2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™

2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™

11 June - 11 July

2010 FIFA World Cup™

Group H goes down to the wire

Francesc Fabregas of Spain kicks the corner flag
© Getty Images

The Round of 16 picture will take final shape after today's games as the curtain falls on Groups G and H. Three hopefuls will be able to toast their progress at the final whistle, with Brazil having stayed faithful to a 32-year tradition by booking their ticket with a match to spare.

The five-time winners face Portugal in a final contest high on prestige, even if their cousins from across the Atlantic are also strongly placed in Group G thanks to their three-point cushion over Côte d'Ivoire and a comfortable goal-difference advantage. The Elephants will nonetheless pursue their slim chance to the full by trying to rack up a heavy win over Korea DPR.

Everything remains feasible in Group H, on the other hand, with all four contenders dreaming of the knockout phase. Front-runners Chile are in the healthiest position given their six points from two outings and a draw against Spain would guarantee them top spot, while the European champions must triumph to have a chance of doing the same. They face pressure from Switzerland, who meet Honduras, and wins for both European teams would leave three sides on six points and everything coming down to goal difference or goals scored. In short, expect suspense.

The matches
Korea DPR-Côte d'Ivoire, Group G, Nelspruit, 16.00
Portugal-Brazil, Group G, Durban, 16.00
Chile-Spain, Group H, Tshwane/Pretoria, 20.30
Switzerland-Honduras, Group H, Mangaung/Bloemfontein, 20.30

The big game

Question marks have hung over Spain since their arrival in South Africa, their performances falling short of the standards they set en route to European glory and in qualifying for South Africa. Upset 1-0 by Switzerland in their opening encounter, Vicente del Bosque's men lifted themselves to down Honduras 2-0, but they spurned an incalculable number of chances in that match while also giving Los Catrachos hope on the break.

The fluid, one-touch football that has been Spain's trademark over the last two years has been less prominent as the pressure of the occasion and the demands of a long season have both taken their toll, and like a number of European teams they have thus far struggled to shine. In contrast, Chile have been a revelation during their twin 1-0 successes, those scorelines hardly reflecting their domination in both games.

Perhaps the only concern for Marcelo Bielsa's men is how to kill off games and the Argentinian coach is looking to Humberto Suazo to find his feet after the striker finished top scorer during South American qualifying on ten goals. Chile will also strive to deny Spain an early breakthrough and hope that self-doubt creeps into their play.

In focus
Tiago v Julio Baptista

It can be a daunting task standing in for a household name but that is the challenge facing both these players with Deco out for Portugal and Kaka missing for Brazil. Tiago has already demonstrated his ability courtesy of two goals and an influential display against Korea DPR, but for Julio Baptista his FIFA World Cup™ adventure is about to begin. The match itself may be set to unfold with little at stake, but it will be no less intriguing to watch the former Chelsea midfielder lock horns with the player they call 'The Beast'.

What they said
"Côte d'Ivoire smile more than any other team I've coached in my career, and I've coached quite a few," Sven-Goran Eriksson, Côte d'Ivoire coach.

Portuguese bottle: Cristiano Ronaldo was right, the ketchup bottle finally flowed "with all the goals coming at once", as he had predicted. The Real Madrid forward even got in on the act himself during the 7-0 rout of Korea DPR, finding the net on the international stage for the first time in 18 months. Voted Budweiser Man of the Match, he nonetheless felt that team-mate Tiago merited the distinction more and handed him the trophy in the dressing room, decorating the match with yet another fine moment.

Gladiator: Standing nearly 6'4" tall and weighing 90kg, Switzerland goalkeeper Diego Benaglio would have made an intimidating gladiator back in Roman times. It is perhaps no coincidence then that the 26-year-old's favourite film is Ridley Scott's swords-and-sandals epic. Benaglio's major asset are his enormous hands, though, and with a hand span of 25cm he requires size 11 gloves, the largest on the market. He gets through no fewer than 50 pairs a season and, like a striker insuring his legs, he has taken a policy out on his hands for €16m.

Spain seeing red: Spain's nickname La Roja refers to the colour of their shirts, and according to studies carried out by sports psychologists, red is the colour which best communicates strength, aggression, confidence and balance. Do not expect five-time world champions Brazil to switch from yellow, however, as their shirts are said to encapsulate clarity and serenity.

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