From Tuesday through Friday, the final matches in group play in the World Cup will be played. Each day there will be four matches with each group playing a pair of matches simultaneously. This is to prevent team from slanting a result to get a favorable outcome for itself or to screw over somebody they don't like or to help out a neighbor (as in Peru helping out Argentina in 1978 and Austria helping out Germany in 1982.)
So here are the groups and how they can come out and how I (most likely incorrectly) think they will come out. Please correct any math errors I made. I know must have made some because I have trouble adding numbers higher than four.
Group A: Ecuador and Germany have already clinched spots in the second round and play each other in their last match. Ecuador wins the top spot with a tie or a win. Germany has to win. And I think the surprising Ecuadoreans will get a draw and finish first. Germany will take second. Costa Rica will play Poland for cosmetic purposes and I pick Poland because you've got to pick somebody.
Group B: England is on top and has already clinched. Sweden is second with four points and can advance with a tie or win against England. Trinidad & Tobago needs a win over eliminated Paraguay and a loss by the Swedes where the combination of the margins of victory would be two or more. All that math will go for naught as I see the Swedes getting their draw and the Soca Warriors likely won't be able to beat Paraguay, although they can very likely get a tie. At least the two teams have keepers with cool names: Shaka Hyslop and Aldo Bobadilla.
Second round matchups: Ecuador vs. Sweden in Munich on Saturday and England vs. Germany in Stuttgart on Sunday.
Group C: Argentina and the Netherlands have both qualified and play each other Wednesday in Frankfurt. Argentina looks like it wants to make a deep run and I think they will beat the Dutch. Both teams could let up on the gas with their future guaranteed, but I think the Argentines still have more fuel to burn. Ivory Coast and Serbia et al. are both done and their coaches are quitting, their best players are either injured or disqualified. And I think the Ivoirians will win.
Group D: Portugal has made it to the second round for the first time in 40 years. Mexico is second with four points, Angola has one and Iran has none. Portugal takes on Mexico while Angola plays Iran. Mexico can advance with a tie or win. Angola can advance with a win over Iran and if Mexico loses. But Mexico is +2 in goal difference and Angola is -1. So Angola is going to need to get its offense roaring to have a chance. And so far, Angola hasn't scored. So I think Mexico will get to the second round even with a loss.
Second round matchups: Argentina vs. Mexico in Leipzig on Saturday. Portugal vs. Netherlands in Nuremberg on Sunday.
Group E: This group was supposed to be tough to play in and with one match left it's tough to handicap. All four teams are still alive. Italy is atop the group with four points, the Czech Republic and Ghana have three and the USA has one. Italy plays the Czech Republic and you would think that Italy would be favored (and the oddsmakers seem to think so) as the Czechs have lost their two best strikes, Jan Koller and Milan Baros, to injury and their third best forward, Vladislav Lokvenc, to yellow cards. And the Czechs looked really bad in their loss to Ghana. If Italy wins (and I think they will), the winner of the Ghana-USA match would get the second spot. And Ghana would advance in case of a tie, if Italy loses to the Czechs by at least a couple of goals. Somehow, I think that Italy will get a win and Ghana will get a draw (mainly because I don't have a lot of faith in the U.S. offense) and those two will finish 1-2. But I can see pretty much every possible combination of teams advancing with the exception of USA and Ghana because that's mathematically impossible. The Czechs would advance with a win over Italy or a draw if Ghana loses or draws.
Group F: Defending champion Brazil has clinched a spot with six points with two uninspiring wins over Team
Tablecloth (aka Croatia) and Australia. The Aussies are in second place with 3 points while Croatia and Japan have one point each. Brazil plays Japan and Team Tablecloth plays Australia. Brazil should be able to beat Japan with minimal trouble. The Japanese haven't looked incredibly inventive on offense. Before the tournament started, I would have thought Croatia would have had no trouble with Australia, but the Aussies put up a good fight against Brazil and they should be able to get at least one point and that will put them into the second round.
Second round matchups: Italy vs. Australia in Kaiserslautern on Monday, Brazil vs. Ghana in Dortmund next Tuesday.
Group G: Korea and Switzerland sit atop the group with four points each. The Swiss are +2 in goals and the Koreans are +1. France is in third with 2 points and are even in goals. Togo has no points and is out of contention.
Korea was fortunate to get a tie with France as the officials failed to see a ball that the Korean keeper swatted back in to play after it had gone over the line. FIFA has experimented with putting electronic devices inside the balls to get them to set off an alarm when they cross the line, but they haven't been approved for play yet.
Either Korea or Switzerland will both advance with a win or draw. France will advance with a win if they beat Togo by two goals unless Korea and Switzerland play a very high-scoring tie game, which is unlikely.
Although Zinedine Zidane will miss the Togo match because of two yellow card, I think the French will handle the turmoil-ridden Togolese. Korea's run of good fortune in this World Cup will come to an end and the Swiss will win, taking the top spot.
Group H: Spain won its first two matches and outscored Ukraine and Tunisia by a margin of 7-1, second best so far in the tournament (Argentina is 8-1.) The Spanish have wrapped up a spot in the second round. Ukraine after being blown out 4-0 by Spain, blew out Saudi Arabia 4-0 to get their goal difference back to level. Tunisia and Saudi Arabia both have a point and Tunisia is -2 in goals while Saudi Arabia is -4.
Ukraine can move on to the second round with a win over Tunisia. Tunisia moves on with a win over Ukraine. Saudi Arabia would have to beat Spain and by a big enough margin to overcome Tunisia or Ukraine's edge in goal difference. In other words, the Saudis aren't moving on.
Which leaves Ukraine and Tunisia. Is Ukraine as bad as they looked when they lost 4-0 or as good as they looked when they won 4-0? Most likekly, they're somewhere in the middle. And being somewhere in the middle should be more than enough to beat Tunisia and send Ukraine on to the second round. Ukraine would be the first team in World Cup history to lose its opening match by at least four goals and still move on. Yugoslavia lost to Germany in 1990 4-1 and moved on. And even got to the quaterfinals.
Second round matchups: Switzerland vs Ukraine Monday in Cologne, Spain vs. France next Tuesday in Hanover.