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Liverpool at the World Cup: Onto the Knockout Rounds

With group play done, quite a few are moving on.

Thursday and Friday saw the final four groups play out their last round of matches, and aside from Slovakia's defeat of Italy, there were few surprises. The Slovaks progressed with a 3-2 defeat of the 2006 champions and will join Paraguay as Group F representatives. And as originally thought, Spain found their way to top Group H despite some nervy moments early, with Chile more than happy to surrender anything resembling competition in the second half, fully aware that Switzerland needed two goals and had none. Aah, the top level of competition, where two teams pass the ball back-and-forth between each other for twenty minutes.

So with the end of the group stages, and the brilliant opener to the first knockout round (a 2-1 win for Uruguay on the back on Luis Suarez's two goals---make no mistake, the winner is in the running for goal of the tournament), it's time to see how Liverpool's representatives will move forward. Except Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Daniel Agger, both of whom are headed home early.

England v. Germany, 06.27.10

Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson will be in the starting eleven to face Germany, and there's a good chance that Jamie Carragher will also feature after serving his suspension in the final group match v. Slovenia. This is definitely one of the match-ups of the round given the history between the sides (and countries), and Liverpool's three will no doubt have a large part to play.

Argentina v. Mexico, 06.27.10

Another one of the fascinating quarterfinal match-ups, and on the same day as England v. Germany no less. Maxi Rodriguez has started the last two matches for Diego Maradona, and I'd be surprised if he was omitted after the display they've put on against South Korea and Greece. Plus he did this the last time they met in a World Cup, so he's in. With advancement already secured against Greece, Maradona rested Javier Mascherano, but there's not question that the captain will be back.

Netherlands v. Slovakia, 06.28.10

The only match in the first knockout round to feature Liverpool internationals in both sides, Skrtel's surprise Slovakian squad (alliteration!) will face Dirk Kuyt and Holland. After an up-and-down first two matches, Skrtel was immense against Italy and will have an uphill battle to keep the talented Dutch strike force under wraps. He'll also have to deal with Dirk Kuyt (that one's for you, RvP!). As has been the case, I'm not holding my breath to see Ryan Babel, but this one's plenty intriguing anyhow.

Spain v. Portugal, 06.29.10

Besides a 7-0 win over North Korea---which, incidentally, was reported to Dear Leader as 16-0 to the good---Portugal haven't really found their stride. Conversely, after a surprise defeat to Switzerland in the group opener, Spain are slowly but surely working their way back to top form. And we can (hopefully) place Fernando Torres firmly in the category of those working their way back to form, as he's looked off the pace and unusually wasteful. Regardless, the battle of the Iberian Peninsula approaches. Just don't expect to see Pepe Reina.

And as the World Cup slowly works towards its climax, there continues to be nothing constituting actual news. Summed up nicely here, I think.

USA v. Ghana in an hour, and plenty more to come tomorrow.

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