JOHANNESBURG: Brazil and Paraguay hope to extend Latin America`s great start to the World Cup on Sunday while holders Italy would love to restore some European pride.
There was sadness across Africa, though, after Cameroon`s Indomitable Lions lost again -- 2-1 to Denmark on Saturday night -- making them the first team out of the continent`s first World Cup even though they have a game left.
The traditional soccer powers of Europe have had a torrid time too, with shock defeats for Spain, France and Germany, and uninspiring draws for England, Portugal and 2006 champions Italy.
Compounding the disarray, France sent home striker Nicolas Anelka for insulting his coach, and English forward Wayne Rooney had to apologise for criticising booing fans.
Only Netherlands among Europe`s big soccer nations are bucking the trend, despite not playing well.
They beat Japan 1-0 in Group E on Saturday to make it six points out of six and guarantee a second round berth.
Brazil`s coach Dunga takes on his former boss and now Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson in Group G at Soccer City in Johannesburg on Sunday night.
Under Dunga, Brazil have swapped their famous "samba football" for a more disciplined approach and lost a few friends along the way. But Eriksson has nothing but praise for the man he managed as a 25-year-old at Fiorentina in 1988-89.
"He`s one of the best footballers I ever had," the Swede said. "I`m not surprised they are extremely well-organised."
Adding spice to arguably Sunday`s most attractive fixture, Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba renews rivalries with Brazilian defender Lucio after tense exchanges when Chelsea twice faced Inter Milan in last season`s Champions League.
Ivory Coast are one of Africa`s most highly-rated teams but have history against them: Brazil have not conceded a goal in their five past World Cup matches against African opposition.
After terrific results for most of Latin America`s teams, Paraguay hope to keep the roll going against Slovakia on Sunday in their quest for a second round place
The South Americans have not passed the second stage in seven attempts but are buoyed with self-belief after wins over big guns Brazil and Argentina in the qualifiers and a creditable 1-1 draw with world champions Italy in their opening game.
Slovakia`s moody coach has kept his players holed up after they were deprived of victory against New Zealand with a goal at the death in their first Group F game. "A goal in the very last second is a small sporting tragedy. But we have dealt with it," he said in an irritable exchange with journalists.
ITALY V NEW ZEALAND
Sunday`s other game pits World Cup holders Italy against 78th-ranked New Zealand in what might have seemed a mismatch when the draw came out. But Italy are short on confidence while New Zealand`s soared with that late goal against Slovakia.
Both teams will also remember a friendly last year when Italy only just squeezed past New Zealand 4-3. "We`ve got nothing to lose," said All Whites` defender Tommy Smith.
Argentina have for many people looked the best team so far, confounding a widely-held opinion in football circles that the maverick Maradona would be the main impediment to progress.
So exuberant is Maradona these days that the hands-on coach leads some practice sessions himself. When he organised a hit-the-crossbar competition, it only lasted a few seconds because he hit the target at the first attempt.
Ghana are the only one of the six African teams to have won a match at the first World Cup on the continent.
The Black Stars` 1-1 draw against Australia on Saturday put them top of Group D. Harry Kewell was sent off for Australia in a harsh-looking handball on the line.
"Unless I detach my arm and put it somewhere else there is no way I can move my arm," said a frustrated Kewell, who had only just recovered from a long-term groin injury.
BDST: 1120hrs, June 20, 2010