Mad scramble for last 16

With only a round to go in the preliminary stage, it’s time for two teams from each group to pack their bags. The matches on the home run will be intense, as only three teams — Argentina, Brazil and the Netherlands — have qualified, mathematically, to the round of 16. In some groups, all the four teams still have a chance of advancing to the pre-quarters.

The Asian Age tries to identify the teams that hold all the aces in the race to qualify for the round of 16.

Group A: Uruguay and Mexico are in the in-form teams. A draw in their meeting on Tuesday will be enough to send both through. The desire to avoid Argentina in the next round may see them fight it out, though. South Africa and Mexico will square off at Bloemfontein, with an ear on the happenings at Rustenburg, the venue of the Mexico-Uruguay clash. It, however, remains to be seen if the French players agree to play the match!
Our pick: Mexico, Uruguay.

Group B: Argentina are there for all practical purposes. The big question is about the next slot, for which three teams are in contention. Despite losing their first two matches, Nigeria can still progress if they beat South Korea and Greece go down to Argentina in the other match.
Our pick: Argentina, Nigeria.

Group C: The dream is alive for every member of the group. None is under more pressure than England manager Fabio Capello. He will shudder to think about the torrent of criticism that will be heaped on him should the Three Lions fail to go through. Few would have envisaged a win-or-bust situation for England in the last match of the group stage. After some anxious moments, Gerrard and Co. will overcome Slovenia.
Our pick: England, USA.

Group D: All the teams in the mini Group of Death have everything to play for on the final day. A wounded Germany will be too hot for Ghana and an inspired Serbia should dispatch the gritty Australians.
Our pick: Germany, Serbia.

Group E: It will be a straight shootout between Japan and Denmark to join the Oranje in last 16. Even though Japan are ahead on goal difference, the Danish players will be fancied to make their experience count.
Our pick: The Danes will scrape through.

Group F: Another pool in which nothing has been decided, though leaders Paraguay have an edge after their win over Slovakia. The Azzurri have started yet another tournament sedately, but they know how to survive.
Our pick: Paraguay and Italy.

Group G: Portugal have complicated matters for Ivory Coast by handing out a thrashing to North Korea on Monday. The Elephants now have a mountain to climb. The mountain will be too high for Drogba and his teammates.
Our pick: Portugal should complete the formalities on Friday.

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