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World Cup Predictions Foolishly Revisited

[ 19 ] June 24, 2010 |

Back in December, immediately after the draw for the World Cup, I had the temerity to write a long post breaking down each group, and I foolishly offered predictions as to how the sides would finish.  I’ve been meaning to write this post prior to the last round of matches from the group stage, but a series of events have intervened.

Now, half way through those matches, let’s see how I have fared.

Group A

Prediction: 1. Mexico, 2. France, 3. Uruguay, 4. South Africa

Result: 1. Uruguay, 2. Mexico, 3. South Africa, 4. France.

The difference between Mexico and South Africa was down to goal differential.  At least I was smart enough to state “And Uruguay don’t suck either”.  I don’t think I can be faulted for horribly mis-predicting France, as I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the circus that France became in this tournament.

Group B

Prediction: 1. Argentina, 2. Greece, 3. South Korea, 4. Nigeria.

Result: 1. Argentina, 2. South Korea, 3. Greece, 4. Nigeria.

Not a bad prediction, only a point separated South Korea from Greece.  Of course suggesting that Argentina take the group isn’t exactly a risky proposition.

Group C

Prediction: 1. England, 2. USA, 3. Slovenia, 4. Algeria.

Result: 1. USA, 2. England, 3. Slovenia, 4. Algeria.

As predictions go, as I was only off by the “goals scored” tie breaker, I can’t feel too bad about this one.  Furthermore,m I did say “Don’t underestimate Slovenia, any of you”.  I should have also said “don’t overestimate England”.  Furthermore, it was a lot closer on the final day than most would have predicted, and had those two 1-0 scorelines been reversed, it would be Slovenia and Algeria progressing, not the USA and England.

Group D

Ill-Advised Prediction: 1. Germany, 2. Serbia, 3. Australia, 4. Ghana.

Result: 1. Germany, 2. Ghana, 3. Australia, 4. Serbia.

Well, two out of four isn’t bad.  And I did say the following about Ghana:

And Ghana may be all about Essien in the international media, but they have a reputation of being well organized in a disorganized way. Which, as a faux statistician, I can appreciate. But more critically, they have a lot of youth, and their kids have done well in FIFA tournaments in the past decade or so. That said, I still see them finishing last in this tough group. Serbia are that good.

If one chooses to ignore the final two sentences, I come out looking pretty good.

Group E

Prediction: 1. Holland, 2. Denmark

Situation: 1. Netherlands 6, 2. Japan 3, 3. Denmark 3, 4. Cameroon 0.

Fina matches: tonight, 19:30 BST.

The Dutch should win the group — they play Cameroon tonight, and all they need is a draw to win the group.  Even if the Oranje were to lose, their goal differential advantage (+3 over Japan, +4 over Denmark) should be enough to protect them.  The big match is Denmark v Japan.  They’re only separated by goal differential, and that’s one goal; however, that logically means Denmark have to win in order to progress.

Group F

Prediction: 1. Italy, 2. Paraguay, 3. Slovakia, 4. New Zealand.

Situation: 1. Paraguay 4, 2. Italy 2, 3. New Zealand 2, 4. Slovakia 1.

Final matches: today, 15:00 BST.

Any of the four can still progress, and any of the four can still go out.  If Paraguay draw New Zealand, they’re through.  Nothing separates Italy and New Zealand at the moment, they’ve both drawn two, scored two goals, and conceded two goals.  This will be a fascinating one, much like Group C yesterday afternoon.

Group G

Prediction: 1. Brazil, 2. Cote D’Ivoire, 3. Portugal, 4. North Korea.

Situation: 1. Brazil 6, 2. Portugal 4, 3. Cote D’Ivoire 1, 4. North Korea, 0.

Final matches: Friday, 15:00 BST.

Brazil are through, but have not secured the top seed.  However, if Brazil and Portugal merely draw, Brazil are through as top, Portugal are through in second.  The Ivory Coast will beat our reclusive friends from North Korea, but even if Portugal were to lose, the commanding goal differential advantage currently enjoyed by Portugal (+7) over the Ivory Coast (-2) dooms the Ivory Coast to third with near certainty.  Unless Brazil win by a couple, and the Ivory Coast put seven or eight in against North Korea.  An unlikely proposition.

Group H

Prediction: 1. Spain, 2. Chile, 3. Switzerland, 4. Honduras.

