shot, but they’ll need to score at least two goals, and a Greek loss to Argentina.

                 P  W  D  L  GF GA  GD  PTS
1  Argentina     2  2  0  0   5  1   4   6
2  South Korea   2  1  0  1   3  4  -1   3
3  Greece        2  1  0  1   2  3  -1   3
4  Nigeria       2  0  0  2   1  3  -2   0

It would take a fairly spectacular scenario to see Argentina fail to qualify entirely, as both Greece and South Korea would need to make up a 5-goal deficit. Suffice to say, the chances of Greece scoring 5 against Argentina are pretty slim.

But Greece have to come out and play, because they’re definitely in danger. South Korea and Greece are closely matched, but South Korea have an edge because of their additional goal and their win over Greece. So Greece basically need to one-up Korea: either get a better result, or get more goals if they get the same result. If both sides draw, South Korea advance unless Greece score two more goals (for example, 0-0 for South Korea and 2-2 for Greece).

Nigeria can advance, but they need Argentina to beat Greece. If that can happen, then a 2-0 win would see Nigeria through. It’s not likely, but not out of the question either. Still, South Korea can’t afford to play for a draw, because they’d then go home if Greece win. So both these matches could be tasty, with the atmosphere in one stadium changing when the scoreline changes 800km away.

Teams will probably not worry too much about finishing #1 or #2, as there’s probably not much to choose between Mexico and Uruguay. If Mexico top Group A, it’s remotely possible that Argentina would allow themselves to slip to #2 to avoid facing regional rivals Uruguay. I don’t think Argentina would throw the game outright, but if Greece get a goal, Argentina’s urgency to equalize might depend on the Group A results.

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Written by cisko

22 June 2010 at 06:18

Posted in soccer

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