20 June 2006

WC: Final Games Begin -- Group A and B

The final group-stage matches are a real mixed bunch. If everything is still up for grabs, with four teams playing for everything, the simultaneous matches can be a real hair-raising, frenetic experience. But sometimes everything is decided, or nearly so, and the games are rather uninteresting.

Today is mostly the latter. The good news is that there are some intriguing matchups; the bad news is that there isn't quite so much at stake. So we'll see what transpires.

Group A
Ecuador 2 0 0 5 0 +5 6
Germany 2 0 0 5 2 +3 6
Poland 0 0 2 0 3 -3 0
Costa Rica 0 0 2 2 7 -5 0

Ecuador vs. Germany, Berlin (game to watch)
Costa Rica vs. Poland, Hanover

Nothing much to play for. Poland and Costa Rica are out, and playing solely for pride. Germany and Ecuador still have to determine who will win the group, but that's not a huge factor. The winner will face the #2 team from Group B, while the loser will face the #1 team. I would guess that either team would have a slight preference to face Sweden over England, but there's no guarantee that England will finish atop the group. So a win is important, but the top priority for both teams has to be staying healthy and getting ready for Saturday's octofinal games.

SCENARIO: Ecuador win the group with a win or a tie. Nobody is suspended for either team.

Group B
England 2 0 0 3 0 +3 6
Sweden 1 1 0 1 0 +1 4
Trinidad & Tobago 0 1 1 0 2 -2 1
Paraguay 0 0 2 0 2 -2 0

Sweden vs. England, Cologne (game to watch)
Paraguay vs. Trinidad & Tobago, Kaiserslautern

Group B is only slightly more interesting than Group A. Although Paraguay is eliminated, Trinidad & Tobago still have a small possibility of progressing. But the fight is mostly between England and Sweden for first place in the group. It's possible that both teams would prefer Ecuador to Germany, so things become interesting if Ecuador win Group A. It's unlikely that either team would play to lose, but they might not try so hard if Germany (and the home-team crowd) is the reward for first place.

SCENARIOS: A win or a draw for England nets them first place. Sweden get first if they win. Trinidad & Tobago need to beat Paraguay, need Sweden to lose, and need to make up at least 3 goals in differential. No players are suspended for any team.

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