Situation: 1. Chile 6, 2. Spain 3, 3. Switzerland 3 , 4. Honduras 0.

Final matches: Friday, 19:30 BST.

The Switzerland victory over Spain threw a spanner into the works of this group.  Chile are through, but (UPDATE: as per the first comment below, there is a scenario, not improbable, where Chile don’t get through) face Spain in their final match.  All that separates Spain from Switzerland is a single goal on goal differential.  Again, this will provide for an engaging set of matches.

All said, I haven’t done terribly bad.  I horribly overrated both France and Serbia, and have slightly overrated Italy and England.  I predicted England 2-1 over USA, which was ever so slightly off, and predicted USA 2-1 over Algeria.  I knew we would beat Algeria, if I began to seriously doubt that around the 80th minute of yesterday’s match.

At least I seem to have nailed the North Korea position.

I fly to the USA on the 28th, which means I’ll miss a couple of the first knockout matches, but I’ll be able to watch USA v Ghana from home on Saturday (with my daughter no less).  If the USA make it past Ghana, and I think we will, I’ll be able to watch a USMNT quarter final match in the USA, which will be a pleasant change.  The next match would be against the winner of Uruguay and South Korea . . . and an English friend of mine here sent me an email this morning predicting that the USA make the semi finals.  He thinks we’ll get past both Ghana and Uruguay.

Me, I’m happy getting out of the group.  Not getting out of the group would have been a major disappointment.  Finishing top means we avoid Germany (for the time being), which does help our cause for progression.

Landon Donovan: A Musical Tribute

[ 7 ] June 23, 2010 |

Soccer!

Who Knew that Portugal Felt So Strongly About the Cheonan?

[ 7 ] June 21, 2010 |

Wow. And of course Ivory Coast now has strong incentive to try to beat the DPRK just as badly. While I suspect that concerns about the DPRK team suffering retribution upon its return are a touch overblown, I do sincerely hope that all of the players will be alright…

Morbidly Comic Soccer Nationalism at Fever Pitch

[ 8 ] June 12, 2010 |

This video was shot by an LGM field correspondent at the US-Czech Republic warm-up match in Hartford on the 25th. Unfortunately these members of the American Outlaws were too drunk to muster a sentence when the Daily Show’s John Oliver showed up to interview them, so the scene that followed did not make it into Oliver’s premiere World Cup coverage. (According to our source, another problem was that the crowd around Oliver’s film crew could not keep from laughing no matter how sternly Oliver instructed them ‘whatever you do don’t laugh or we can’t use the clip.’) Because rabid, violent, sports nationalism is just so insufferably funny.

Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy has a few more points on the relationship between soccer and nationalism, and he mentions Simon Kuper’s book Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World’s Most Popular Sports Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power. However, in a humorous twist, Somin sounds surprisingly nationalistic himself in describing the jingoism associated with soccer as a foreign or international phenomena, vis a vis the more civilized American pro-sports scene.

UPDATE: As I posted this, my eight-year-old stated ponderously while watching the Argentina-Nigeria FIFA game: “You know, soccer is good for world peace. Instead of wars, just put the country’s teams against each other.” Hmm…

LGM World Cup Reminder

[ 5 ] June 10, 2010 |

The World Cup kicks off with Mexico-South Africa tomorrow morning, giving you precious few hours to register and/or update your LGM World Cup Challenge entry.

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

World Cup Challenge

[ 6 ] June 2, 2010 |

I have created an LGM World Cup Challenge group at ESPN:

Group Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money

Password: zevon

Deadline is June 11.

Speaking of pointless competition, here are the current LGM Baseball Challenge Standings:

RNK ENTRY, OWNER 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 SEGMENT TOTAL PCT
1 Feces Flingers, B. Drunk 366 99 0 0 0 0 0 2801 2801 98.4
2 free leonard, M. Ricci 357 98 0 0 0 0 0 2787 2787 98.2
3 kolmogorov-smirnov, W. Krummenacher 203 95 0 0 0 0 0 2738 2738 97.1
4 C. Quentin’s Unicorn, A. Katz 301 127 0 0 0 0 0 2722 2722 96.7
5 HeadlessThompson Gunner, S. Hickey 302 90 0 0 0 0 0 2711 2711 96.4
6 Dwarf Mammoths, T. Mohr 233 127 0 0 0 0 0 2700 2700 96.1
7 Ambulance Chasers, J. Shurberg 326 67 0 0 0 0 0 2672 2672 95.3
8 Bangers and M*A*S*H, N. Beaudrot 337 91 0 0 0 0 0 2644 2644 94.3
9 Signal/Noise, B. Petti 252 92 0 0 0 0 0 2619 2619 93.3
10 Better Arms on Chairs, B. Mizelle 337 124 0 0 0 0 0 2610 2610 93.0

NAC Breda 0 – 2 FC Twente

[ 2 ] May 2, 2010 |

FC Twente Enschede win the Dutch Eredivisie.  Why does this matter, the uninformed might ask?

