Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Days 18-19 (final eight, take a break!)

The final eight in the 2010 World Cup are now set and my picks were 60% correct.

Argentina,Brazil,Germany,Spain,Netherlands England,Nigeria,Cameroon

My hopes for an African team in the quarterfinals came about, but it wasn't one of the two that I picked. It was Ghana (losing to England, who should have won Group C). I did not pick four South American teams (the two guays in addition to the big two) to make up half of the final eight.

Unfortunately, I also picked England to enter the semifinals, but the other three teams I chose (Argentina, Brazil, and Spain) are still poised to make it. And 75% is pretty good picking!

Here are the Quarterfinal matchups..

Fri 7/2::
Netherlands vs. Brazil
Uruguay vs. Ghana

Sat 7/3::
Argentina vs. Germany
Paraguay vs. Spain

Each day has one A game and one B game, with the winner of the A game probably going through to the finals. And the chances of an all (South) American final are looking possible with a team from the continent in each game.

Strange that the games are Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday, but the important part is that the next two days (Wednesday and Thursday) will be Cup free, which is a big adjustment after 19 straight days of two or more games! The whole World Cup will be wrapped up a week from Sunday, and I'll need to find another blog theme for July to find something else to write about here (not that anyone actually reads this stuff!).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Days 16-17 (down go USA, England, and Mexico!)

The USA was eliminated from the World Cup yesterday in a 2-1 loss to Ghana in extra time. It was a disappointing result, but not unexpected given our rank in world soccer. The USA are ranked 14th, equating to losing in the round of 16, which is what we did. It was a nice run, and everything nice needs to come to an end sooner or later.

After we were eliminated from the tournament, my main hope was that there wouldn't be any bragging rights by our neighbor to the South (Mexico) or our colonial forefathers in England. Luckily, both England and Mexico were eliminated today to put all three teams out in the round of 16. So nobody's better than anyone else!

Half of the round of 8 are now complete, with Uruguay, Ghana, Germany, and Argentina punching their tickets to the World Cup quarterfinals. The Argentina-Germany match next Saturday should be a good one, and the chances of a non-European team in the finals grow greater by the day. Should be a slow ride to the finals..

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 15 (Let the knockouts begin!)

The elimination stage of the 2010 World Cup is now set, and the USA are in an unbelievably fortunate group where we should be the favorites to make the semis. Here's the round of 16..

Sat 6/26:
Uruguay vs. South Korea
USA vs. Ghana

Sun 6/27:
Germany vs. England
Argentina vs. Mexico

Mon 6/28
Netherlands vs. Slovakia
Brazil vs. Chile

Tue 6/29
Paraguay vs. Japan
Spain vs. Portugal

One of the U.S., South Korea, Uruguay, and Ghana will reach the semifinals, and the USA are the highest ranked team in the group. If we make it through, we'll be huge underdogs against whoever. My final four are the USA, Germany, Brazil, and Argentina, with Brazil and Argentina meeeting in the finals.

Oh yeah, I picked all four teams in Groups G and H (Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Chile) giving me a .625 selection average (11/16). My final four are the same with the USA replacing England (who I thought would win the group), and I stand by my selections for the finals.

Hoping to see more of this tomorrow!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 14 (Arrivederci, Azzurri!)

Down goes Italy!

My main hopes for Group F were for Italy to not make it to the knockout stage and New Zealand to not be completely shut out, and both of these hopes happened in reality today, after Italy lost 3-2 to Slovakia and New Zealand tied 0-0 with Paraguay. Paraguay ended up topping the group with five points and Slovakia were second with four, followed by New Zealand with three (3 ties = undefeated baby!) and the Italians drawing up the rear with two. I picked Paraguay and Italy, so I ended up 50% right, but very happy to have picked Italy incorrectly. Both finalists from the last World Cup are going home, which hopefully means a better final this time.

In Group E, the Netherlands and Japan both won (over Cameroon and Denmark) to make it to the elimination stage going away. I picked the Netherlands and ... Cameroon, who ended up losing every match, but it's another 1/2 right pick. Now the Dutch play Slovakia and Japan plays Paraguay in two E/F matchups that nobody picked correctly.

