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Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup Soccer Time

or Football if you are outside North America.

It's one of those things where the world stops every four years and goes bonkers for the one truly international game in the world. One just has to look at the fifa soccer rankings to see how many countries, territories, and principalities have soccer federations. When the final game is played in a little more than a month, an estimated audience of 2-3 billion people will be watching. The opening match just ended with South Africa and Mexico playing to a 1-1 draw but the big story was the sound of the fans. You know those annoying plastic horns that inevitably someone has brought to a sporting event. Well try 60000 of those, a never stopping humming, like a swarm of bees ready to attack. It Must be nerveracking for any opposition. Anyway, I'm down for breaking the tournament down which I will attempt to do here. P.S. I am an England and Hollad fan if that means anything.

The Big Guns:
You know the ones, each of these teams have a legitimate chance every year and most have won it before. One thing to note about these big gun is that one will win it all and one will flame out in the first round (please let it be Italy).

Spain (Rank 2)
Spain is considered the best team in the world to never have won the world cup and have traditionally looked good only to break down at key moments in past tournaments. However, with a win in the 2008 Euro many people believe that Spain have the monkey off their backs and can finally shake the tag of best of the nevers.

Brazil (Rank 1)
Like Canada and hockey, the world cup for the past 50 years has traditionally been Brazil's to lose. Brazil is loaded with a creative offence and might just have the goaltending to do it as well this year. With appearances in 3 of the past 4 final games (and winning 2 of them), they look to be a lock to get there again.

Germany (Rank 6)
Like Brazil the German's have delivered on the biggest stage time and time again. Although they haven't won since 1990, they have frequently made it into the final 4 in both the Euro and World Cups since then. Look for them to get at least that far, after that it remains to be seen.

Holland (Rank 4)
The biggest knock on the Dutch is the level of talent vs. killer instinct. The Dutch have tons of swagger when it comes to style, but when push comes to shove time and time again they just can't deliver. Playing a good team game and cooling the egos that have been a problem for them in the past will go a long way in helping the Dutch out of the "Best Nevers" catagory.

France (Rank 10)
It's been 12 years since France won the world cup on home soil, and many of the stars of that team are retired or over the hill. Still, France surprised a few people when they made it all the way to the finals last time out. They can either fold over and choke or pull of a stunning run. You really can't tell with them.

Italy (Rank 5)
As much as I don't like Italian soccer, I recognise the success of the program. Four World Cup wins, second to Brazil is the proof of that. Also, they are the defending champions. While I don't think they can pull of the repeat, they do have the easiest draw out of all the top guns, so it is possible.

England (Rank 8)
England is home to perhaps the best league in the world, so you would think that they would do more at the national level. England does have a lot to prove having missed qualifying for the Euro in 2008, and their qualifying for this cup has seemed to address the urgency of performing well. The fans want nothing more than this team to succeed to put to bed the chants of 66 (the last time England won the world cup).

Argentina (Rank 7)
Home to perhaps the greatest soccer player right now (Messi), and another soccer god coaching (Maradona), Argentina always plays tough and does well. Will it be enough to get them over the top to their 3rd cup win? Well they have as good a shot as any.

Portugal (Rank 3)
Placed in the group of death with Brazil is not kind to the Portugese who have traditionally come close, but no cigar. Ronaldo is their difference maker, and maybe this is the year, but I kind of hope not.

The Teams in the Mix
These team are good, usually good enough to qualify into the round of 16 and further, but are just not quite there historically to go the distance.

USA (Rank 14)
It's still relatively early in the development of American soccer, really only coming to prominence since 1994. With the MLS taking on a legit soccer status, it remains to be seen how long it will be when the Americans will go all the way. It's only a matter of time and money. This year it's still a little too soon. A final 8 will be a good show for this squad.

Chile (Rank 15)
A lot of people have proclaimed Chile a dark horse in this tournament. A good junior squad years ago have graduated into the senior program that may surprise. Do they have the guns to win it all? Probably not, but they might take a few of the traditional powers down along the way to a final 8.

