So one would think that with the Champions League final about to start–and in my hometown no less–featuring my team’s future coach Jose Mourinho, that I would have something to say about it. I mean, both teams prominently feature Real Madrid castoffs (Arjen Robben for Bayern, Wesley Sneijder for Inter). But guess what, even with Barça buying another fantastic 40 Million Euro forward (David Villa), and the Champions League final in Madrid, I’m not talking about clubs any more. Not until the World Cup is over.

For the next two months, I won’t give two shits whether “40 Million Euro Hitman” David Villa (or David Silva, who’ll probably go to Madrid as soon as we get Mou) sold out, whether Carles Puyol or Andrés Iniesta are Catalonian nationalist douchebags (they aren’t, as far as I know–probably my favorite players on Barça, actually), or even if Joan Laporta (my second least favorite person related to Spanish soccer in any way) suddenly decides to resign. Now, it’s 100% con la Roja.

[ADDENDUM: Well, I’ll actually break down how the percentages work, because it’s not at all 100% Spain. We’ve got 55% Spain, 20% USA, 20% South Africa, and 5% Ireland–FUCK YOU SEPP (guess who my least favorite is?)]

So, I’m writing a World Cup Blog. Wow, this has to be the first time anyone has done anything like this. In today’s issue, I’m breaking down Groups A, B, C and D, giving small vignettes about each team, and then giving my picks to advance.

Group A (South Africa (RSA), Mexico, Uruguay, France)

This is a really good group–that is, I really like this group because I think each team could go on to win it. France is the obvious favorite, but they’re already on my shit list for not taking Karim Benzema, for relying on a core of aging players, for Thierry Henry’s handball, for Thierry Henry in general, and for ex-post-facto “apologizing” to Ireland. And because Sepp Blatter is a douche (he’s not even French). This France team has massive flameout potential, and Mexico, with a young, fast team; Uruguay with Diego Forlán (one of the best forwards in the world); and the host South Africa with so much energy, could all be serious potential threats to France.

So here goes: I like South Africa here. No joke. They’re a fun, young team, with an entire country–continent, kind of–behind them; and as we saw in 2002, host countries will get favorable calls. The question is whether they’ll be South Korea (real contenders, albeit with some really lucky calls [I’m still angry about 2002]) or Japan (yay world!). I’m saying in between. This group has potential, and with a little luck, they could sneak out of this super-competitive group.

Mexico has a really solid team; Uruguay has a couple really electric players; and France is France. We’ll see whether the World’s dislike of France right now–with the prostitution scandal/Thierry Henry’s “hand of frog”–translates into a strong stadium atmosphere or not; and we’ll see whether Diego Forlán is really as good as I think he is.

Unrealistic, I-Would-Love-This-So-Much Picks: (1) Uruguay or Mexico, (2) RSA

Actual Picks: (1) Mexico, (2) Uruguay.

France will flame out, and draw RSA (my big shock!), and lose to at least one of these two teams if not both. They’ll play each other to a draw, and beat RSA (sorry guys).

And now, because I’m sadistic, here’s a video of Henry “apologizing” (STAY AWAY FROM NEW YORK THIERRY HENRY):

Group B (Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece)

Contrary to Group A, this one is SUPER BORING. Well, not really, but compared to A? Kinda. It’s very clear that Argentina will advance, even if Maradona does coke off the goalpost. Actually, Maradona getting fired for drug use would probably help Argentina right now.

Don’t get too caught up in the rankings: this group has a couple of teams that will battle for second (Greece and South Korea), a sentimental favorite (Nigeria), and a possible World Cup champion (Argentina). If Maradona can pull this team together–maybe they could all do coke and have sex with a prostitute together! (Oh, shit, that was France)–then the attacking triumvirate of Leo Messi, Kun Agüero, and Gonzalo Higuain could be the best in the world. All three are incredibly fast, tricky, and have serious olfato goleador, or scoring sense. But if Messi sucks this WC, get ready to start hearing post-flameout LeBron-esque [I love you LBJ, come to New York] words like “choke” or “failure” get thrown around the Argentinean papers.

South Korea has a strong team, but nowhere nearly as good as that 2002 one; Greece is almost as far-removed from its 2004 Euro Champ squad. And Nigeria is WAY over-rated at 20 in the FIFA rankings. So we’ll see.

Picks: (1) Argentina, (2) Greece

Yeah, Euro-centric, blah blah. Nigeria is fast, which helps–they could theoretically outrun Greece, but the Greek defense is too solid; Nigeria might have a chance against Korea, what with the theoretical “home-court,” but we should also remember that just because Nigeria is from Africa doesn’t mean that all South Africans will root for them. South Korea vs. Greece should be the match to watch here.

Group C (England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia)

The Americans got pretty lucky here–we’re with a perennial powerhouse (England), and two very beatable teams (Algeria and Slovenia). The story in this group will be the USA-England match; the story should be the USA-Slovenia match. I know, we all want to see our boys kick the limey bastards asses–but honestly, it probably won’t happen. England is in the best position its’ had in years, with one of the best teams–and arguably the best coach (Fabio Capello)–in the tournament. They’re going to make a deep run, I promise; but if we play with heart, we might (if we’re super lucky) get a draw in this game. But probably not.

