32 group stage games down, 16 to go. As we head into round three of matches, 30 of 32 teams still have a chance to reach the knockout stages. Those teams range from a 2-0 side in precarious position to an 0-2 side with a very realistic chance to advance. Let's breakdown the scenarios and my predictions, starting with Groups A-D.
Standings: Uruguay- 4 points, +3 goal differential; Mexico- 4 pts., +2; France- 1 pt., -2; South Africa- 1pt., -3
Match-ups: Uruguay vs. Mexico; South Africa vs. France
The situation: Uruguay are part of the South American juggernaut that has eight wins and two draws in ten matches. Diego Forlan is one of the emerging stars of the Cup with two goals in the win over South Africa. While a draw guarantees both sides advance, Mexico will want to avoid a second round meeting with Argentina, so look for El Tri to go on the attack. If there's any justice, the French collection of prima donnas will get blasted by South Africa. The hosts will likely miss the knockout stages, but a well-deserved win would allow them to finish on a high,
Prediction: Mexico wins to top the group as Uruguay holds on to second.
Standings: Argentina- 6 pts.; +4; South Korea- 3 pts.; -1; Greece- 3 pts., -1; Nigeria- 0 pts., -2
Match-ups: Argentina vs. Greece; South Korea vs. Nigeria
The situation: 0-2 may seem like a bleak position, but Nigeria are surprisingly in good shape to advance. A win over South Korea coupled with a Greece loss to Argentina will see three teams tie for second at 1-2. Regardless of the scores on Tuesday, Nigeria are ensured of winning the goal differential tie-breaker. Argentina need only a draw to lock-up the top spot, and it's hard to see them failing to capture a point.
Prediction: Argentina take first and Nigeria sneak in behind them.
Standings: Slovenia- 4 pts., +1; USA- 2 pts., E; England- 2 pts. E, Algeria- 1 pt., -1
Match-ups: Slovenia vs. England; USA vs. Algeria
The situation: It's win and advance for Slovenia, the U.S. and England, while Algeria needs a win and some help from England to move on. Oddly the fourth-place side is the only one entering their match on a positive note. Slovenia coughed up a two-goal lead to the U.S., a match the Americans left thinking they should have won. Meanwhile England are just grateful that the French are in town, otherwise they'd be the poster children for team disharmony and underachievement.
Prediction: A pair of 2-0 wins sees the U.S. and England advance, with the States topping the group on the second tiebreaker, goals scored.
Standings: Ghana 4 pts., +1; Germany 3 pts., +3; Serbia 3 pts., E; Australia 1 pt. -4
Match-ups: Ghana vs. Germany; Serbia vs. Australia
The situation: A quick look at the standings, and you'd say Group D leaders Ghana are Africa's best hope of reaching the knockout stages. They might, however, face a tougher task than winless Nigeria. The Black Stars will need at least a point against Germany to ensure passage. If they lose, Serbia will pass them with a win over Australia. While a win advances any of the top three teams, only Ghana are assured of moving on with a draw. Australia needs to show that it can play without getting a star player red carded, following the dismissals of Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell in their first two matches.
Prediction: Germany plays like, well, Germany and gets the win to put them on top of the group. Serbia join them in the second round.