(AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
The 1st ever World Cup on African soil was itself already a historic event. It seems as though the play of the teams on the pitch and the final 16 teams remaining in the tournament have made more history than anyone could have imagined.
The biggest story of the end of the group stage is that defending champions Italy will be going back to Lo Stivale, after their stunning elimination at the hands of Slovakia. The Italians were dull in attack and played uninspired defense. Slovakia's 3-2 win in Johannesburg at Ellis Park gave Slovakia its 1st ever Round of 16 birth in its first ever World Cup as an independent, sovereign nation.
Italy's elimination was due to poor play on the field but France's elimination was due to poor play and disgraceful team attitude. France scored only 1 goal and earned only one point. This is justice and pure bliss for Ireland fans. France and Italy, the two finalists from 2006 are out in the group stage. Another World Cup historical mark as the 2010 WC tournament is the 1st time that the previous tournament finalists didn't advance out of the group stage.
The first World Cup was played in 1930 and there are historical firsts that have happened in this tournament that have not occurred since the 1930 World Cup. The 2010 World Cup is first WC since 1930, where more teams from the Americas have advanced to the Round of 16 than teams from Europe. Americas = 7 v. Europe = 6. The US winning Group C in 2010 is the first time since 1930 that The Stars & Stripes have won a group. Thanks of course to Landon Donovan's game winner at the death against Algeria.
(AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Bafana Bafana also made unfortunate history by becoming the only host nation not to advance to the knockout stage but they did score goals, they did win a match, and earned 4 points missing out on the Round of 16 on goal difference. South Africa's group stage exit was not what the nation, FIFA, or the world wanted but Bafana Bafana did much better than football experts thought and honored their nation with their brave play.
Watch out for Japan in 2010. The Samurai Blue won their 1st World Cup match outside of Nippon when they beat Cameroon 1-0 in Group E play. In the final group match, Japan defeated Denmark 3-1 in an elimination game to secure its first Round of 16 berth outside of Japanese soil. Japan forward Keisuke Honda has scored 2 of the teams' 4 goals and is looking like the breakout star of the tournament.
(AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)
The FIFA continental confederation breakdown of the Round of 16 teams are:
UEFA (Europe): 6 - Netherlands, Slovakia, Germany, England, Spain, Portugal
CONMEBOL (South America): 5 - Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay
CONCACAF (Central & North America, Caribbean): 2 - USA & Mexico
AFC (Asia): 2 - South Korea & Japan
CAF (Africa): 1 - Ghana
The Round of 16 begins on Saturday, June 26 [Happy Birthday, Mom] when Uruguay, the winners of Group A, face Korea Republic, the runner-up of Group B. The match will take place at Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth in Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Take a look at the bracket for the knockout stage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.