Eight teams are left in the 2010 World Cup, and the South American nations have been dominating so far. While (usual) European powerhouses France and Italy made their exits in the group stage, four South American teams are still in the competition: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.
Chile is the only South American side that has been eliminated, and they lost to another South American squad, Brazil, so one of them had to go. The Netherlands, Germany and Spain are the three European sides that remain in the World Cup, and Ghana is the only African squad still in the tournament.
It looks like the ball-oriented, beautiful soccer played in South America will prevail this time. Four years ago, the primarily defensive-oriented Italians took home the cup with four European sides making the semifinals.
We could still see a semifinal stage with three European teams, but Spain and the Netherlands play more of a South American style. And even Germany, who used to be known for their relentless defending, have changed their game around.
It started with Juergen Klinsmann four years ago and continues with Joachim Loew; the Germans are playing a more offensive, pass-oriented game, and they used it to beat England 4-1.
Here are the odds to win the 2010 World Cup (from bodog):
Brazil is the favorite to win the tournament. They have one of the best midfielders in Kaka, and deadly strikers in Luis Fabiano and Robinho. They have shown throughout the tournament that they can adjust their playing style to what the opponent calls for.
They showed some of their offense firepower against the Ivory Coast and Chile, but also proved that they can succeed in a defensive stand-off against Portugal. Their coach Dunga has transformed the side from a purely offensive-oriented squad that solely practiced the joga bonito to a team that can defend when it has to but still knows how to pick a defense apart.
The Brazilians face a tough test in the quarterfinals against the Netherlands, but they should be able to control the Oranje’s offense.
It might surprise you to see Spain as the second choice, but they showed that they can adjust to their opponents after the shocking loss to Switzerland. They had major problems with the Swiss’ defensive style, but changed their strategy when facing a similar team in Portugal.
While the Spanish players always seemed to look for the extra pass against Switzerland, they mixed in a few long balls against the Portuguese and succeeded. They dominated the match, and it didn’t even look like Portugal was going to have any chance to score.
The Spanish side won the Euro 2008 and is establishing itself as the top team in Europe. They will try to break defenses down with their great passing, but they have shown they can adjust when needed.
Argentina plowed through Group B, only conceding one goal, admittedly against inferior opponents. The Albiceleste beat Mexico 3-1 in the quarterfinals, but the Mexicans in their current form didn’t pose a real test either.
The Argentinean side has looked strong offensively, scoring eight goals in its four matches. The defense hasn’t faced a real test, but they will in the quarterfinal matchup against Germany. This is where Argentina will show its real face.
Lionel Messi has shown why is considered one of the best players in the world and has made his teammates look great. The one wildcard on Argentina’s side is coach Diego Maradona. He has stayed in his unconventional ways and shuffled the starting XI around throughout the tournament.
He hasn’t faced any adversity and it will be interesting how he will react if Germany goes up early in the quarterfinal matchup.
The German side has had a rollercoaster ride this tournament. The Nationalmannschaft started out with a dominating win over Australia, but looked very vulnerable against Serbia and Ghana. The Germans picked up the pace in their Round-of-16 victory over England, and looked like the better team.
Midfielder Mesut Oezil has had a breakout tournament in the absence of playmaker Michael Ballack. Oezil has led the team, played deadly passes, and showed that he can score as well. He has made attackers Miroslav Klose and Thomas Mueller look dangerous.
They looked like an attacking team against England and they might find themselves in a shootout against Argentina. If the young side can keep its nerves in check, the Germans have a chance to go deep once again.
The Netherlands have looked rock solid, but their strong attack hasn’t produced the way everyone was expecting. Arjen Robben is back with the team and showed off his signature move in the Oranje’s 2-1 win over Slovakia.
Robben moved to his left and blasted a shot into the right corner of the net, a move he has used many times to score for his club team Bayern Munich. Holland will face a tough test against Brazil, and the Selecao might just be too good.
The Netherlands has the potential to win it all, but they didn’t have the best luck in the draw. I think they are strong enough to advance against any other team, but Brazil is too good for them.
Uruguay has played a strong World Cup. Their big, bruising defenders pose a problem for any team they face, and they have shown that they can score off the counter attack. Star-striker Diego Forlan and attacker Luis Suarez have given the team a deadly offense, and they look to continue their run.
The side got lucky in the draw and they face arguably the weakest team left in the tournament in Ghana. They will face Brazil or the Netherlands in the semis, but they could surprise. Their style of play gives any opposing team’s coach nightmares, as they are almost impossible to score on, and they capitalize offensively on any chance they are given.
Ghana gave Germany some problem and eliminated the U.S. side. They create scoring chances and know how to disrupt their opponents’ attack. However, they have major problems scoring. They benefited from two U.S. defensive breakdowns to score in the Round-of-16. Before that, their only goals had come on penalty kicks.
They face one of the best defensive teams left in the tournament in Uruguay, and I can’t see them scoring against the Charruas. They will have the whole continent cheering for them, but I think their run is over here.
Paraguay has played a great tournament, but their run will most likely come to an end against Spain. The Albirroja had a tough time against Japan in the Round-of-16, and I don’t see them stepping up their game against Spain enough to beat the Red Fury.
They had some serious problems scoring and only put the ball in the net three times in four matches. They are completely outmatched against Spain, and they won’t advance past the quarterfinals.