Thursday, May 27, 2010

Breaking Down GROUP A

Group A: South Africa, Uruguay, Mexico, France.

At first glance, this might appear a formidable group. But appearances can be deceiving.

Host countries generally do well; at least, for as long as I can remember, they've advanced to the second round. Even the USA in 1994 edged past Colombia and Switzerland to make it to further play.

But this South Africa team... yeah, not so great. This could be the first host country to get stuck in Round One in a long while.

What about Uruguay? A typically very solid South American team, from all indications. Yet I just can't see them doing much. I think the second round would be a real surprise for them, and nothing beyond that.

Then come the two big boys of the group: Mexico and France.

And yet, neither of them has quite been all it was expected to be, this time around.

Mexico has always been one of those teams that looks great on paper and during play, but then somehow finds a way to lose in the second round-- if they even make it out of the first. Even the USA took them down in second round play in 2002. And this was a Mexico squad that actually struggled early on to even qualify--from CONCACAF! Not exactly encouraging me to bet the mortgage payment on them, are these guys from El Tri.

And what can be said about France? The most schizophrenic of the major teams in the world, in recent years. Think about it: 1994-- didn't even qualify for the Cup. 1998-- WON the Cup! (Albeit playing at home.) 2002-- blown out in the first round and sent home without scoring a goal, if I recall correctly. 2006-- narrow loss to Italy in the finals for the Cup!

France does well in the years the USA does poorly, and vice versa.

So, given that formula, we should expect France to collapse and the USA to advance out of its group (Group B-- more on that next time).

One other factor: This France squad only qualified for the competition by the narrowest of margins, squeaking past Scotland on the last day. Confidence level: Not high, as far as I'm concerned.

SO: Predictions for Group A:

Mexico wins the group. France sneaks in as well. Uruguay and South Africa go home. Hey, at least the trip home for South Africa isn't terribly long!

Points prediction: (Top 2 advance)
Mexico 7
France 5
Uruguay 2
South Africa 1

Monday, May 24, 2010

World Cup Teams as US College Football Programs, Part 2

Today we present the second half of my look at World Cup soccer teams as compared with American college football programs:

Brazil: USC Trojans
All the talent and a great system. When they *aren't* great, it's a mystery why not. (And recently, leaning more heavily on great DEFENSE, too.)

Germany: Nebraska Cornhuskers (until recently)
Big, slow guys just plugging away with willpower and determination and a boring tactical system.

Italy: Florida State Seminoles
Some flashy individual offensive players, a very solid defensive reputation, but some big egos, too. Haven't won as many titles as they maybe should've.

Spain: Auburn Tigers
The best team not to win the official title (in AU's case, for over 50 years).
Some great players over the years, but something... something inexplicable and heartbreaking and just unfair...SOMEthing... always happens.

England: Texas Longhorns
Rabid fan base; big names and history; practically invented the sport; but just one title in the modern era.
(Does that make Scotland Texas A&M? No, more like Baylor.)

(The "getting drunk and making a lot of noise in the stands" aspect could bring in LSU, too.)

Argentina: Miami Hurricanes
Some big titles and great players a few years back... titles won under sort of dubious
circumstances... but don't cross paths with 'em in a dark alley!

USA: West Virginia Mountaineers
Horrible just forever, but maybe finally getting pretty good. Pulled a few upsets last time. (Could also make a case for USA being the North Carolina Tarheels-- the fans back home are numerous and rabid-- but about a different sport.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

World Cup Teams as US College Football Programs, Part 1

For today's "Countdown to the World Cup" entry, I'm going to look at some of the perennial World Cup national teams (sides) and how I would compare them to the panoply of American college football-- similarities, styles, histories, etc. Bear with me here and I think you'll see what I mean:

Mexico: Texas A&M Aggies
All the pieces are there, but they can't quite get to the next
level--and lately, the local rival's started beating them down, too.

Portugal: Georgia Bulldogs
Generations of great players, colorful and fun to watch, but they
never seem to win the big one. Upset by USA in 2002 was like South
Carolina knocking off the Dawgs at the start of several seasons.

Paraguay: Virginia Tech Hokies
No-name players playing great defense and special teams, and find away
to win (or at least draw).

Uruguay: Army Black Knights
Some great champions, but so far in the past that hardly anyone
remembers anymore.

South Korea: BYU Cougars
They run around and around and around and finally you're exhausted
just *watching* them...

Netherlands: Florida Gators
Came out of nowhere a while back, with some flashy players in a flashy
system. But not a whole lot of hardware to show for it, over the

France: Colorado Buffaloes (or Georgia Tech Yellowjackets)
Sucked sucked sucked sucked CHAMPIONS aaaand back to sucking...

Saudi Arabia: SMU Mustangs
They get their teeth kicked in by everybody, but then they get to ride
back home in really expensive cars.

Costa Rica, Ecuador, Tunisia, Angola, etc: Division 1-AA
Can rise up and shock a 1-A team every now and then, but aren't
getting into the BCS.

So there's the bottom half of the list. Next time: The top half, including the top soccer teams on Earth-- and the USA!

Friday, May 14, 2010

COUNTDOWN to the World Cup is now ON!! 28 Days...

Just 28 days until the 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off! The Countdown starts here, now!

Join me in the days to come for my various articles, notes and lists (hopefully both informative and entertaining) about the World Cup, the countries and teams involved, and the cultural hoo-hah surrounding it.

Today's quick note: Watching the games on television in the US.

Because South Africa is a few hours ahead of the US, the first of each day's 1st Round matches will begin at 6 a.m. CST. Yikes!

For those without a DVR or a VCR, here's some important info from


ESPN Classic will reair all 64 FIFA World Cup matches. Each matchday, between at 6 p.m. and 12 a.m., the network will present all the matches played earlier that day.

ESPN and ESPN2 will air the best match of the day on select nights throughout the tournament.