Tomorrow (Day 15) brings the final group games for Groups G and H. Brazil and Portugal play a meaningless game with both teams pretty much clinched (the Ivory Coast has to beat North Korea by nine or more goals to make it interesting) in G, while Group H breaks down to a three way battle between Switzerland, Spain, and Chile with the upper hand while Honduras plays its last match before going home.

We could end up with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, and the USA all topping their groups. Let's hear it for the dancingest hemisphere of them all -- the Western Hemisphere!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 13 (foam finger time!)

At the end of regular time in today's USA-Algeria match, it looked like the American World Cup run would be coming to an end. They were tied 0-0 after England had already beaten Slovenia. But then this happened (in the 91st minute).

Notice how long it took for the score to change on the TV. There'd already been one disallowed goal for the USA (a BS offside call against Clint Dempsey), so I was waiting for this one to be called off. After this goal, the Americans were on top of Group C, and heading to the second round against the runner up in Group D.

After this match, Germany defeated Ghana to win Group D, which means that they'll play England on Saturday and the USA will play Ghana. Our boys should have their hands full against Ghana (who beat US 2-1 in the 2006 World Cup), but they're not as tough as Germany, who we cannot beat under any circumstances. They should have no problem with England.

In my Cup picks, I picked England and USA in Group C and Germany and Serbia in Group D, which equates to three of four teams correct. Tomorrow brings the final games in Groups E and F, two groups I don't have a strong feeling for, other than hoping for Italy to go home. My Cameroon pick didn't really pan out, so it's looking like there will be no African teams in the Final 16 (ETA: besides Ghana, of course!)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 12

The "playoff run" started today in World Cup 2010 with the final games in Groups A and B. Both group games are played at the simultaneously to teams won't have an unfair advantage, and at the start of play, all four teams were still alive in both groups.

My picks for Group A were France and Mexico, which ended up half right. I didn't think France had a very strong team, but still thought they'd be able to advance, but the French melted down in spectacular fashion, scoring just one goal and ending up at the bottom of the group.

South Africa beat France today, but also failed to make it, the first time ever that a host nation hasn't made it to the knockout stage. The two representatives from Group A are Uruguay and Mexico. Hooray for the Americas (North and South)!

In group B, I picked Argentina and Nigeria, which was also half correct. Argentina won all three games and easily won the group. I stand by my pick for the Argies to make the finals and win, then getting Oasis to reform to play their victory celebration in Buenos Aires. Messi and Tevez are both big fans, and Maradona might be too. The Gallagher brothers are big in South America!

The other representative from Group B is South Korea, who meet up with Uruguay in the round of 16. The other A-B matchup between Argentina and Mexico is a rematch of 2006 where Argentina won 2-1 in extra time on a great goal by Maxi Rodriguez.

Gooal!! There are no ties in the elimination round -- they play until there's a winner, even if they need to go to penalty kicks.

Tomorrow is the final games in Groups C and D, which is the England-USA group and the Germany group. The Americans advance with a win or tie against Algeria. Go America!! (United States of)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Days 9 - 10

I always think of this video whenever I watch Italy play

Danielle De Rossi's acting job against New Zealand today to sell a penalty kick was one of the most blatant dives I've ever seen, and the resulting PK goal prevented the Kiwis from the upset of the century. The 1-1 draw is still a huge result for the Kiwis and a huge embarrassment for the Azzurri. If it wasn't for France and England, they'd be the biggest disappointment in the tournament.

On the other side of the draw, South American teams have been awesome, with no losses and all five CONMEBOL teams set up to advance to the knockout stage. Paraguay and Brazil both won today, which added to earlier wins by Chile and Argentina to make South America the strongest continent in the World Cup. African teams haven't been quite as successful, with only one win (by Ghana) and a possible shutout from the final 16.

But New Zealand has to be the surprise success of the tournament, with two ties in two games including one against Italy today. No matter what happens in the final game, the All Whites have shown that they belong on the international stage.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day Eight

Michael Bradley got his dad a nice tie for Father's Day, but it should have been a win because we wuz robbed a few minutes later on this play.