We need to focus on Slovenia, the other team with a real shot of making it over us. If they beat Algeria in the first game, then the USA-Slovenia match will decide the group–no joke. This is a no-nonsense, defense-first, classically Eastern-European team with big defenders, and a team-first mentality. Their coach, Matjaz Kek, is really underrated; their slogan is “unity, industry and harmony”–they work as a team better than almost any other group in the tournament.

Algeria is fast, but lack talent and skill; they should be no match for our central midfielders, and will be vulnerable defensively.

Picks: (1) England, (2) USA

If we play to our potential, we’re out of this group no problem; if we choke even a little, we’re going to run into issues against Slovenia (and certainly England). Our goal should be to give England a test in the first match, but not to expend too much energy–we need to come out firing against Slovenia and Algeria. And I think we will.

Group D (Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana)

Another fun group: Germany is the clear favorite, and will certainly advance; the second spot is really up for grabs: Ghana is really underrated because of their performance in the African Cup of Nations, the Aussies are always strong, and the Serbs look really good this year.

This is another group to remember not to get too caught up in the FIFA rankings: the Ghanaians are ranked really low at 32, the Serbs might be a bit overrated at 16, and the Aussies are probably the right level at 20. I can see Ghana taking a couple of points from Germany, mainly because the Ghanaians are very strong in the CDM, and should be able to stop up the center. They’ll also outrun the Germans, and will have a huge home crowd.

I’d bet that this group comes down to who can take points away from the Germans; and the two favorites in this respect are the Ghanaians (because of their strong midfield and conditioning), and the Aussies (because they match up well against the Germans–plus, the Aussies have a big, strong team, that can match up well on the cross).

Picks: (1) Germany (2) Ghana

I’m picking against the FIFA grain right now mainly because I think the Ghanaians will be really motivated, and will come out gunning for the Aussies (remember what they did to the Czechs last WC?). So, to contradict myself, I could see the Aussies drawing Germany, losing to Ghana, and beating Serbia; and the Ghanaians losing to Germany, but beating Australia and Serbia. Maybe I’m short-changing the Serbs, but they seem a bit weak to me.

About Gabe Lezra

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides with the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon those with great vengeance and with furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know that my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee. Ezekiel 25-17.
  • DZ

    WOW…your assessment of Group D really surprises me. On paper…I believe the Serbs must be the favourites to qualify first, especially after the injury woes the Germans are having. I’m an aussie with the utmost respect for the Serbian team as i am an avid follower of the Euro Leagues. The other teams do not match up. Although a little shaky between the posts the defenders are well represented by arguably two of the top 5 best in the world in Vidic (Man U) and Ivanovic (Chelsea). In mid field Stankovic (Inter), Krasic (CSKA – soon to be prem league starter), Tosic (Man U via Koln on loan). Strikers – Jovanovic (Liverpool), Zigic (Valencia), Pantelic (Ajax).

    Enough said.

  • kak

    I definitely agree with you DZ on that, I see the Serbians outclassing the Germans

  • Teddy

    I really don’t see the United States having any real issues advancing. Slovenia are by far the weakest UEFA team in the tournament and we have beaten teams like Denmark with ease in the last couple years. I also agree with the above comments concerning Serbia, they have quite a strong squad.

  • MK

    Stick to another topic. You obviously know nothing about football.

  • Gabe Lezra

    Ouch dudes. I fully recognize the Serbs are a great team on paper, I just don’t see them matching up to the Germans very well, who seem to me to be a similar, but more talented version of Serbia. I mean, the Germans were just in the final of the Euro for a reason (and yeah, past Euro success doesn’t necessarily equate to WC success, but it is fair to bring up the fact that the Germans did do very well in arguably the second most important international tournament).

    I think people like to short-change the African teams, too, and I think there’ll be a lot of strong support for Ghana (which, again, doesn’t necessarily equate to on-field success). But they also have a really strong group, and will be really motivated (and are a very different type of team from the other three, who all play a strong, Northern European style game). Their difference could really help them; it could also hurt. Oh, and they’re pretty well represented internationally–obviously Essien is the class of the CDM position, probably the best in the world at it; Muntari is really good at Inter (a pretty good team); Derek Boateng is a phenomenal gun on Getafe–another pretty good team, if you know anything about Spain; oh, and watch out for 21-year-old Adiyiah up front, from AC Milan.

    And yeah, I’ll definitely buy the Serbia comments, I just don’t feel like they play with the passion of the other three teams, which is important in crunch-time minutes. (Also, I don’t buy Zigic as a prime time player–seen him a lot in Spain, where he scores in the air, but is a huge liability on the ground). Good team, and I did short-change them. Honestly, each team should get an entire post to themselves–I just don’t have the time to do that right now, so I’m doing this and basing my gut decisions on essentially random things like passion, etc.

    [If you want to help/do country posts/other WC blog activities, email wesleyanblargus(at)gmail(dot)com. No joke]

  • Gabe Lezra

    [Just to clarify, half the players I mentioned for Ghana don’t start–Appiah starts (great on Udinese), and Adiyiah could be a Benzema-like gun off the bench]