Match 1 (Winner Group E vs Runner-up Group F)
Japan vs New Zealand
Japan controversially stormed through their qualifying rounds (to howls of derision from fans) thanks to their excellent self-promotion. Getting Tom Cruise to star in a movie about their Samurai was an inspired stroke, but how will they fare against the plucky New Zealanders who emerged out of a tough group thanks to their sheer determination - and the fact that this small island nation continues to punch way above it's weight.
The Japanese came face to face with the New Zealanders during the Second World War - and at first, with large proportions of the New Zealand force defending the British 'motherland' New Zealand looked vulnerable. Despite their small population the New Zealand military managed to raise in excess of 150000 men and women, plus a Home Guard that topped 100000 souls.
Initially the technologically superior Japanese made great inroads - but little by little the New Zealanders came to grips with their enemy - with their Navy and Airforce both serving with great distinction. Their air force in particular proved to be a thorn in the side of the Japanese. From initially being forced to defend their homeland in obsolete aircraft (even deploying Tiger Moths!) the New Zealanders managed to build themselves an effective air force, cobbling together a mix of their obsolete models, lend-lease aircraft, Kittyhawks and Corsairs. Several NZAF fighters becamne Aces, including Geoff Fiskin, who became the Commonwealths leading ace in the Pacific.
Simultaneously the Navy was performing admirably against the Japanese fleet - although one does suspect that the American fleet helped to soften up the Japanese as the war proceeded, which would have helped the New Zealanders a great deal. Again on the high seas it was a case of pluck over military strength, notably when the Kiwi and Moa took on a much larger Japanese submarine. Unable to sink the sub with their lightly armed ships, the New Zealanders just rammed the Japanese sub. Not once, not twice, but three times! Even this was only enough to damage the sub, stopping it from diving. The New Zealanders then hounded the Japanese sub onto a reef where she eventually broke up.
NVG 109 Imperial Japanese Navy Aircraft Carriers (back in stock in July!)
NVG 135 Imperial Japanese Navy Submarines
NVG 137 Japanese Tanks
NVG 146 Imperial Japanese Navy Battleships
ACE 38 Tomahawk and Kittyhawk Aces of the RAF and Commonwealth
FOR 81 Maori Fortifications
NVG 159 Staghound Armored Car
So, who should take the ultimate victory? The Japanese certainly have been waging war in an organized manner for much longer than New Zealand. And they still have the romantic shine of Ninjas and Samurai in their corner. Their navy at the beginning of the Second World War was something of a technological marvel - particularly their submarines. Their aircraft were some of the most advanced in the world. And their tanks were....well they were pretty awful to be fair - but that didn't slow them down much in the early days of the war. And yet a tiny country was able to inflict a fair amount of damage on them. Sure New Zealand played second fiddle to the Brits (or possibly fourth fiddle behind the Brits, Aussies and Americans), but they still played their part. Moreover, with soldiers like double VC Charles Upham in their ranks (seriously, read his wikipedia entry - he sounds a bit like Superman) you simply cannot bet against the New Zealanders.
So, the Kiwis hop into the next round.
Match 2 (Winner Group G vs Runner up Group H)
North Korea vs Honduras
Both North Korea and Honduras may be international pariahs at the minute, but this is undoubtedly the most one-sided draw in the competition so far. Honduras, in the middle of of coup and international isolation is a nation in turmoil. Who, if I am brutally honest, only managed to get this far because they have actually gone to war over a football match. But a small dust-up in the Football War doesn't really match up to the might of the North Koreans. Rogue state they may be, isolated they are. But they have also been preparing themselves for a war with anyone and everyone for the last five decades. They have even started to make the Chinese and the Russians nervous.
Lets keep this brief. Bye bye Honduras - North Korea march into the quarter finals virtually unopposed - this is getting serious, could they go the whole way?