Now that the top two squads of each group have moved on to the Round of 16, the first matches for tonight and early morning are these:
10pm Uruguay vs. Republic of Korea @ Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth
230am USA vs. Ghana @ Rustenburg
Uruguay is led by Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan (he took centerstage when Fernando Torres left for Liverpool). How dangerous is this 5'10" striker? He's won the Pichichi Trophy twice -- once in with Villareal before moving over to Atletico and the other two years ago with El Atleti. Since 2002, he's scored 26 times for Uruguay in international play. In this World Cup, he's scored twice both of them coming against South Africa in a 3-0 win.
Korea is led by Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung. If there is one thing that was obvious about the Koreans in group stage play is they are in superb shape with Park leading the way as he tirelessly tears up and down the pitch. He's logged 270 minutes for Korea -- meaning he's played every minute of all three matches so far and has had one goal (against Greece). Plus, he has yet to be carded.
It's going to be a interesting match as the high energy Koreans go up against a dangerous yet unheralded Uruguayan side.
In the main match and in television delay if I am not mistaken is Team USA vs Ghana. The USA definitely has shown that their Confederations Cup showing last year was no fluke. I think this is the fourth time they've made the Round of 16.
The Americans' problem is their defense. Their back four is Carlos Bocanegra (LB), Jay Demerit and Oguchi Onyewu in central and Steve Cherundolo (RB). Their traditional weakness has been the left behind I figure in this World Cup, it's in the middle with Demerit and Onyewu. Demerit, who plays for Watford in England, has misplayed a couple of balls. Against England, I'd chalk it up to first match nerves but against Algeria he was better. They better be wary against the Black Stars of Ghana because their ground game is very good (their finishing could be much better though as both goals have been penalty shots by Asamoah Gyan).
Their midfield and forwards have been superb on the other hand. Doubly inspired by a past (Bill Clinton) and current president (Barack Obama), look to them to take the fight to the last African team in contention in the World Cup. Ghana has some confidence against the US as they knocked them out of the 2006 World Cup 2-1 in Nuremburg. The Black Stars Stephen Appiah scored the deciding goal in that match (injury time in the first half). He's suited up thus far but isn't his former self after some injuries. The squad's best player Michael Essien of Chelsea is out with an injury as well. But Gyan will have plenty of help from Kevin Prince Boateng (the dude who injured Michael Ballack) who is a workhorse of an attacker.
Of course, this is a far different, stronger US side than what they faced in Germany.
Best goalkeeper of the tournament thus far: Portugal's Eduardo. And he was superb as well in 2006 in Germany. Those two huge saves against Brazil should make the highlight reel.
Leading scorers of the tournament:
Three goals each for David Villa (Spain), Gonzalo Higuian (Argentina) and Robert Vittek (Slovakia). Villa is with Barcelona, Higuain with Real Madrid and Vittek with Turkish club Ankaragucu.
In 2006, I thought that Franck Ribery was one of the breakout stars. This tournament, I like Mesut Ozil, Germany's playmaker. Great speed and vision on the attack. Word is he is headed for -- darn it -- Manchester United after this World Cup.