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.