So, in the next 90ish minutes, Group A will finish its business and two teams will confirm their places in the World Cup’s last 16. Two other teams will dab their eyes and rejoice in their heroism of the their attempt. Or, in the case of the French, flounce off into the sunset, giving everyone the finger.
In Rustenburg, where I’ll be focusing my attention, Mexico and Uruguay meet as favorites for the top spots, each needing only a point to qualify. There have been some dark murmurings about a deal between the two nations, but that seems improbable. In 1982 West Germany and Austria met in Group B with a 1-0 German victory the result that would put both through at the expense of Algeria. The Germans scored after 10 minutes and there followed an 80-minute exhibition of sideways passing punctuated by the occasional half-hearted bound towards goal; the crowd barracked the players at the final whistle, shouting “Cowards!” and waving Algerian flags.
Besides avoiding that kind of reaction, both Mexico and Uruguay would no doubt prefer to avoid Argentina, which will top Group B unless Greece does something radical and takes points from it this evening. And in any case, Mexico and Uruguay both attack better than they defend, and the teamsheets tell you as much:
Mexico: Oscar Perez, Ricardo Osorio, Francisco Rodriguez, Hector Moreno, Carlos Salcido, Gerardo Torrado, Rafael Marquez, Andres Guardado, Giovani dos Santos, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Guillermo Franco.
Uruguay: Fernando Muslera, Maxi Pereira, Diego Lugano, Mauricio Victorino, Jorge Fucile, Egidio Arevalo, Diego Perez, Alvaro Pereira, Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan, Edinson Cavani.
“France manage to find a way to lose to a dire South African team, and finish the World Cup goalless,” predicts Action81, and really rather enjoying it, I suspect. “France will win today - it's got to happen,” disagrees PhilSoc8. Tammy’s gone as far as sending me the scores: “Mexico 2-3 Uruguay, France 1-2 South Africa.” I’m going to keep my mouth shut, since I was one David Villa goal from skipping naked around Buenos Aires, hand in hand with Diego Maradona, last night.
Less detailed anthems analysis than usual, because we all know what they sound like by now: singing, breast-cupping, flag-waving... being distracted from Uruguay's number by close-ups of Raymond Domenech on the other screen. He looks how I do when I trip up in the street and try to look as if I'm not bothered.