Portugal 7-0 North Korea
Before North Korea’s opening game against Brazil, a friend retweeted something from someone he followed. The other person asked if it was OK to root for North Korea. My friend replied, “No, it is not.” But I disagree. As we saw during the display of sportsmanship before the U.S.’ game with Iran in 1998, we can’t assume that the players share those of their government. Apart from the few that play in other countries, they simply don’t know anything other than life in an oppressive regime. Besides, it’s not like they’re the Soviet Red Army hockey team or the fictional Ivan Drago, crushing everybody in their wake. They play disciplined and honest soccer, and even if they’re not very good, it’s hard to not respect that.
Prediction against result: I expected a little more fitness out of North Korea, but I guess they had nothing left after Brazil.
Chile 1-0 Switzerland
If today’s morning matches were a rock concert, than this was bound to be the soccer equivalent of the day in 1974 when Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band opened up for, oddly enough, Anne Murray. While the headliner was not without its charms, it could only disappoint after the fireworks of the first act. We could call all the cards her big hits, with Mark Gonzales’ goal the “Daydream Believer” of the game. But after Spain’s loss to Switzerland in the first game, this is a victory for all those who favor offense win out over bland, defensive negative soccer.
Prediction against result: The Swiss are so good at defense that they barely missed a step after Valon Behrani’s ejection, even with Chile’s attack.
Spain 2-0 Honduras
Despite having 65% of the possession, it took Spain five minutes into the second half to effectively put the game away. This wasn’t so much the result of bad luck or courageous defense by Honduras, but rather not enough movement by Spain in the box. Fortunately for them, Honduras gave them the space the Swiss were so adept at denying. Still, even with a missed penalty, Spain got their World Cup campaign back in gear, and sent Honduras packing for their troubles. But they will need a better team effort against Chile if they’re going to go as far as they should here.
Prediction against result: I said Spain wouldn’t break a sweat, David Villa’s missed penalty kept me from calling the score.
Matchday 12 Previews
Mexico v. Uruguay 10:00 AM ET, ESPN
Both teams get through with a draw, so it’s likely that neither team will risk being exposed at the back. However, Mexico has an incentive to win the game, which would give them a second round clash with Not Argentina.
France v. South Africa 10:00 AM ET, ESPN2
If you’re only going to enjoy watching one team crumble under the weight of its egotism, in-fighting, incompetence, and faded glory, this is the one (fortunately, we also have England tomorrow). Add to it the joy of seeing the home country pull out a win, albeit in vain.
Prediction: South Africa 2, France 0
Greece v Argentina 2:30 PM ET, ESPN
Argentina could rest most of its stars and still cruise to a win to take all nine points in the group. That’s what they’ll do.
Prediction: Argentina 2, Greece 0
Nigeria v. South Korea
I would love to see Nigeria win and take second place. But I don’t see it happening.
Prediction: South Korea 1, Nigeria 0