City quintet enter World Cup knockout stages
- 27 June 2014 12:48
- Posted by @markbooth_mcfc
After 14 days and a group stage record of 136 goals from 48 games, the identities of the 16 teams through to the second round of the 20th FIFA World Cup are now known.
There have been upsets, last minute winners, goal-fests, new heroes forged and superstars performing at the very top of their games in a tournament that has so far surpassed even the wildest of expectations.
Ten City players started in Brazil a fortnight ago and now only five stand after a brutal opening round which saw Bosnia-Herzegovina, England, Ivory Coast and Spain all exit at the first stage.
Edin Dzeko can feel particularly unfortunate to be going home after just three games of his nation’s first World Cup.
The City striker featured in all but six of 270 minutes of the Dragons’ campaign and had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside in their 1-0 defeat to Nigeria.
The Super Eagles beat Bosnia to Group F qualification but had the goal had counted; Edin’s side would surely be looking forward to a mouthwatering clash against Germany in the Round of 16.
Joe Hart and James Milner’s England finished bottom of Group D after defeats to Uruguay and Italy, while David Silva’s Spain were the highest profile casualties of the first stage, crashing out after just two games.
There was heartache for Yaya Toure’s Cote d’Ivore, too, as they were undone in the very last seconds of their final Group C encounter against Greece.
But it wasn’t all bad news for the City contingent stationed out in Brazil.
Sergio Aguero, Martin Demichelis, Fernandinho, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta can all look forward to the forthcoming knockout games, featuring for three of the most fancied teams still alive and in contention.
Although Argentina are yet to demonstrate the devastating form they showed in CONMEBOL qualifying, they finished Group F as one of four teams in the competitions to rack up nine points from nine.
Aguero is expected to miss the Albiceleste’s last 16 clash with Switzerland after suffering a muscular injury in the 38th minute of their 3-2 win over Nigeria last time out but the Argentine FA has denied reports that Kun will miss the rest of the tournament.
Zabaleta is another player who has featured in every second of his first World Cup so far, featuring, for the most part, as the right wing-back in Alejandro Sabella’s 3-5-2 formation.
After shipping two goals to Nigeria, there have been some calls in the Argentine media for Demichelis to get his first minutes of the competition in the upcoming match against the Swiss alongside Ezequiel Garay in the heart of the defence.
Belgium skipper Kompany was an unused substitute for the 1-0 victory over South Korea in Sao Paulo.
Coach Marc Wilmots confirmed that Vincent was left out to avoid any complications to a mild groin strain and keep him fresh for their second round meeting with the United States.
Vincent was at heart of a Belgium defence which clinched qualification with a game to spare, thanks to narrow wins over Algeria and Russia.
Fernandinho’s fairytale year showed no signs of coming to an end as he climbed off the bench to make his World Cup finals debut and inspired the hosts to a 4-1 win over Cameroon in their final Group A encounter.
The 28-year old could hardly have staked more of a claim for a first start of the tournament against Chile on Saturday as he played a part in Fred’s decisive third goal immediately after coming on and then added the fourth with a brilliant effort.
The Londrina-born man received the ball via Fred and Oscar, and then toe-poked the ball beyond the reach of Itadje to seal a handsome win which clinched Group A’s top spot.
Second round fixtures
Saturday (all times BST)
Brazil v Chile 17:00, Belo Horizonte
Colombia v Uruguay 21:00, Rio de Janeiro
Netherlands v Mexico 17:00, Fortaleza
Costa Rica v Greece 21:00, Recife
France v Nigeria 17:00, Brasilia
Germany v Algeria 21:00, Porto Alegre
Argentina v Switzerland 17:00, Sao Paulo
Belgium v USA 21:00, Salvador