After the first group of games, the standings are as follows:
As one of The Guardian presenters said, Nigeria did not look good, despite winning 6-1. Everyone’s second team for this tournament Tahiti and it was great to see them score, but they are bad. As much as I like seeing a new team in the tournament, New Zealand would make things more interesting. The team that goes through may be the team that beats Tahiti the worst, which is a sad state of affairs. Goal differential always comes down to running up the score to a certain extent, but when one team is clearly inferior, it is just another level of grotesque.
Despite Nigeria not looking great, Uruguay didn’t look great either. I suspect Uruguay and Spain will go through from their group, but don’t be surprised if Nigeria nicks it. If Uruguay beats Tahiti 4-0, Nigeria could still very easily have a better goal differential. Even if Uruguay beats Tahiti 5-0, Nigeria could still very easily go through on goals scored. Don’t expect Nigeria to be as wasteful in other games (though don’t expect them to have as many chances either!).
Games resume tomorrow with Brazil v Mexico and Italy v Japan. Brazil and Italy still appear to be favorites to go through from this group. Japan was disappointing in their game with Brazil, despite being one of the earliest teams to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. If Mexico can get a close result with Brazil and then perhaps a draw with Italy, then Mexico could find their way through to the semi-finals. This is a Mexico team that has not looked good at all in WCQ, but everyone knows they have more talent than they are currently showing.
All said, I see no reason yet to back off my prediction of Spain winning this thing (Spain just won the UEFA U-21 tournament too!). Brazil did look good against Japan though, posting a 3-0 win. On home turf, they are still a decent shout, but I’m going to stick with my original prediction until I have good reason not to.