In the other games from day 8, Serbia surprised Germany 1-0 and England and Algeria played to a 0-0 draw that wasn't nearly as exciting as that score line indicates. This means that the USA advances with a win over Algeria next Friday or a tie and an Algeria win or tie. Which means four of the six possible outcomes for the two games.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Days 6-7

The first week of the 2010 World Cup is now complete, and every team has now played its first game. It looked like most teams were tentative in their first games, playing defensively and trying not to lose instead of moving the ball forward, which resulted in five draws in the 16 first round games (and very few goals).

Everything has picked up in days 6-7 when teams started playing their second games and knowing what they needed to do to advance. Today there were ten goals in the three games, which resulted in no tie games and two goals or more for the winning side in every game.

Right now this looks to be a World Cup for the Americas, with Argentina clinching the second round and Mexico and Uruguay looking pretty comfortable in group A. The only team from North or South America who has lost is Honduras, who lost to Chile.

Tomorrow the USA plays Slovenia to keep the American(*) fortunes flowing. Viva Western Hemisphere!! Mas que nada!

(*) "American" meaning everything from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego..

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day Five

One of my fall back positions for sporting events where I don't have a rooting interest is to cheer for the underdog. This usually works well in the World Cup where some plucky third world nation tries to hold their own against a mighty opponent, but there are exceptions.

Today's match between North Korea and Brazil was one of those exceptions. The DPRK is a totalitarian state led by a despot, so no matter how much I try to separate the sports from the politics, I can't bring myself to pull for their World Cup team.

Any success by the North Koreans in this tournament validates their fearless leader, so cheering for North Korea is essentially cheering against freedom. Even their "fans" (pictured above) are Chinese actors paid to support the team in the World Cup.

The forces of anti-freedom held the Brazilians in check through the first half today, with an uber-defensive style that featured a pyramid of six players in front of the goal, each guarding one square meter with his life, for fear of ending up in a work camp. The Brazilians eventually broke the pyramid and scored a goal, and then another one, but it was an impressive showing for a North Korean team that didn't belong on the same field as their opponents.

The other worst team in the world cup is New Zealand, who scored a goal at the end of stoppage time to salvage a draw against Slovakia. The entire game was unmemorable up to that point, but this one strike made it all worthwhile.

Winston Reid got a yellow card for taking off his shirt, but I'm sure he doesn't mind after getting New Zealand's first point ever in the World Cup. All Whites!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Days 3 & 4

ESPN's theme for this World Cup is "one game changes everything", but it should be "one goal changes everything", since each team's fortune can change on a single goal. If Cameroon scored a goal against Japan instead of allowing one, they'd be poised for the second round. Same with Serbia vs. Ghana. Each team's four year fortune is hinging on who kicks the ball in the net.

Here's the main reason I was cheering for Paraguay against Italy today..

Daniele De Rossi is a thug and a diver, so I can't cheer for any team that he's on. Paraguay held the Azzuri to a 1-1 draw today, just like the USA did in 2006, and would have won if their goalkeeper had held his position on the Italian corner kick, which the Evil De Rossi knocked in the net midway through the second half. After that, both teams slapped it back and forth, essentially playing for a draw, which is what they got.

This draw means that Slovenia and Slovakia will both be leading their World Cup groups if Slovakia can beat New Zealand. I'm a geography geek and had to look up where these countries were, mainly because they didn't exist when I studied geography in school. My most impressive team so far is the Germans, who could be inflated since they were playing Australia. Argentina and the Netherlands also looked impressive, but more like a bunch of stars instead of a single team playing together.

The World Cup is essentially an All Star Series, which makes a bad introduction to soccer for Americans and other folks who don't watch the game regularly. The players don't play together all the time, so the WC doesn't have the same rhythm that high level club soccer does. That's the main reason there isn't much scoring in the World Cup, especially in early games -- the players are just starting to play together.

A stadium full of vuvuzelas sounds like the intro to "Welcome To The Jungle". Any instrument that reminds me of Guns N' Roses is probably not a good thing.

