The group stage ended today with Groups G and H playing their final matches. And in the end, everything ended up pretty much like everybody thought it would.
Group G: Considered this Cup's Group of Death, this group yielded no surprises, as the participants lined up in rank order at the finish. Brazil's top finish means they end up on the opposite side of the bracket from Argentina, Germany, England, Spain and Portugual, leaving a match against any of those teams to the Final.
Clearly the minnows in the group, they put up a great defensive effort against in the loss to Brazil. The implosion against Portugal put them out of the Cup with a match to spare and gave the Ivorians a giant mountain to climb. Their zero points, -11 goal difference means they get the honor of being the worst team in this World Cup.
Scored three against North Korea, but it didn't matter, because they could only reach four points, falling short of the five that took Portugal into second place.
Were pretty much guaranteed to progress, and only the most unlikely of scenarios could have kept them out of the next round. A win would have had them topping the group, but their counterattacking game plan against Brazil was good for a draw and nothing more. It also made for an extremely frustrating final group match.
Struggled to get through the massed Portuguese defense with Kaká serving his unjust suspension, and Robinho and Elano both being saved for the next round. Brazil has been a slow starter in past Cups, and I get the feeling that there's more there. Of course, the last four matches are much more important than the last three, so we will have to see if Brazil can peak at the right time.
Group H: This group also played out according to rank, but Spain's blunder against Switzerland gave the group a little additional intrigue. Switzerland's failure to get full points against Honduras meant that we avoided a three-way tie at six points. Nkufo is now free to join the Sounders, but his Switzerland was extremely close. With today's result in the Spain-Chile match, a two goal victory would have put them second and a three goal victory would have put them first.
As the third qualifiers out of CONCACAF, Honduras were always considered a long shot, and so it proved.
As mentioned, had they won by multiple goals today, they could have booked themselves a pass to the second round, and maybe even group leadership. Unfortunately for them, they'll only be booking vacations.
The draw in the other match meant that Chile's defeat against Spain wasn't fatal, as they were able to hold on to second. Next up is a very familiar foe in Brazil, and one that has really hurt Chile in the past. But the first step in winning the World Cup is getting through the group stages and Chile can check that item of their list.
Ended up where they were expected to be, but risked going the way of Italy if they didn't perform in the last match. Some suicidal goalkeeping gave them their opening, and they can look forward to a tough contest against their Iberian neighbors.