Group E: Japan 3 Denmark 1 | Holland 2 Cameroon 1

Group F: Slovakia 3 Italy 2 | Paraguay 0 New Zealand 0

How did BOTH finalists from the 2006 World Cup end up bottom of their respective groups? For France, it was internal strife that did them in and for the Italians, the failure to replace aging players proved too much in the final analysis. Famously noted to be slow starters in the past, the Italians could not deliver when crunch time came and the unfancied Slovakians pierced the vaunted Italian rearguard three times to record a memorable victory. Italy, like France, will not be missed and that says a lot for the new World Cup order.

Over in Group E, Japan impressed against the Danes, scoring two superb free kick goals (from Honda and Endo) and proved that Asian teams are on the rise indeed. Although held in Africa, it is the African teams who have disappointed in the World Cup as only Ghana has made it through to the next round. Cameroon could not even get a consolation point from the Dutch and their toothlessness in front out of goal came back to bite them again.

After a tentative start, World Cup 2010 is now promising to be one of the most exciting of recent memory. Hopefully, the knockout phase brings more thrills and spills for football fans.

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