To kick off the blog, I thought the first World Cup that I will be watching in its entirety would be a good topic. It has been interesting watching some of the coverage leading up to the tournament. The ESPN show SportsNation did an entire World Cup themed show Thursday that was quite entertaining and the three-hour preview show later that night prior to the Sounders-DC MLS match was quite informative, aside from the Olympics-style pieces on the plastic horns and technologically-troubled interviews with space station astronauts.
Well, to get right to the point, here’s how I see things playing out (listed in order of finish).
A: MEXICO, URUGUAY, France, South Africa
B: ARGENTINA, NIGERIA, Greece, South Korea
C: ENGLAND, USA, Slovenia, Algeria
D: GERMANY, GHANA, Serbia, Australia
E: NETHERLANDS, CAMEROON, Denmark, Japan
F: ITALY, PARAGUAY, Slovakia, New Zealand
G: BRAZIL, PORTUGAL, Ivory Coast, North Korea
H: SPAIN, CHILE, Switzerland, Honduras
RD2: NIGERIA d. Mexico; ENGLAND d. Ghana; NETHERLANDS d. Paraguay; BRAZIL d. Chile; ARGENTINA d. Uruguay; GERMANY d. United States; CAMEROON d. Italy; SPAIN d. Portugal
QF: ENGLAND d. Nigeria; BRAZIL d. Netherlands; ARGENTINA d. Germany; SPAIN d. Cameroon
SF: BRAZIL d. England; SPAIN d. Argentina
F: SPAIN d. Brazil
The good news for the United States is that the group should allow time for the team, looking to find its form with returning injured players and incorporate the recent additions of Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez to the group, to find a groove. The not-so-knowledgeable hosts of the various shows keep asking the experts about whether or not the US has the firepower to make a deep run. Personally, I think that is the wrong question. Some of these experts, English commentators brought in solely for the World Cup, aren’t familiar enough with the strike force to have the same confidence in the US ability to score as I do. That is not our concern in my opinion. As I have been saying for some time now, and has been proven in the past, the problem is not the final third but the defensive third. The US is at its best when they are not under constant attack and I am not fully convinced that the quality of defensive play will be good enough to stop England and, later, Germany in the knockout stage. Sure, they stunned Spain a year ago, but how often can the squad pull that off against teams who now are fully aware that the US can be dangerous since they are still the only team to beat Spain since 2006. To win, the US needs to be fearless and attack, attack, attack… let the results of the counters be what they may.
I think some of the African nations will be playing up a level during the course of the tournament, which may not be good news for England, whom I have facing two back-to-back in the knockout round after winning their group. I think England is just good enough to get by, but if they let up, an upset will find Nigeria or Ghana reaching the Semifinals as I just don’t see Mexico winning that quartet of the bracket to face Brazil, who will be Brazil. Argentina, which could be a circus with Maradona at the helm, had a miracle draw. An easy group should lead to a match against South American rival Uruguay, whom they should beat, and the winner of the US versus Germany, which is missing leader Michael Ballack and have a questionable goalkeeping situation – a dream for Lionel Messi. An unorganized Argentina side will meet the end of their run against Spain, who will have a tough Second Round match for Portugal, who are the opposite of Argentina with the arguably the toughest draw. A narrow win against their neighbors will send Spain through to the Final and a Championship as they should have no trouble with the Cameroon-Italy winner and defeat a more defensively-minded Brazilian squad.