Tomorrow's games include Portugal vs. Ivory Coast and Brazil vs. DPRK (aka "North Korea") as well as Slovakia vs. New Zealand. These are all interesting matchups, but probably not competitive ones.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day Two

The Match of the Century ended up as a draw, just like the War of 1812, but just like that war, the tie was mostly caused by English screw-ups. I ended up watching the match at a local establishment, since I decided that I needed fellow fans (and beer) to make it through 90 minutes of USA vs. England.

After Gerrard's breakaway goal in the fifth minute (1-0 Engerlald) , it looked like the USA hadn't bothered to show up, and would be a long day for our boys in red, white, and blue, Then after Rob Green fumbled Clint Dempsey's strike in the 40th minute (1-1 tie!), I figured it would be another long afternoon, since it was going to be one of those games.

England is a really boring team to watch when they're trying to protect a lead, but they're even more boring when they're trying to break one. The entire second half was like a Johnny Horton song, where we fired our long balls but the British kept a' comin', firing long balls of their own. Kick, kick, kick, kick, with no sustained posessions. There were chances for both teams in the second half, but they were both playing to tie, so a tie was the most logical ending for both teams.

This means absolutely nothing in the short term, since both the USA and England should advance to the knockouts from a weak group, but it the long term it means that neither team is very strong against top-flight competition. But after a second place in the Confederations Cup, and draws in the World Cup against Italy and England, it's time for the rest of the world to stop making jokes about "American Soccer".

In the earlier games, South Korea beat Greece 2-0 and Argentina beat Nigeria 1-0. I forgot that Korea is fun to watch, since they attack constantly and don't play defense. This will probably hurt them against Argentina, but it wasn't much problem against the Greeks. And Argentina has a loaded team (Messi, Higuain, Tevez, Milito, etal) who should never lose a game, but they don't really play together that well. They should have scored 4 or 5 goals against Nigeria, but didn't because the chemistry was off, and the Nigerian goalkeeper was stopping everything!

Three games tomorrow: Algeria vs. Slovenia, Ghana vs. Serbia, and Australia vs. Germany. I don't have much interest in these matchups (other than go Socceroos!), so I might take the blogging day off unless something interesting happens.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Kicking off day one

The World Cup kicked off today with two draws in Group A, South Africa vs. Mexico (1-1) and Uruguay vs. France (0-0).

Fans in South Africa were fired up for the first game, screaming and blowing vuvuzelas for all 90 minutes. The game started at 6am, but I watched it time-shifted a bit later at a more normal hour. They don't break for commercials in soccer, but skipping the pregame and halftime means watching a game in 90 minutes instead of two hours, and those half hours saved add up over time. It was nice to see ESPN using international broadcasters instead of American novices for this Cup, and even nicer that they mixed the commentary high enough above all the vuvuzela humming.

The USA and Mexico have an intense CONCACAF rivalry, so American fans are required to cheer against Mexico, which made it easier for me to pick a side in this match -- South Africa all the way! They held their own for most of the game, and even took a lead early in the 50th minute before conceding a Mexican equalizer from Rafa Marquez in the 70th minute.

Even though I cheer against Mexico, Rafa is a (now former) Barcelona player, and I was glad to see one of my guys get a goal. Made me wish I was watching live so I could switch to Univision to hear the 30 second "Gooooool!" call whenever Mexico scores.

The South Africans were the underdogs, so holding Mexico to a tie was a great result for them and a setback for the Mexicans. The second game between France and Uruguay was also a matchup between a favorite and a determined underdog. When we were studying South America in sixth grade, I was assigned Uruguay (or "you're a gay" as my classmates pronounced it) as my country. This is my only connection to Uruguay, but 34 years later, I still know that its population is three million, its chief exports are soccer (two World Cup wins) and grain, and its capital is Montevideo, which is namechecked in this song by the Monochrome Set.

Because of my sixth grade assignment, I was pulling for Uruguay against France. They held the French pretty well, but didn't move the ball at all, especially when they were down to ten men. It was a pretty dull game until the last ten minutes, and it ended in a scoreless draw. There might be football purists who like the tactics of a defensive struggle, but there is nothing more boring than a 0-0 soccer game. It's a shame that these always happen in the World Cup final when the world is watching.

