I was lucky enough to be working remotely today so I was able to watch the draw live. I was hoping the US wouldn’t get caught in a bad group, and I think they did OK. Although you can NEVER count out (or in) any team in this tournament, I like the odds of the USA advancing.
Here’s how the groups shook out.
|All solid teams here. I’d expect to see lots of draws, with matches to watch Mexico vs Uruguay, and France vs Uruguay.
|On the surface you’d think Argentina is a clear winner. Maybe. They’ve played like absolute crap lately. But you really can’t rule out any team with a game changer like Messi. I’d expect South Korea to do well. Nigeria and Greece are big question marks. The first match of the group, Argentina vs Nigeria on June 12, will go a long way towards setting the tone of this group. A win by Argentina creates a 3-way race for the #2 spot. A tie? All heck breaks loose.
|The wild card here is Slovenia. Both the USA and England are “capable” of some nice soccer but they’ve also both been known to throw up a stinker every now and again. A tie in the first match on June 12th would probably be fair among the two, but then that will likely leave the whole group wide open so I’d expect both sides to really push for a victory. The match between the two is the first match and you can never guarantee points against anybody even though they should both handle Alergia and probably Slovenia.
|Germany is clearly the leader here. So the race is for the #2 spot or hope Germany stumbles along the way. Australia is tough as nails. Ghana is athletic and usually shows well. Serbia is a bit of a question mark, but they’ve normally got a good amount of talent and play really solid ball.
|This is a tough group all around. Netherlands is always a good team, but they seem to find a way to disappoint. Denmark is solid. The exciting match will probably be Japan and Cameroon with both sides attacking end-to-end. Japan and Netherlands will be a good one also for the same reason. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Japan and Denmark out of this group.
|Italy and Paraguay. Make a note of June 14 on your calendar. Two top level teams right there will slug it out to see who wins the group in the first game for both. It’s possible that the Kiwis or Slovakia sneaks in… but I doubt it. The only angle might be since Italy is a little older they may falter a bit by the 3rd game.
|They’re calling this the “Group of Death” already. Yeah… Brazil vs Portugal on June 25th just might decide not just who goes in 1st or 2nd place, but who moves on to the next round, period. Ivory Coast is a pretty solid team, and the prospect of Diddier Drogba running THROUGH the Brazilian “defense” makes me chuckle. Portugal with Ronaldo is great too. The question mark is North Korea who I’ve never seen play before and they haven’t been to a world cup in over 40 years. This group will probably set a record for goals scored.
|Mark your calendar for Spain vs Chile on the 25 of June. Spain is… well… Spain and have been playing great ball. Chile is up and coming, finished second in qualifying behind Brazil, are young and hungry. Honduras is a wildcard, and Switzerland is always solid but will need a little extra to beat either Chile or Spain.
Right. So now, this means I have to start stockpiling sick days. I’ll have to calculate the time zone difference and decide if I should stay up late or just get up real early. I’ll look at a calendar as we approach and mark which games are “must-see” and which are “watch when you’re bored”. I try and record them all, because each World Cup there is always ONE match that everybody talks about as the BEST GAME EVER and it was two mediocre teams you’ve never heard of and are surprised they even have a soccer team which you didn’t record because you thought it was going to be boring.
The excitement begins…