World Cup Previews: Round of Sixteen Starts with Uruguay/South Korea and USA/Ghana

26 June 2010

Carlos Bocanegra (L), Landon Donovan (C) and Jay DeMerit (R) laugh as they warm up prior to their training session. (Credit Image: © epa/ZUMApress.com)
It’s finally here. After two weeks of group stage matches, the knockout phase has finally arrived. You win, you stay alive for another day. You lose, enjoy the flight back home.

Johnathan was slightly better on Friday, going 2 wins and 2 losses. If you can get over the fact he completely blew his prediction on Brazil and Portugal, his record now stands at 20 wins, 23 losses, and 5 no results. Jeff on Friday had 2 wins, 1 loss, and 1 no result. His record now stands at 22 wins, 18 losses, and 8 no results.

10:00 am on ESPN: Uruguay v South Korea
Johnathan Starling
: Uruguay’s defense in the group stage was nothing short of exceptional. They did so with numbers, and were probably the best team in the group stage at getting results from their counter attack. South Korea were unfortunate to be in a group with Argentina. That said, they did not have their best performance in their last outing against Nigeria.
I’m not going to lie to you (and I think Jeff would probably concur with this), the odds for this match suck. The moneyline odds don’t invite an outright winner, and the spread odds are just too spread out to make me not think that, after this is published, we’re going to see half a goal involved. Right now, I think we will see a winner inside of ninety minutes. With that said, my prediction is Uruguay to win outright at -120. My thinking behind it is that South Korea don’t have enough pace at the back to deal with Uruguay’s counter attack.
Jeff Hash: South Korea has surprised a few people in making it this far, even if they were very uneven across their three games.  They found goals against all their opponents, which is about all you can ask for in attack.  Their defense, though, went from sublime in a clean sheet with Greece to abysmal against Argentina.  Uruguay, on the other hand, didn't allow a single goal in their matches, while their attack ranged from bland to great.  Trying to figure out where in these ranges the teams will be on Saturday is a pure guessing game.  The one thing I can think to take advantage of is that, when teams are shaky, defense tends to take hold more than attack.  My pick will be to go under 2.5 goals at -220.

2:30 pm on ABC: United States v Ghana
Johanthan Starling
: As an American I have one simple request: we acknowledge how lucky we were to even be here. The US’s finishing has been nothing but abysmal throughout this World Cup, and despite having four goals, they should have at least 5 more thanks to the chances they created. Defensively, they are equally a mess and were beaten again inside the first quarter hour against Algeria. The only difference this time was they had a friend in the crossbar.
Ghana could actually be worse on the attack. Without having scored a goal from open play, it’s something they have to be very nervous about. Their defense hasn’t been great by any means. While they may have only allowed 2 goals in 3 games, their keeper doesn’t exude confidence should there be a bouncing ball close to him in the box. Just off hand, between Australia and Germany, I can count seven chances that should have been easy goals had the person finishing them not blown open opportunities. I think when it’s all said and done, it boils down to who can actually convert on the chances they create. To me, there is one side that has proven they can at least finish them, and that’s the United States. My prediction is for the United States to win outright at +135.
Jeff Hash: So, here we are: the USA has moved on to the knockout round.  In doing so however, they now faces Ghana, a team the US lost to at World Cup 2006.  Both teams have had some seriously shaky times in the group phase.  I'm going to disagree with John on Ghana's defense though: allowing only two goals in three games doesn't qualify as having allowed teams to finish their opportunities, and they've given up fewer shots and shots on goal than the US.  But again, I find myself going to back to what I said in my last preview: defense tends to hold better than attack on shaky sides.  I just plain don't see a winner in 90 minutes, as Ghana will find a lot more pride and force than would be expected given they are the last African side standing.  I'll repeat my pick from the other game: under 2.5 goals at -220.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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