Three games tomorrow: South Korea vs. Greece, Argentina vs. Nigeria, and the USA vs. England. The last one should be the most watched soccer game in US history, surpassing the 20 million who watched the 2006 Cup Final. Hopefully this will shut up idiots like Glenn Beck who say "Americans don't like soccer".

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Cup Picks

Now that I've gone through all the groups, here are my picks for the 2010 World Cup. The draws are based on who finishes first and second in each group, with A1 vs B2 and C1 vs D2, etc., so it's possible to be way off.

I tried to pick "paint" (favorites) as much as possible in the groups, then went with my gut, ending up with two African teams (Nigeria and Cameroon) in the final 8, and two South American teams in the finals, which probably won't actually happen. Luckily I'm not betting any real money on this.

Final 16
Group A: France, Mexico
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria
Group C: England, USA
Group D: Germany, Serbia
Group E: Netherlands, Cameroon
Group F: Italy, Paraguay
Group G: Brazil, Portugal
Group H: Spain, Chile

Final 8

Final 4
Argentina, England, Brazil, Spain

Argentina vs. Brazil


The Cup kicks off tomorrow, and SBNation has the 2010 World Cup Likability Index for clueless Americans still wondering who to cheer on.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Grupo H

Wrapping up my World Cup breakdown with Group H:


Another group with a clear cut favorite (Spain) and a bunch of teams vying for the second slot. Spain has a history of underachieving in the World Cup, but they're excessively talented and won the most recent European Cup, so they might be ready to put that history behind them. The Chileans also have a spotty Cup History, but were the second qualifiers from CONMEBOL after Brazil, so they should be the favorites for the second knockout slot (and an inevitable loss to Brazil). Honduras and Switzerland are the underdogs in this group, but not exactly easy sailing for the other two teams.

I'll do my predictions tomorrow, then let the games begin!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Grupo G

Continuing my Cup breakdown with Group G:

Ivory Coast
North Korea

This looks to be another group of death, with three strong teams (Brazil, Portugal, and Côte d'Ivoire) vying for two positions, but the North Koreans might be battling the NZ All Whites as the weakest team in the tournament.

The Brazilians are the five time champs who have been in every World Cup, and are probably the favorites in this one as the #1 SPI team in the world. They don't have Ronaldihno, but Kaka, Fabiano, and Dani Alvez make the core of a strong team that should contend for the title.

Portugal is another contender for the title with a front line of Cristiano Ronaldo (one of the top players in the world) and Nani (who replaced Ronaldo at Man United), but now that Nani is out, Portugal might be another one man team. The Ivory Coast are at least a two man team, with Chelsea's front line of Didier Drogba and Solomon Kalou, but now that Drogba is doubtful, Côte d'Ivoire are also doubtful to make it to the next round, even with their African advantage.

Apparently North Korea are the new Dukla Prague as far as being the ironic soccer gear of this World Cup. They're a very "secretive" country and part of the Axis of Evil, and they've only been to the World Cup one time in their history. Nobody knows what to expect from North Korea, but no one expects very much. Brazil and Portugal should breeze to the finals.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Grupo F

Continuing my Cup breakdown with Group F:

New Zealand

The Italians are the defending World Cup champs and it seems like they've drawn a fairly weak group this time so they should breeze into the next round. On the other hand, their core players (same ones from 2006) are all four years older, they've dropped down to #11 in World SPI and usually don't play well outside of Europe, so they probably won't repeat, but shouldn't have much trouble with this group.

Paraguay seems to be the odds on favorite for second place, which gives them the right to lose to the Netherlands in the first knockout stage. This is Slovakia's first appearance in the Cup Finals, so they're young and inexperienced but might also contend for second place and the right to lose to the Dutch.

