Reports of the death of Iberian soccer have been grossly exaggerated. After displaying all the penetrative edge of a sponge against Ivory Coast in its opener, Portugal came alive in a second-half mauling of North Korea in a game that ended 7-0 on Monday. The result gives Portugal a massive boost and leaves Ivory Coast's hopes of progressing hanging by a thread. It also cues up what promises to be an effervescent meeting between Portugal and Brazil on Friday.
Spain, for its part, retained the style of its play against Switzerland, but also found an edge sharp enough to cut through defenses at will. Better finishing might have doubled the 2-0 score line against Honduras.
Portugal and Spain -- who could meet in the round of 16 -- are finally playing the kind of soccer we expected to see and getting results. Portugal had six different scorers Monday; and though
Neither Honduras nor North Korea was ever likely to offer the most testing or flamboyant opposition, but seeing (European) passing sides make light work of such obdurate defenses is reassuring with the thrills of the knockout stages waiting on the other side of this week's final group games.
Weren't we supposed to be excited that
Spain looked comfortable handling the assaults Honduras sporadically attempted on the Spanish half.
Portugal scoring seven second-half goals, having been admirably rebuffed by North Korea in the first half, came as a mild surprise, but wasn't quite as shocking as the sight of Villa stroking a penalty wide as he went for the hat trick after two lovely goals.
Goals don't come much better than
"At the World Cup we need the best referees available, and not just a referee who blows the whistle on the beach."
558 -- minutes at World Cup finals in which Switzerland managed not to concede a goal. Holding out until the 76th minute against Chile earned Switzerland the record, overtaking Italy's 550-minute streak between 1986 and 1990.
The word from the Brazil camp is that
Mexico on Tuesday will probably face Uruguay without
After 11 days of miserly three-games-a-day scheduling, we'll have four games to feast on for the next four days. On Tuesday, Groups A and B are concluded in simultaneous kick-offs at 10 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. (ET).
A tie between Uruguay and Mexico would put both through in that order, which means Uruguay can afford, to some extent, to sit on the back foot. It would be disappointing to see that happen, however, and
You can bet on France at 50/1 not to turn up for its match with South Africa, which it would have to win by at least four or five goals (and hope that the other game isn't tied) to go through.
In Group B, Argentina needs a point to confirm its place at the top, and only Greece stands in the way.
Nigeria doesn't have a point yet, but isn't mathematically out of the running. "We still have a chance of qualifying," coach