Saturday, 26 June 2010


This is it. No second chances anymore. The knock-out stages of the World Cup are here and it's do-or-die time. Over the next eleven days fourteen more nations will fall by the wayside, and two will be left. The road to Johannesburg is not easy. It's time to separate the living from the dead.

If Brazil do not make the Final from the top half of the draw, then we will have a new Finalist outside the big five (Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy and France) for the first time since 1978. With two of those big five already out - the Finalists of four years ago - it looks quite likely that there will be at least one new face present at Soccer City on July 11.

The bottom half of the draw looks like an absolute minefield, with at probably six of the eight times harbouring realistic ambitions of reaching the showpiece Final in 15 days time. The favoured Final of Brazil v Spain is still on, but I remain convinced that will not be it.

Once again, pundits all over the world have been stumped in their predictions of the Group stages, and it seems to me we never learn. Or at least we never remember. Four years is enough time for people to forget the unpredictable nature of how the groups and the knock-out phases unfold. For me, there is no certain outcome of any of the second round matches. Anybody can beat anybody from here on in.

That's why we can all dare to dream.

Every confederation is represented in the second round. Six Europeans. All five South Americans. Two Asians. Two from CONCAF. And one African.

The opportunity is right here, right now. Destiny beckons. This is the moment to seize. This is the chance to reach immortality.

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