Although European champions Spain were widely backed to take Group H by storm, it is Chile and Switzerland who will battle for top spot in the section after the less-fancied duo both recorded wins in their initial outings.
Having been humbled by the Swiss, Spain now need to get their tournament up and running against a Honduras side that put in a valiant effort before losing 1-0 to Chile. Still considered one of the clear favourites to clinch the 19th edition of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, La Roja must demonstrate that their previous performance was nothing more than a blip.
In Group G, meanwhile, fate has delivered echoes of one of the most spectacular FIFA World Cup games of all time, with Portugal and Korea DPR due to meet for the first time since the Europeans' breathtaking 5-3 triumph during the quarter-finals at England 1966. Portugal’s most popular player of all time, Eusebio, plundered four goals that day and current linchpin Cristiano Ronaldo will be desperate to rediscover his form as he attempts to follow in the legendary striker’s footsteps.
Portugal-Korea DPR, Group G, Cape Town, 13.30 (local time)
Chile-Switzerland, Group H, Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth, 16.00 (local time)
Spain-Honduras, Group H, Johannesburg (Ellis Park), 20.30 (local time)
"Chile are without doubt the team that has played the best football since the start of the World Cup,” is the verdict of the country's iconic former forward Ivan Zamorano. Impressively compact, the South Americans have a decidedly attacking philosophy and boast a certain verve gained by plucking talent from the country’s U-20 side.
The task of blunting their ambitions will not be an easy one, but Switzerland will once again rely on the strengths of discipline and team spirit that bear the unmistakable stamp of coach Ottmar Hitzfeld. His message was dutifully respected against Spain, yet Die Nati must make adjustments to cope with the absence of injured centre-back Philippe Senderos. Chile won the only previous meeting between the two teams at a FIFA World Cup when they prevailed 3-1 at home in 1962, a distant 48 years ago.
Spain touched down in South Africa pointing to a record of 44 wins and just one loss in 48 matches stretching back over a period of three years. Those figures did not protect them in their surprise defeat by Switzerland, of course, and that result has left them once again facing the demons that have haunted them since 1950 and their solitary semi-final finish. “We now have to approach the Honduras match as if it was a final and try to take the three points before doing the same against Chile,” commented Gerard Pique, blocking out the criticisms swirling around back home.
What they said
"The standard of the various national teams has become more balanced in the last few years. Predicting the final result or underestimating the other teams is the first step towards certain failure,” Vicente del Bosque, Spain coach.
Did you know?
Curse lifted: After 48 barren years and 13 final tournament matches without victory – encompassing failed attempts in 1966, 1974, 1982 and 1998 – Chile finally ended their curse by defeating Honduras 1-0 in their opening assignment at South Africa 2010. Their most recent prior success had been a 1-0 win over Yugoslavia in the match for third place on 16 June 1962, and Bielsa’s charges will surely now feel capable of moving mountains as they prepare to meet Alpine rivals Switzerland.
Swiss strongbox: Switzerland have not conceded at a FIFA World Cup final tournament in 16 years, dating back to their 3-0 reverse at the hands of Spain in June 1994. Although they have only disputed five games on the global stage since then, Die Nati can feel justifiably proud of their efforts. They managed four clean sheets at Germany 2006 before exiting to last-16 opponents Ukraine on penalties following a goalless draw and last Wednesday’s 1-0 win against Spain promptly confirmed their reputation for miserliness at the back.
Asian Rooney: Nicknamed 'The Asian Rooney' or 'The People’s Rooney', Korea DPR forward Jong Tae-Se is a formidable goalscorer and free-kick specialist who has already registered 16 times in 25 internationals. Born in Japan and raised in Korea Republic before moving north of the border, he possesses triple nationality and opted to represent Korea DPR on the field of play. Before South Africa 2010, he expressed his excitement at being drawn in a group that would allow him to rub shoulders with two of his idols – and having swapped shirts with Kaka last time out, he is sure to make a beeline for Cristiano Ronaldo at the final whistle.