Group A: Poland and Costa Rica
Apart from the host nation, Group A should have been quite an open affair with the likes of Ecuador, Costa Rica and Poland battling for second place.
However, Costa Rica lost all three of their matches conceding 9 goals in the process – the second worst defence in the group stage, and although they put on a good show in the opening match of the tournament against Germany, it all fell away from there and Los Ticos went home to some disappointed fans.
Given Poland’s status and the fact they qualified for the tournament as one of the best runners-up in Europe, their performance is perhaps more disappointing than Costa Rica’s, and although their defence looked solid and they were unlucky to go down to Germany in the last minute of the match, they didn’t look like scoring many down the other end of the field.
Group B: Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago
Group B looked a forgone conclusion with England and Sweden the most likely to progress over plucky Paraguay and Cup debutants Trinidad & Tobago.
Anibal Ruiz’s men did fight hard and only lost to England by an own-goal, while against Sweden it took a stoppage time goal from Freddie Ljungberg to see off the South Americans.
Trinidad & Tobago going home
They were the only two goals Paraguay conceded in their three matches and although they found it hard to score, with a bit of luck going their way they may well have seen themselves in the second round.
The much publicised smallest nation to ever make it to a World up Finals, Trinidad & Tobago did their best David impression against some of the Goliaths of world football.
Coach Leo Beenhakker’s overly defensive tactics may have been their undoing in the end, as while they were stoic for 83 minutes against England and held Sweden out all match, the Soca Warriors recorded just 9 shots on target for the tournament which is not enough to be competitive at this level.
Group C: Ivory Coast and Serbia & Montenegro
Before the tournament, Group C was touted as the “Group of Death” with big guns Argentina and the Netherlands thrown in with up and coming Africans Ivory Coast and defensive experts Serbia & Montenegro.
The Balkan team had only conceded 1 goal in there 10 qualifying matches to finish top of their group, which also contained Spain, but let in a whopping 10 goals in their 3 group matches to finish with the worst defence in the group stage.
Serbia and Montenegro sent
Ilija Petkovic’s team did have more than their fair share of injury problems, but also found it hard to score with their two goals for the tournament both coming in their last match against Ivory Coast – a match they led 2-0 only to lose 3-2.
The Elephants were one of the better performing teams to be eliminated after the first round, and although there are no easy matches at the World Cup Finals, perhaps if they had not been grouped with the likes of the rampant Argentina and improving Netherlands, they may have progressed further.
Group D: Angola and Iran
Similarly to Group B, Group D looked an easy one to pick on paper, and apart from Mexico having a few hiccups along the way Iran and Angola were always going to find it hard to get past the first hurdle.
As it finished, both Iran and Angola left the tournament without winning a match, drawing 1-1 with each other in their final game.
Iran out. Again.
Making their Cup Finals debut, Angola scored just one goal for the tournament, a historic one at that, and although Flavio’s name will go down in history as the first goal World Cup Finals scorer for his country, history will also show a disappointing first up effort for the Black Antelopes.
Iran matched it with Mexico for 76 minutes in their first game, but it was all downhill from there as they lost 3-1 to the North Americans and were then beaten 2-0 by Portugal, before not even being able to defeat the Angolans in their consolation match.