Michael Burgess: Second Round - Five things we learned

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A Brazil v Argentina clash in the final is looking unlikely based on how both teams performed in the second round. Photo / AP
A Brazil v Argentina clash in the final is looking unlikely based on how both teams performed in the second round. Photo / AP

Michael Burgess on the five talking points from the FIFA World Cup second round matches.

No one will miss the Swiss
Chao Switzerland - and don't hurry back to the World Cup. The European team were fortunate to be seeded (thanks to Fifa's unusual criteria for this World Cup), lucky to be placed in a relatively soft group and even then fortunate to qualify for the knock-out stages.

The Swiss showed a complete lack of ambition against Argentina, prepared to settle for penalties from a long way out. Their plan almost worked but it would have been a travesty. Maybe the Swiss performance at this tournament will provoke a rethink of Fifa's seeding system.

'Dream' final looking unlikely
For most neutrals the ultimate final in this tournament would be Brazil versus Argentina. One of the biggest rivalries in world football, the two South American giants have only met three times at a World Cup (1978, 1982 and 1990) and never in a final.

It would be a blockbuster finale this time - but currently doesn't look like the most likely scenario. Brazil may get past Colombia (though they will have to improve significantly to do so) but it is hard to see the Selecao beating likely semi final opponents Germany.

Meanwhile, on current form Argentina will be hard pressed to beat Belgium, as the Europeans may finally take revenge for 1986. Argentina's defence looks shaky (what would they do without Pablo Zabaleta?) and they have an over dependence on Lionel Messi. If the Albiceleste do prevail on Sunday they won't necessarily start favourites against probable semi-final opponents Holland.

Africa deserved more
The performance of the African nations has been one of the highlights of this World Cup, yet has we head into the quarter final all of Africa's teams are gone. They deserved more, but can be proud of their efforts. Algeria and Nigeria (especially) put in amazing efforts against top drawer opposition in the round of 16 - it has been a long time since a German side has been put under such pressure in the second week of a World Cup.

Ghana were undone by some ill timed lapses in an tough group while Ivory Coast were the big disappointment, as their golden generation signed off without the expected impact on the world stage.

CONCACAF is the hotspot for goalkeepers
If you are an aspiring young goalkeeper, you could do worse than spend some time in the CONCACAF region, as the three outstanding custodians at this World Cup so far have all come from North and Central America.

Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa was brilliant against Brazil and only conceded one goal in three group matches. He was similarly impressive against Holland with some unbelievable saves.

Costa Rica's Keylor Navas set a high standard throughout pool play (keeping Italy and England scoreless) before a master class against Greece. He made two freakish saves in normal time - both of which still look totally improbable on replay - before the crucial stop in the penalty shoot-out. Finally, the USA's Tim Howard had an unforgettable day against Belgium, in what will likely be his last World Cup match. The Europeans attacked relentlessly (35 shots, including 27 on target) but Howard was a one man wall, defying them until extra time with a series of impressive saves.

The greatest footballing nation in the world can't find a striker
It's hard to believe, but the country that invented the beautiful game has got nothing pretty up front.

Fred has a decent scoring record at international level (17 goals in 34 matches) but has lost all his confidence and looks ordinary at the moment. He lacks involvement and is posing little danger to opposition defences. The other option, Jo, has had spells at Manchester City and Everton but it is difficult to see how. Brazil need a old fashioned predator in the box, like Careca, Muller, Ronaldo, Bebeto or Romario were in the past, but it is hard to see one in the current team.

- By Michael Burgess in Brazil

- NZ Herald

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