Thursday, 24 June 2010

Group D - final games

Germany 1 - 0 Ghana
Ozil 60

Australia 2 - 1 Serbia
Cahill 69 Pantelic 84
Holman 73

There's an advantage to playing in group D rather than group C. England didn't know what their result implied for the round of 16, but Germany knew a win gave them England, while Ghana had to face the much harder prospect of the USA. If Defoe's chance after the break had gone in (or Rooney's, or Lampard's), both teams would have faced the mathematical conundrum of trying to come second.

Oh they'll say otherwise, they'll say the usual things about all teams being decent teams at this stage, having to beat what's in front of you, and so on. But you've all watched England and the USA. Who would you want to play?

Australia, meanwhile, were just hoping Ghana would beat Germany. As things turned out, their initial catastrophic four nil loss to Germany gave them a goal difference they were never going to recover from. Nice to see them and New Zealand going home with some dignity, though, in New Zealand's case without even the dismal prospect of a transoceanic flight in the company of Harry Kewell.

And there's a fortunate side effect to the Australian victory, which is that one African country goes through. In a tight group, a Serbian equaliser would have given them equal points with Ghana, equal goal difference but one more goal scored, which would have put them through. They had two chances in injury time, and missed both of them.

At this stage the calculation is what I enjoy most, to be honest. Every time someone scores, or doesn't, there's an immediate tangible consequence. The USA's last minute goal against Algeria left two million Slovenes sad, and three hundred million Americans watching the basketball anyway. They probably think it's a bit peculiar running the World Cup while the NBA finals are on.

If the main story of the night is constant arithmetic, the other one is chances missed. Serbia and Ghana both had opportunities to put the game away in the first half. Serbia will be rueing theirs this morning. Ghana will be quietly pleased.

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