WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – GROUP A: URUGUAY VS. MEXICO
Kickoff: June 22, 10 a.m.
Where: Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg
Records: Uruguay: 1-0-1, 4 points; Mexico: 1-0-1, 4 points
Last game: Uruguay: La Celeste finally broke through and earned its first World Cup win since 1990, beating host South Africa, 3-0, thanks to two goals from star Diego Forlán and another from Álvaro Pereira. Mexico: El Tri all but assured itself a spot in the round of 16 by dominating France in a 2-0 win, getting goals from forwards Javier Hernández and Cuauhtémoc Blanco.
Significance: The winner goes to the round of 16, but a tie means both teams advance. The loser also can advance, depending on the result of France-South Africa. The team that finishes second in the group, however, likely will have to face undefeated Argentina in the round of 16.
Keep an eye on: Uruguay: Diego Pérez. The central midfielder doesn’t get the fanfare for being the team’s backbone, but his defensive play has been the key to La Celeste’s not yielding a goal in two games. Mexico: Giovani Dos Santos. The standout striker for the Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League has yet to score through two games, but has been El Tri’s best player, registering five shots and drawing three fouls. In 26 international games, he has five goals. He’s poised for a breakthrough performance.
Key to the game: Uruguay: Stay patient on attack. In a scoreless draw with France in the opener, La Celeste had a meager five touches inside the 18-yard box. In the team’s 3-0 win over South Africa, it had 19 touches inside the penalty area. It’s imperative Uruguay establish its offense against the Mexicans. Mexico: The team has collected a staggering six yellow cards – any player who accumulates two is automatically suspended for the ensuing match – and has been called offside 10 times in just 180 minutes. El Tri can’t afford to make the same mistakes against Uruguay.
Probable Starting Lineups
URUGUAY (La Celeste)
MEXICO (El Tri)
GROUP B: ARGENTINA VS. GREECE
Kickoff: June 22, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane
Records: Greece: 1-1-0, 3 points; Argentina: 2-0-0, 6 points
Last game: Argentina: La Albiceleste has all but secured a spot in the round of 16 after dominating South Korea, 4-1. Argentina got an own goal from Park Chu-Young and a hat trick from Gonzalo Higuaín to cruise to the easy victory. Greece: Ethniki rebounded from a terrible, two-goal loss to South Korea in its opener by playing one of its best games in recent memory in a 2-1 win over Nigeria for its first World Cup victory. Goals by Dimitrios Salpingidis and Vasileios Torosidis were Greece’s first in the World Cup.
Significance: Argentina has a big edge in goal differential and likely advances with a loss, but things could get very dicey if La Albiceleste falls and South Korea scores a big victory over Nigeria. Greece needs to win or have a high-scoring draw and get help to advance to the knockout stage.
Keep an eye on: Argentina: Lionel Messi. The striker’s superb play has been the catalyst for his team’s netting five goals in its first two games. But the reigning FIFA Player of the Year has yet to find the back of the net himself. Through two matches, he has 14 shots and has drawn six fouls, but ultimately will have to put a few in himself if Argentina is to win its first title since 1986. Greece: Theofanis Gekas. The forward led all scorers in UEFA World Cup qualifying with a staggering 10 goals in just 11 games. But through two matches at the World Cup, he has mustered a meager four shots.
Key to the game: Argentina: Stay intense. The energy Coach Diego Maradona injects into his team is infectious. Argentina’s play through two games is perhaps the best of any team, but it can’t afford to enter the round of 16 coming off a shoddy performance. Greece: Score. Ethniki dominated Nigeria after Sani Kaita was sent off with a red card in the 33rd minute. Greece scored both its goals against a 10-man side, outshooting the Super Eagles, 27-10.
Probable Starting Lineups
ARGENTINA (La Albiceleste)
World Cup Schedule
France vs. South Africa in Bloemfontein, 10 a.m.
Mexico vs. Uruguay in Rustenburg, 10 a.m.
Greece vs. Argentina in Polokwane, 2:30 p.m.
Nigeria vs. South Korea in Durban, 2:30 p.m.
Slovenia vs. England in Port Elizabeth, 10 a.m.
Algeria vs. United States in Pretoria, 10 a.m.
Serbia vs. Australia in Nelspruit, 2:30 p.m.
Ghana vs. Germany in Johannesburg, 2:30 p.m.
Note: All times are Eastern Standard