World Cup knockout stages begin - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

World Cup knockout stages begin

By Chris Lines 26/06/2010 03:06:53 PM Comments (0)

The United States will try to match its best World Cup performance and Ghana will be aiming to keep an African presence in the tournament when the two clash in the round of 16 on Saturday.

After two weeks of group games, the World Cup is moving towards its climax, with the opening games of the knockout second round pitting the US against Ghana in Rustenburg, and Uruguay against South Korea in Port Elizabeth.

The group stages ended Friday with Brazil and Portugal progressing from Group G, while Spain and Chile made it out of Group H, continuing an impressive showing by the Latin sides at the tournament.

The US and Ghana can be regarded as the gritty survivors of the group stage.

The Americans trailed in both of their first two group games, 1-0 against England and 2-0 against Slovenia, but fought back both times to salvage draws.

Then came the drama of the final group game, when it was deadlocked at 0-0 against Algeria entering second half stoppage time, and the scoreline in the simultaneous Group B game, England-Slovenia, meaning the US was facing a premature flight home.

Landon Donovan then put himself in the right place at exactly the right time to slot home a last-gasp winning goal, sending the Americans into the round of 16 at Slovenia's expense.

It is the third time the Americans have made it to the business end of a World Cup, and a win over Ghana will put them into a quarterfinal, matching the 2002 team.

Ghana is the sole survivor among African teams at the continent's first World Cup. Many commentators thought the Africans would lift on home soil but they proved to be a disappointment, with Cameroon, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and hosts South Africa all exiting at the group stage.

Ghana made it but in less than exhilarating fashion. Over three group matches, the team failed to score in open play, with its 1-0 win over Serbia and 1-1 draw with Australia coming with the aid of a penalty and a red card against each of those opponents.

Uruguay-South Korea is an intriguing match between a South American nation enjoying a World Cup renaissance and an Asian outfit breaking new ground.

Uruguay is a two-time winner of the World Cup but those victories were back in 1930 and 1950. This is Uruguay's first trip to the round of 16 since 1990, with the aim of making its first quarterfinal since 1970 - all of which suggests they tend to go well in years that end in zero.

Much will hinge on Uruguay's dangerous forwards Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, who have struck up a strong rapport up forward and are difficult to mark, given their willingness to roam out to the wings and back into midfield.

South Korea will be making its first appearance in the knockout stages on foreign soil, having made it all the way to the semifinals in 2002 as co-host. Well organised, and boasting impressive close control and movement off the ball, the Koreans will provide a challenge for Uruguay.

Brazil and Portugal played out an ill-tempered 0-0 draw Friday, allowing former coloniser and colony to reach the last 16. Ivory Coast beat North Korea 3-0 in the other Group G game but both teams finished as also-rans.

Brazil will meet Chile in the round of 16, while Portugal will face Iberian neighbour Spain.

Spain topped Group H on goal difference by edging closest rival Chile 2-1 on Friday. That was enough for the European champions to go through but it was a less than convincing performance against 10 men.

Those on the Chile bench would have been nervously listening in to the simultaneous Switzerland-Honduras match, knowing a late goal from the Swiss would have put them into the last 16 at Chile's expense.

Instead it finished 0-0 and goal-shy Switzerland were knocked out - a disappointing result given it had provided one of the shocks of the tournament by beating Spain in the opening group game.

Chile's defeat was the first of the tournament for any South American team. All of them, bar Chile as runners-up, topped their group.

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