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World Cup 2010.

Seems ridiculous to have ONE post regarding the World’s largest sporting event, but alas I am doing it. As a self-admitted “so-so” soccer fan, I feel I have the right to get really excited about the World Cup. What is a “so-so” soccer fan? Well, I know who the good players are around the world, I know who the good teams are supposed to be, I watch a few matches a month, but I never go to any live games, not professional anyway. So that is where my soccer passion lies. Somewhere between Crazy Colombian and Casual American. Sounds good.

There are a lot of great story lines going into the 2010 edition of the World Cup. Will Brazil make it an unprecedented 6th Championship? Will Spain finally get over the hump and finish any higher than 4th place? (Their highest finish ever). Will the U.S. make it out of group play? Who will the surprise team be in 2010? There are tons more questions to look at, but lets take a look at this tournament group by group:

(Top 2 Teams listed are my picks to move on)

Group A:
France– Everyone remembers their loss in the Finals 4 years ago. No Zidane this time to head butt any opponents, but Ribery is one of the best players in the World right now.
Mexico– Good young stars like Giovani Dos Santos and veterans like Rafael Marquez hope to lead Mexico to a strong showing. World Cups away from Mexico have not been good.
Uruguay– Matchup with Mexico will be a HUGE game. One of 5 countries to win more than one World Cup title. Did you know that?
South Africa– Only one thing to say here, “Bafana Bafana”. While the country will do all they can to host a perfect World Cup, the team won’t fair too well.

Group B:
Argentina– Lionel Messi is considered by many to be the best player in the World. While that is up for debate, he has a chance to lead Argentina to its 3rd World Cup win.
Nigeria– Always a team a keep an eye on after France 98. Had a chance to watch them play live (loss to Denmark) and their fans were some of the most memorable people I have met. Game against S. Korea could decide their fate.
South Korea– Had a great showing back in 02 with a Cinderella type run. Can Man U’s Park Ji-Sung lead his team to another surprising finish? Don’t count on it.
Greece– Only their 2nd World Cup appearance. The ’04 European Champs hope they can at least play spoiler.

Group C:
England– One of the craziest football countries around. Tons of pressure surrounds this World Cup squad. With a seemingly “EASY” draw, England will look to gain momentum into the elimination rounds. Wayne Rooney’s health are a big focus for fans world wide.
United States– What a great chance for US Soccer. While the world sees the US as a definite threat to win matches, the Americans want to be known as a soccer powerhouse. A win over heavily favored England could help that case. Look for “little known” Jose Torres to be a spark plug for the Americans.
Slovenia– Smallest country in the field of 32, but definitely features one of the “biggest” defenses. Slovenia beat Russia to make its way into the World Cup and could play spoiler against the Americans and England.
Algeria– After a tough qualifying road, the Algerians will have a tough road ahead in South Africa.

Group D:
Germany– One of the great soccer powerhouses in the World. Germany will be without superstar Michael Ballack, but still possesses one of the best young strikers in the world with Thomas Muller. Germany will once again threaten to make a run to its 4th World Cup win.
Serbia– Finished atop their group in WC qualifying. After a very disappointing showing 4 years ago, a newly independent Serbia will look to advance to the round of 16. Don’t be surprised if they do.
Australia– Seem to be a very experienced team. I have always thought they were a VERY underrated team but also very dangerous. It will be interesting to seem them in their warm-up against the U.S. a week before the WC starts.
Ghana– Had a great showing 4 years ago in Germany. This is a very tough group, and each match will be a close one. Boateng will try and lead his “Black Stars” to the elimination round again.

Group E:
Netherlands– One of the hottest teams heading into the World Cup. After qualifying with an undefeated record, the Dutch look to continue their winning ways. With talented strikers Robben, Kuyt and van Persie, the Dutch will put a lot of pressure on their opponents.
Denmark– After missing out on the 2006 World Cup, the Danes find themselves in a winnable group. Denmark has reached the round of 16 every time it has played in the World Cup. While no one player stands out as an elite Superstar, the Danes will rely on experience and coaching.
Cameroon– Samuel Eto’o is one of the worlds best strikers. Cameroon has not had a successful recent history at the World Cup, but had very good fortune in 1990. Their group is tough, and they will probably be watching the Round of 16 from home.
Japan– Not much of a chance for Japan to advance out of this group. Best chance to pull off a win is against Cameroon.

Group F:
Italy– The defending champions should have NO problem getting out of group play. With superstars all throughout the lineup, Italy also features one of the best goalkeepers in the World in Gigi Buffon. Look for Italy to cruise through group play and have a shot at 2 titles in a row.
Paraguay– After making it through a tough qualifying schedule, Paraguay gets a great shot to make the 2nd round in 2010. Even though they are without one of their best players, Paraguay will most likely be the 2nd team out of Group F.
Slovakia– This is the countries 1st appearance at the World Cup. While playing in the tournament alone may not be what the country wants, it has a chance to make some noise against a fairly weak group.
New Zealand– Probably the LEAST likely to move on to the round of 16. The qualifying schedule was against much smaller countries and the best showing in a major matchup was a 0-0 draw with Iran. Do not expect much out of the “All Whites”.

Group G:
Brazil– Without a doubt the most well known soccer powerhouse in the world. My in laws (Brazilians) are quick to point out that Brazil has won the most World Cup titles (5) and also have the best fans. While Group G is not a simple walk through, look for Brazil to be a favorite to win an unprecedented 6th title.
Portugal– Tough draw into the “Group of Death” for Portugal. While it looked like for awhile the Portuguese would not even qualify for the tournament, it is hard to deny the talent of this team. Lead by Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal will look to win it’s first ever World Cup title.
Ivory Coast– Serious questions linger after Didier Drogba broke his arm in a friendly shortly before the tournament was to begin. While he would have helped the attack, the Ivory Coast is not short on weapons. With such a tough draw, it will be tough for the Ivory Coast to make it out. Key matchup is against Portugal.
North Korea– Not much is expected out of North Korea in the tournament, but a stingy defense could help make things interesting.

Group H:
Spain– One of the “it” teams prior to this 2010 World Cup. A lot of people are saying Spain is the team to beat for the title. I guess only losing once (to the US) in 47 games will help give you the “favorite” title. Spain features world class talent with names like Xavi, Torres and Casillas. Look for Spain to threaten for their first ever World Cup title.
Chile– Chile was VERY impressive in World Cup qualifying, finishing 2nd to Brazil. The team features an up tempo style which could surprise many in South Africa. Look out for this dark horse team.
Honduras– Honduras is in it’s 2nd World Cup all time, and is looking for its first ever victory in the tournament. Look for strikers Pavon and Suazo to help make sure that goal is met.
Switzerland– One of the youngest teams in South Africa, the Swiss will have trouble getting out of a tough and up tempo group.

Pick to Win: Brazil
While it may be quite a “cop out” to pick Brazil, they really are the best team in this year’s field. They have looked very impressive in qualifying and friendlies, and coach Dunga has them hungry for a 6th title. I would not be surprised to see Spain, Italy, Argentina, The Netherlands (very hot right now) or even dark horses like Chile or the U.S. still playing late in the tourney. This certainly will be a great month.

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