Saturday, 26 June 2010

Group stage summary

The story of the group stages is one of African failure, European indifference, Asian and Central American success and South American triumph.

Europe sent 13 teams to the World Cup. South America has sent 5, North and Central America 3, as Uruguay beat Costa Rica in the playoff. Africa sent 6, including of course the host nation, South Africa.

Asia sent 4, as Bahrain lost to New Zealand in the playoff. One of the Asian nations is Australia, as they have been transferred to the Asian qualification category, so in fact Australasia have sent 2 teams. This has never happened before.

Of the 48 games in the group stage, 6 games in each of the eight groups, 15 were drawn, while 33 were won and lost. Due to the way the draw is conducted, the only group games between countries in the same continent are European.

South American teams have done brilliantly. They played in 15 games, of which they won 9, drew 5 and lost just 1. This single defeat was in the very last game of the group stage, when Spain beat Chile 2 - 1. Chile qualified for the last 16 despite this defeat.

European teams played in 39 games. They won 15, lost 11 and drew 13. This is a positive record, but low by the historic standards of European teams in the World Cup. Five of those games were between European teams, of which none were drawn, so against non-European opposition they won 10, lost 6 and drew 13. Again, indifferent by historical standards.

North and Central American countries played 9 games, of which they won 2, drew 4 and lost 3.

Asian and Australasian countries played 15 games, of which they won 4, drew 5 and lost 6.

African teams had a torrid time. They played 18 games, of which they won 3, drew 5 and lost 10.

All 5 South American countries qualified for the last sixteen. Chile finished second in their group, the other 4 all won theirs.

6 of the 13 European countries qualified for the last sixteen, just under half. This is unprecedented. 3 won their groups, 3 finished second. France, Serbia and Italy finished bottom.

2 of the 5 Asian or Australasian countries are through. As Australia and New Zealand both go home, it's equally true that 2 out of 3 properly Asian countries go through.

Ghana are the only African representative in the last sixteen. Of the other 5, Nigeria, Algeria and Cameroon finished bottom.

Of the 3 CONCACAF countries, Mexico and the US are through. Only Honduras go home.

As I type this, Uruguay have just beaten South Korea, and are through to the quarter finals. There is no reason why the semi finals couldn't be all South American - Uruguay v Brazil or Chile, and Paraguay v Argentina. I see no reason for this not to happen.

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