I was in New Zealand last year when they qualified for the World Cup, only their second appearance ever and their first since 1982. Rugby union rules the NZ sporting world, and soccer is even a more minor sport there than it is in the US, but it was a big deal for the All Whites to even make the World Cup. I'll be cheering hard for them, but they really don't have a chance.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Grupo E

Today's Cup breakdown looks at Group E (as in Eclectic):


Just like Spain, it's hard to believe that the Dutch have never won a World Cup. They're ranked #5 in the World in SPI, but tend to underachieve on the international stage. This group looks to be ripe for the Netherlands to take, but it's not inconceivable to see them struggling to make the next round after losing to Denmark or Cameroon.

Cameroon seems like a good choice for the second spot, with a home continent advantage and another one of the top players in the World (Samuel Eto'o) at the top of his game after winning back to back UEFA Championships for Barca and Inter. I watched one of their warmup matches, against Serbia, and they seem to be a one man team, but it's one of the best men you could have on a team besides Messi or Ronaldo.

Denmark is the sole Scandinavian team in World Cup 2010, advancing to the tournament after beating Sweden last November. They're another country that doesn't have a very strong record in World or European Cups, but a lot of young talent that might surprise someone. The key for the Danes is their second match against Cameroon.

Japan looks to be overmatched in this group and probably won't win any games, but they do have a cool J-punk anime World Cup theme (without any words). Vamos Nippon!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Grupo D

Trying to do all eight groups and four elimination rounds in the twelve days before the World Cup kicks off, which means blogging every day for this entire month of June.

Continuing my Cup breakdown with a look at Group D
(as in Death).


This is another group with one clear cut favorite and three other teams battling for the second spot. I've been cheering against Germany for my entire life because they're boring and methodical (IM0), but their style seems to work because they always make it deep into every Euro and World Cup. This year's German side doesn't have a lot of experience or big names, and they're currently ranked #6 in World SPI , but should still breeze through this group with maximum points.

If the USA makes it to the elimination stage, they will play Germany in either the first or second round. And they will lose. There are only about five or six teams that can beat Germany (the ones above them in SPI, plus Italy) and the Germans will keep winning until they play one of those teams. The Germans may be boring, but they do not lose to lesser teams.

Of the other teams in Group D, I like the Aussies because they call their national team the Socceroos (Australia is another country that calls this sport "soccer") and their star goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer (of Fulham FC, my current EPL team of choice) is an Australian of German descent who played in the Bundesliga and should be fired up when the Aussies face the Germans.

Ghana made it to the second round out of the USA's group in 2006, and should be motivated playing in Africa, so they'll also be tough. Group D features two German-Ghanan brothers on opposite sides with Jerome Boateng (of Man City) playing for Germany and his brother Kevin-Prince (of Portsmouth) playing for Ghana. Not a lot of brother v. brother in the World Cup.

Serbia will be another strong team. They're currently ranked 9th in SPI, which sounds a bit inflated because they didn't qualify for the Euro and didn't play well in 2006 (as Serbia & Montenegro), but maybe the Montenegrans were dragging them down? It wouldn't be surprising for any of these three teams to make the next round, unless two of them did at the Germans' expense.

I'm pulling for Australia and Ghana for the glory of continents that start with A. How can you pull against a team that uses a Toto song as their 2010 World Cup Theme?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Grupo C

Continuing the World Cup breakdown with a look at Group C:

United States

The marquee match in this World Cup group, and possibly the whole tournament, is USA v. England next Saturday (06/12/2010) at 10:30AM PDT on ABC (check local listings). It's probably not a huge deal in the scope of the tournament, since both countries should advance if they take care of business against minnows Algeria and Slovenia, but should still be a big deal on both sides of the Atlantic.

First things first. I'm a big-time Anglophile when it comes to music or books or TV shows or even liking this sport that the rest of the world calls "football", but that does not extend into being a fan of England's national team in that sport.

The English seem to base a large part of their national identity on their performance in international tournaments, translating into a Rule Britannia jingoism that rubs me the wrong way. I was in the UK in 2007 when England failed to qualify for Euro 2008, and the British public and media were convinced that the sun had finally set their Empire.

