It's either that, or blog about Pat Quinn, and I'm not dead sure what I've got to say about that just yet. Anyway, to the thoughts, at the beginning of the final set of round-robin games:
- From the "Hoist on Your Own Petard" files, we have the situation in which the Ivory Coast finds itself. It's simple actually - the Ivorians need to beat North Korea in their last match, and they need Brazil to beat Portugal. Furthermore, the combined margin of victory in those two games must be at least 9. In other words, it would be really nice for the Ivory Coast if Brazil could score a boatload of goals. Unfortunately, Brazil will play Portugal without Kaka, one of their top offensive talents. Why? Because he picked up a red card in Brazil's last match, which was against, you guessed it, Ivory Coast, and is thus suspended. And how did he get this red card? Well, he bumped, lightly, into an Ivorian player, who promptly went down as though he'd been shotgunned in the face, and the referee swallowed the act hook, line, and sinker. And so, in a weird way, justice will be served if the Ivorians go out of the World Cup because Brazil had a player suspended.
- It's actually been a dismal tournament for the African teams. As of right now, the six teams from the host continent have played 14 games, in which their collective record is as follows: 2 wins, 4 draws, 8 losses. South Africa, Nigeria, and Cameroon are already eliminated, and it's quite likely that the Ivory Coast and Algeria will join them. And, while Ghana are currently atop their group, their last match, against Germany, will be their most difficult, and qualification for the next round is by no means assured.
- Italy have been stumbling. An acceptable opening-match draw against Paraguay was followed up by an unacceptable one against New Zealand. However, all is not lost; a win in their final game, against Slovakia, will see the Azzurri through whatever else happens, and even another draw will suffice if Paraguay can beat New Zealand. Time, methinks, to get Gennaro Gattuso in there (yes, I'm biased). It's true that he's getting on a bit (in fact, this tournament will be his last go-round in international soccer), but he won't be outworked, and his ability to wreak havoc in midfield should give the Slovakians pause for thought.
That's all for now! There'll be more at the end of the round-robin.