I had the games on ESPN3 today as I was packing up my classroom for the summer. Another year down - ten weeks to recover.
Obviously, the big surprise of the day is New Zealand's draw against Slovakia. The All Whites did well just to make it to the tournament and were generally considered to be the weakest in the field of 32 nations. To gain a draw against a European team is an excellent result.
I am very fond of New Zealand. I was there for about two weeks around Christmas time one year during my time in Japan - well before The Lord of the Rings started filming. It is an astonishingly beautiful country. Postcards barely do it justice. People are very friendly, too. In shops, they kept calling me "Love." "Can I get you anything else, Love?" So sweet.
Now that all six African nations have played their first match, it seems appropriate to see where everyone stands and assess the road ahead for each:
- Ghana is in the best shape of the six. Their win over Serbia was big. Australia should be easier and assuming they win that, there will be less riding on their match with the beast that is Germany.
- Nigeria is probably in the next best position. Even though they lost their opening match against Argentina, they played well and their toughest group opponent is now out of the way.
- Ivory Coast has to be delighted that Drogba is playing but a victory over Portugal rather than a 0-0 draw would have made life much easier. Brazil is up next for them, a major test for both squads. North Korea appeared an easy win at the beginning of the tournament but with their strong effort in defeat today, who knows?
- South Africa did well to draw against Mexico but life doesn't get much easier with Uruguay and France left to play.
- Cameroon is definitely in a hole. Major kudos to Japan for pulling off the upset but what had appeared to be at least the healthiest African team in the beginning now has a very tough road ahead.
- Algeria also lost to what should have been its easiest opponent in its group.