After that failure, England fired their manager, hired a new one, and focused on the 2010 World Cup, breezing through qualifying with just one loss. They come into this World Cup flowing with confidence and high expectations, even though they haven't won an major international competition in 44 years, since their 1966 World Cup victory. And they've never beaten the USA in the World Cup (all-time record 0-0-1, remember 1950!).

On the other hand, Nate Silver ranks England as the 3rd best team in the world (behind Brazil and Spain) and the U.S. as the 15th (which is probably inflated since CONCACAF is such a weak region), so it would be a pretty big deal if Our Boys could pull out a win or even a draw. Maybe not as big as the "Miracle On Ice", but at least as big that 1950 game or last year's Confederation Cup win over Spain.

It would be a major embarrassment for England if We pull this out, and their schaden will give me lots of freude, but if we don't then whateverdude, just beat Algeria and Slovenia to make it to the knockouts. Some Americans might find it hard to cheer against the English since we were allies in two World Wars (as well as this War On Terror thing) and we're almost the same country, but with a certain "British" oil company pumping gallons of crude into the Gulf over the past six weeks, maybe it's time to break out some Johnny Horton records.

The two other teams in Group C, Slovenia and Algeria, appear to be overmatched in this group, so if either team makes it through, it means that either England or (more likely) the US laid a major egg. And Slovenia qualified from Europe, so they might not be as bad as people think.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Grupo B

Continuing my Cup breakdown with a look at Group B:

Korea Republic

Argentina should win this group, because they've got the greatest player in the World.

They're my pick to win the whole thing because of the Great Messi. The other three teams aren't terribly strong, but they aren't weak either, so there should be a good competition to determine which other country makes the knockout stage. Nate Silver picks Nigeria to advance, and I'm inclined to agree with him, because of the home continent advantage. But if the Nigerians stumble, either South Korea or Greece wouldn't be out of the questions. Whoever it is will probably lose to the French (winner of Group A) in the first round of eliminations.

Here's the current Argentine coach (another one of the best players I've ever seen) showin' off to Opus's "Life Is Life".

If Maradonna was half as good as a manager as he was as a player, Argentina would never lose a match!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Grupo A

Starting my Cup breakdown with a look at Group A:

South Africa

This isn't a very strong group, but it looks to be France's to lose, even though they only made the World Cup on la main de Dieu/Henry, and most of their big names (Henry, Galas, Anelka) are on the wrong side of 30.

Mexico also looks like a safe bet to make the knockout stage, with a lot of talented players and solid defenders, but they always have a knack for collapsing on the large stage. I don't know much about Uruguay, but they've won two World Cups (in 1930 and 1950), which should be worth something.

South Africa, the host nation are known locally as "Bafana Bafana", which sounds like someone singing the name game ("fana fana Bafana fa nana nana Bafana"). South Africa has the best World Cup song and they'll have lots of home country support, but don't have much hope of advancing.

My picks: Winner = France, Runner Up = Mexico
Cheering for : South Africa (Bafana, Bafana.. Bring it home to mama!)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cup blogging

Most of my blog entries for the next six weeks will likely focus on a certain quadrennial athletic competition they're having in Southern Africa, which kicks off in just under ten days.

I follow international soccer fairly avidly nowadays, but have always been a fan of the World Cup even before I knew any of the players or teams. It's up there with the Summer Olympics as a sports spectacle, but unlike the Olympics, average folks actually care about the World Cup.

The 32 teams in the cup (selected by regional tournaments in their respective federations) are arranged into eight groups of four, and each group plays a three match round robin against the others with the top two teams from each group advancing to the knockout stage. The knockout stage works like playoffs in every other sport, the winner advances and the loser goes home.

Here are the groups for the 2010 Cup.

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece
Group C: Algeria, Slovenia, England, USA
Group D: Australia, Germany, Ghana, Serbia
Group E: Cameroon, Denmark, Netherlands, Japan
Group F: Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia
Group G: Brazil, Côte d'Ivoire, North Korea, Portugal
Group H: Chile, Honduras, Spain, Switzerland

Lots of notable absences! I hope to go over each one in detail before the start of the Cup, with my picks to advance and teams and players to watch. When in doubt, cheer for African teams and against European teams.