Monday 14th June
Group E :
Netherlands V Denmark
Verdict : Netherlands Win (4/7)
That the Netherlands are such strong favourites for this game is not really a surprise given their qualification form and Denmark’s rather indifferent form of late, but the Danes will ensure that this is no easy victory for the Dutch, despite that I think the Oranjemen will just edge a close encounter.
Group E :
Japan V Cameroon
Verdict : Cameroon Win (6/5)
A somewhat intriguing game. Both sides have not had the best preparation for the tournament with Japan’s manager under fire and Samuel Eto’o at odds with team-mates. However it will be Samuel’s day in my view with Cameroon just having too much firepower for Japan to cope with.
Group F : Italy V Paraguay Verdict : Draw (9/4)
Perhaps something of a surprise result for the holders. Italy seldom start major championships well and given their poor recent form and Paraguay’s improved showing under Gerardo Martino, I think the South American side will come away from this game with a creditable draw.
Tuesday 15th June
Group F : New Zealand V Slovakia Verdict : Slovakia (40/85)
It’s hard to back New Zealand against any of their group opponents but if the All Whites are to have a chance of winning a game at the finals, this will be the one they have earmarked, Slovakia however should be too strong technically and come away from the clash with all three points.
Group G : Ivory Coast V Portugal Verdict : Portugal (11/10)
This is the game in the first set of matches that I feel could go any way. Ivory Coast, on their day, are a match for anyone, as are Portugal. Both sides have had periods of indifferent form and rely on their star man, Drogba for the Ivory Coast, Ronaldo (pictured) for Portugal. Given that Drogba is nursing a fractured arm and Ronaldo is healthy, I think that just tips the balance Portugal’s way.
Group G : Brazil V North Korea Verdict : Brazil (1/10)
I’m trying hard to make a convincing case for North Korea to at least push Brazil hard in this game but I am afraid I can’t. They will put up dogged resistance I am sure, but I can see nothing else but a relatively easy victory for the Selecao in this, the most one sided of opening round games.
Wednesday 16th June
Group H : Honduras V Chile Verdict : Chile (8/15)
Chile’s odds are rather short for the win but despite that I fancy the South American’s to take the three points. Under Marcelo Bielsa they have become one of the better South American sides after Argentina and Brazil. Honduras, led by Tottenham powerhouse Wilson Palacios, will be no pushovers in this group and will give a far better account of themselves against the teams in it, than their somewhat generous odds suggest.
Group H : Spain V Switzerland Verdict : Spain (1/4)
The favourites for the World Cup face a tricky opener against the Swiss but should come through the game relatively unscathed. The Swiss will be hoping to nullify the Spanish threat but lack the quality of Spain and this should be a confident and convincing victory for the current World Cup favourites.