World Cup Preview

Thanks For Coming
South Africa-Unfortunately they will have they dubious honor of being the only host nation to not advance. I predict an opening draw with Mexico but I also predict that France and Uruguay will out class them. Perhaps more importantly, they will do a fantastic job hosting the biggest sporting event on the planet and for that I thank them.
Honduras-They might be able to score a goal or two and maybe squeeze a point from the Swiss but are just not talented enough to keep up with the likes of Spain or Chile. They’ll play entertaining games but that has more to do with the fact that two of the most fluid attacking teams are in their group.
Algeria-The Desert Foxes are a rough and tumble bunch. They’re like the 70’s Flyers. If they can’t win the game they will try to win the physical battle. That may work against some of the African teams , who tend to want to play a more free-flowing type game, but they’re playing three teams that do physical very well. They might get a tie against Slovenia in the opener but England and United States could be too much to handle.
Ghana-Poor Ghana. They draw the real Group of Death and lose their best player and talisman Michael Essien. It’s a shame because with him they’d have a chance to make a run in this tournament but without him they are virtually punchless. They still have quality at near every position and their group mates better be ready or Ghana could sneak through to second place.
New Zealand-It’s going to be harder for them to advance from their group than it was for Frodo to get that damned ring to Mordor.
North Korea-Thanks for filling out the numbers. You’re not going home empty handed though. We hope you enjoy not scoring against Brazil, Portugal, and Ivory Coast in the 2010 World Cup Home Game by EA Sports.
Japan-Impressive against England but disappointing against everyone else. Expect that to hold true here. They’re organized but that’s about it. The Dutch will have no issues casting them aside and they don’t have the individual talent to match Denmark or Cameroon either.
France-YouTube ‘Hand of Gaul.’ They are due for a karma kick to the groin.
Greece-This is more hopeful than anything. Look for all Greece soccer matches to feed into the American stereotype that soccer is boring and few goals are scored. Organized they are, exciting or adventurous they are not. They live by the mantra that defense wins championships and will sit and try to counterattack. This doesn’t lend itself to many goals by either team on the field. Some people call it anti-football. I call it a first round exit.
Slovakia-Yawn. There’s something interesting about this team….
Nigeria-Not enough offense but maybe enough defense to squeeze out second. If they can find their scoring touch they can make a run to the final eight. If they don’t, they’ll crash out and finish last in the group. I’ll pick the middle ground. I think they miss out on the second round  after two ties against Greece and South Korea and a loss against Argentina.
Switzerland-Opener against Spain does not bode well, especially with the team they are expected to battle with for second place opening against Honduras. They’re basically starting in a three point hole from day one. Can they beat Chile in their second match of the group to draw even? I bet draw if anything. If that happens, it then depends if they can thrash Honduras by enough to go through on goal differential. The Swiss are known for their neutrality on and off the pitch. Scoring goals doesn’t suit them.
Slovenia-If they can win the opener against Algeria (which they should) and England beats the US (which they should) suddenly the Americans are in a three point hole going into the second game against them and Slovenia can do exactly what it is that they want, which is sit back and make you attack until they find a good moment to strike. File this under Best Case Scenario, Slovenia. A more realistic scenario is a tie with Algeria and that would lead to them being more aggressive to try and get points and playing right into the United States many hands. Placing third in the group on goal differential sounds reasonable.
Ivory Coast-No Didier Drogba equals no second round. Africa’s best hopes for a champion is stopped before they even start after their captain broke his arm in a friendly against Japan. Tough stuff too considering they’re in a group with the number one team and number three team in the world. All the components are there but they needed Drogba to have a huge tournament just to advance. He is unstoppable. Unstoppable unless someone kicks his arm. Here’s hoping he gets healthy and can play.
Australia-Their lead striker is Harry Kewell who I think just tore his adductor muscle as I typed this. Tim Cahill can score in bunches and is top class but I don’t see it from the rest of their team. They just don’t match up with teams they can’t be more physical than. They don’t have any real advantages over anyone in their group. No advantages, no dice.
Serbia-Good enough to advance from their group and pulling an upset against England. At the very least they’ll give them a scare. Enough to wake them up for the quarters anyway.
South Korea-Flowing football at its finest. They play a smooth, free-flowing style that is very appealing to the neutral viewer and this is reason enough to pick them for the second round with them being in a group that has two teams (Nigeria, Greece) that will struggle against teams that will possess the ball as much as they do.
Cameroon-Tough tournament for the host continent. The stadiums are beautiful and the people are warm and embracing and excited but their teams just do not have enough to advance. Their teams are drawn into groups that are just slightly too good for them. That’s to be expected for most teams though as there are no freebies in the World Cup, unless you are playing North Korea. Japan is here and they should win that game but I don’t expect them to advance unless it is on goal differential.
USA-Throw the first match out of the window. The future of the game depends more on the results they get against  Slovenia and Algeria. If they win, they get into the knockouts and anything can happen from there. If they flame out, the game will not die here in the States but it won’t flourish like it has the opportunity to. No pressure boys. Fortunately for Sam’s Army, the matchups are favorable and the chance of progressing is more likely than not. A second round matchhup against the Germans looms and it may loom too large as the superior tactics of Die Manschaft will carry the Germans to a hard-fought victory.