Uraguay (Rank 18)
Uraguay has won two cups, but really hasn't been a soccer power in well over 50 years. They still have some surprises, and continue to deliver, but a tough draw might leave them on the outside looking in when the final 16 comes around.

Mexico (Rank 17)
It seems that Mexico should be a lot better than they are, but for some reason they've never really delivered on the world stage. Placed in the same draw with Uraguay and France, they are gonna have to knock one of those two teams out to get to the final round of 16. With a 1-1 draw against 90th ranked South Africa, they didn't do themselves any favours.

Greece (Rank 12)
Greece came out of nowhere to win the 2004 Euro so they have the ability to surprise. Will they be able to put it together for another miracle run in 2010? Probably not and a draw with Argentina and Nigeria, not to mention 2002 semi finalists South Korea will make this a tough tournament for them.

Slovenia (Rank 23)
Solid enough to do well. I don't know a lot about them, but will battle with England and the USA in pool C. A final 16 is not likely, however you never know.

Nigeria (Rank 20)
Playing the tournament on your home continent has got to be a boost for all the african teams, who always seem to be there, but never much more than that. A good shot at sweet 16, but after that it is anyones guess.

Serbia (Rank 16)
In with Germany and Australia means that the serbians have a good shot of making it into the round of 16.

Cameroon (Rank 19)
Again having home continent advantage means that Cameroon should have a good tournament, and also have a pretty good draw to sneak into the round of 16.

Ivory Coast (Rank 27)
Ivory Coast has no luck whatsoever this time out. If losing your star player is not enough, getting place into a draw with Brazil and Portugal is almost impossible to overcome. If they can pull that off, look to them to do some damage.

Australia (Rank 21)
The Australians have never had the reputation of being a great soccer power, but there they are at 21 and a shot to get to the round of 16. Also of note, they gave Italy their most difficult game in their 2006 run.

The Aint's
The just happy to be here teams that will most likely be going home in two weeks. Although a special not, one of these teams usually pulls off some big cinderella run into the final 8 or even 4 like South Korea did in 2002.

South Africa (Rank 90)
A host country has never gone out in the first round and the South Africans certainly proved they could stay with Mexico today. Still the second lowest ranked team in the tournament means that the odds are stacked pretty heavily against them.

South Korea (Rank 47)
Could 2002 happen again? Well it might, but they will have to get over Argentina, Greece, and Nigeria to qualify into the round of 16.

Algeria (Rank 31)
I like the Algerians and i'm not sure why, but they might be the Cinderella team this year. Could they be a match for the Americans and the Serbians for number 2 in Pool C? I think so. Again the odds are stacked against them, but I like the draw.

Ghana (Rank 32)
Not a count out, but the road is step for them.

Denmark (Rank 35)
Usually the Danes have pretty good defence which may get them over into the round of 16. It'll come down to their match against Cameroon.

Japan (Rank 45)
Will be in tough in whatever they do. Did pull off a few surprises in 2002 as the co-host coutry, but those days are long gone.

Paraguay (Rank 30)
Actually has a good shot of making it into the round of 16 just on the fact that they only have Italy to contend with in that pool.

Slovakia (Rank 38)
As reasonably easy draw means that Italy will probably take #1 but #2 in pool F is wide open.

New Zealand (Rank 78)
Another longshot but also in Pool F which means anything is possible.

North Korea (Rank 106)
Never say never, but i'm saying it. The lowest ranked team in the tournament having to deal with Portugal, Brazil, and Ivory Coast. The odds are not whether they get through, but whether or not they score a goal.

Switzerland (Rank 25)
Can they go into the sweet 16? sure they can but they will have to take Spain or Chile down to do it which i'm thinking is not likely.

Honduras (Rank 40)
I don't think they have enough to do it, thanks for coming.


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