Friday, June 25, 2010
WORLD CUP: Saturday's round-of-16 previews
By Scott French
URUGUAY VS. SOUTH KOREA
When: 7 a.m. PT. Where: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (Port Elizabeth)
TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes and Univision (KMEX/Channel 34), 7 a.m.; ESPN Classic, delayed, 3 p.m.
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany)
Players to watch: Diego Forlan has been brilliant whether up front or trailing the top two in Uruguay's 4-3-3 alignment. Park Ji Sung is capable of something special in South Korea's unified approach. Diego Perez's ability to restrict Park could be pivotal.
The scoop: Both of these teams surprised with inventive attacking play, but the Uruguayans' ability to defend masterfully gives them the advantage. Los Charruas didn't give up a goal in Group A, and Forlan, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani have run roughshod over opposing defenses; cutting off their supply is critical for Korea. The Taegeuk Warriors' speed and energy is impressive, and they've been deadly on set pieces, but their backline can be beaten -- they surrendered six goals in their final two group games -- and if they can't defend decently, they have no shot.
History: The nations met in a group finale at the 1990 World Cup, with Daniel Fonseca's last-minute goal giving Uruguay a 1-0 victory and a berth in the round of 16, its last trip to the knockout phase. Los Charruas' coach then: current coach Oscar Tabarez.
Prediction: Uruguay 3, South Korea 1
UNITED STATES VS. GHANA
When: 11:30 a.m. PT. Where: Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace (Phokeng, near Rustenburg)
TV: ABC (KABC/Channel 7), ESPN Deportes and Univision (KMEX/Channel 34), 11:30 a.m.; ESPN2, delayed, 6 p.m.; TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46), 7 p.m.; ESPN Classic, delayed, 4:30 a.m. (Sunday)
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)
Players to watch: The Galaxy's Landon Donovan is the most influential and inspiring player for the U.S., and if he can take charge as he did in the second half against Slovenia, the U.S. will be in good shape. Another big performance by goalkeeper Tim Howard could make the difference, too. Ghana will try to find space for Asamoah Gyan to attack -- he's their goal-getter, and, yes, he can do more than convert penalties.
The scoop: The U.S. is coming off three halves of truly stirring soccer: the comback to tie Slovenia and the dominating display in the stoppage-time victory over Algeria. Donovan might be the most important player, but the Yanks also are getting outstanding work from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey up front and Michael Bradley in midfield. The backline is prone to miscues, but Jay DeMerit has been mostly solid. Coach Bob Bradley has some decisions to make: Does he again partner captain Carlos Bocanegra with DeMerit inside, a nod to Ghana's speed, or does he bring back Oguchi Onyewu, a better match for the Black Stars' physical dimension? Does Edu join Michael Bradley in midfield? Had Benny Feilhaber earned a starting job on the flank? Does Robbie Findley return to the frontline? Does Edson Buddle get his first start? Ghana's five-man midfield could cause problems for the U.S. The Black Stars are faster, have more muscle and are as good, if not better, tactically. Sulley Muntari, if he finally gets a start, could inject extra quality into a tight-knit, no-star group.
History: The U.S. and Ghana met in a group finale four years ago, with the winner moving on to the round of 16. Ghana was the better team that day, with Haminu Dramani stripping Claudio Reyna for the first goal and a phantom penalty-kick call against Onyewu setting up Stephen Appiah's winner. Dempsey scored for the U.S.
Prediction: United States 2, Ghana 1