Mexico-Aggressive and fun to root against if you’re American. They’ll make it out of the group with a tie against South Africa and a win against France and match up with Argentina in what should be an entertaining match with plenty of goals.
Italy-The 2006 Cup holders and they are in for a letdown. They’ll start slow, per usual, and then murder Slovakia and New Zealand, which will be enough to get them an elimination game with the Netherlands. A disappointing tournament to be sure but no one will care because they just won and they are bunch of prima donnas. Good riddance.
Chile-The team that will be the most fun to watch to a neutral observer. The Phoenix Suns of the World Cup. They don’t play defense and don’t care to either. I honestly think they’d rather lose 5-4 than tie 0-0. I also think that this is a perfect grouping for them. They are capable of keeping up with Spain. They won’t but they are capable of it.
Portugal-Cristiano Ronaldo is a diver. Sure he’s exciting and capable of producing legendary moments but he is absolutely shameless. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets carded for diving. I hope he enjoys losing to Spain in the Round of 16.
Paraguay-Second in this group should be expected unless they underestimate Slovakia and New Zealand, the former of whom is capable of winning outright. They should be okay after going through the rugged South American qualifying. I think they finish first in this group in a shocker after defeating Italy, slow starters traditionally, and New Zealand and drawing Slovakia. This would be a successful tournament for them if they don’t lose to Denmark in the second round. Which they will.
Mostly Elite Eight
Germany-Bastian Scweinsteiger has the best name in this World Cup. He also happens to be one of the best midfilders in the tournament and with Ballack, and German captain injured, he’ll need to prove it if his team is going to make a run. Fortunately for the Germans, he’s going to. Capable of playing any style of soccer and adapting himself to nearly any position, Schweinsteiger is going to leave his fingerprint on everything his team does at this tournament and it will be more good than bad.
Uruguay-Group A winners and getting to the quarters is something within their grasp but this is a team that is just as likely to fill the net as it is to leave it empty. First place in their group because someone has to.
Denmark-Daniel Agger is going to break out. The big Danish defender is going to have his hands full against the attacking Dutch but he’s going to get to prove his worth against Cameroon and the Japanese. If he steps up his game and anchors the defense on this team, they will score just enough goals to advance and earn a chance to make some noise in the knockouts. I think the Danes make it to the quarters after they stun Paraguay in the second round before giving Spain a tough match and bowing out in the quarters.
Brazil-I hope Portugal wins the group. I want to see Spain and Brazil early. I want a championship match three round before the championship. I want one and two to match up in when there are still 16 teams left. Too bad it won’t happen. Portugal is too inconsistent and Ivory Coast has no Drogba. Brazil tops the group and will either win the in the final or lose to the Dutch. I vote Dutch.
So Close…But So Far
England-They have the talent. They have the coach. They have a way to screw it up too. I know it. I don’t know how but they will. They’ll kill Serbia in the Round of 16 and then destroy Uruguay in the quarters and probably go up a goal on the Netherlands in the semis but then David James will make a mistake and it’ll be tied. Fear of a nation will settle on their shoulders. Maybe they’ll lose on penalties. Maybe they’ll lose by four goals. I’m sure they’ll figure out something.
Argentina-Crazy good players (Messi) can be offset by crazy coaches who do crazy things. I trust Maradona about as far as I could throw him and I’m not sure if Messi can carry him to the final. I am sure that Messi is the best player in the world and I am sure that Argentina’s squad is so rich that it’ll be hard to screw up. They’ll make a deep run in this World Cup but whether they can win it all depends on how Maradona puts his team in a position to succeed. I think they can get by with his shaky tactics for a few matches but I don’t see them getting past Spain. Spain does everything they do but better. Better defense. More offense. Less insane coach. Recipe for success.
Always A Bridesmaid
Netherlands-My dark horse and one of my personal favorites to watch. I think they make the final. They have too much firepower and should do well in the group. The question would be their goalkeeping as they have no big game experience between the sticks. If they can get their mistakes out early rather than later, I think this team has enough depth and prowess to make a deep run. They’ll be tested in the knockout round but so will every team. Will they crash out early as usual or will they make a deep run and break some hearts along the way? I’m thinking the latter.
Never A Bride…Except This Time
Spain-The favorite and winner of pretty much every game since the last World Cup. Their 33 game winning unbeaten run was done in by the Americans on this very soil a year ago in the Confederations Cup. They only things working against them they tend to flame out earlier than expected in the World Cup and they’re first second round game is going to be either Portugal or Brazil. Exciting for everyone except the Spanish. Are they ready to follow through on the expectations and hopes of an entire nation? Yes. This is Spain’s year, just like it was the Blackhawks year. They cut their teeth at Euro 2008 and are primed to rip everyone in their path to shreds. These aren’t your abuelo’s chokers. They are the best team and they’ve won before and they will again.

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