1. Twente have never won the Dutch league (at least in their current form, or in “modern times”).  They nipped Ajax Amsterdam (whom one or two around LGM might have heard of) by a single point on the final table.

2. Before the University of Plymouth saw fit to pay me money to do my hobby, I worked for three years at Universiteit Twente, in Enschede.  U Twente is literally across the street (and train tracks) from what was then known as Arke Stadion, and now goes by De Grolsch Veste (Grolsch is brewed in Enschede).  When I lived in the west (first Amsterdam, then later Rotterdam), I would take the train into the Enschede Drienerlo station, which is in the shadow of the stadium.

3. OK, enough about me.  Steve McClaren is the manager.  The same McClaren who failed miserably as England manager, in the post-Sven, pre-Capello months, and became something of a national joke.  He is now something of a hero in Enschede and Twente more generally.

Words I never thought I’d hear in my life time in this precise order: “There’s Only One Steve McClaren . . . “

Plymouth Argyle 0 – 2 Newcastle United: Relegation.

[ 20 ] April 20, 2010 |

Something I’ve always loved about the way soccer football is organized virtually everywhere not called North America is promotion and relegation.  For the uninitiated, league “systems” are set up in a pyramid fashion.  England’s is the most elaborate, extending down 21 tiers, and in theory, a team at the bottom tier could some day be playing in the English Premier League.  In practice this is virtually impossible, of course; however there is a team in the EPL this season who were playing “non league” football a generation or two ago (“league” football is considered the top four divisions in the English structure).  Wigan Athletic, for example, were only first added to the Football League in 1978, and have been in the EPL for several seasons now.

An easily understood analogy is baseball.  Imagine the constituent teams in the minor leagues to be independent entities, with promotion and relegation existing between the divisions.  The lower teams in the “major leagues” would be relegated to AAA, with the top teams in AAA promoted to the “major leagues”, and so on down the divisions.  Of course, while I favor promotion and relegation, as a fan of the Seattle Mariners I’ve long realized that they would have been playing beer league softball by the early 1980s.

There are several strengths to this system.  Most notably, towards the end of the season, not only the teams towards the top of the table have something to play for, hence attract crowds.  With relegation, fans of teams at the bottom of the table also have reason to show up: their team is fighting for their very survival in their division.

When I moved to Plymouth in 2003, the local side, Plymouth Argyle, was in the midst of a period of sustained success.  From flirting with relegation from the bottom tier of the Football League (the fourth tier overall) in 2000-01, Argyle were promoted two out of three seasons to the “Championship”, the current brand name of the second tier.  Argyle won the fourth tier in 2001-02, and the third tier in 2003-04.  I arrived in the midst of that season, and the talk in the pub was not if, but when the then manager would be hired by a higher ranked club (Paul Sturrock did leave before the 03-04 season ended for a brief spell with Premiership side Southampton).  Argyle even flirted with the play off spaces for the Premiership a couple seasons ago under Ian Holloway.  Then, the discussion in the pub wasn’t whether or not Argyle would finally be promoted to the top flight of English football, but whether or not that season was “too soon”.  As Argyle had never been in the top division, the consensus was “too soon”.

And it was.  As of tonight, Plymouth Argyle have been officially relegated down to the third tier of English football with their 0-2 home defeat to Newcastle United.  As Newcastle won the division with this victory, Argyle fans back in Plymouth suffered the distinct ignominy of watching Newcastle fans celebrate an immediate return to the EPL following only one year in the second tier while considering a return to the third tier following six seasons in this division.

What does this mean?  Rather than the visit of Newcastle, Middlesbrough, West Brom, Nottingham Forest, Reading, Crystal Palace, or other recent rejects from the top division, they will now enjoy away journeys to Brentford, Walsall, Brighton, Oldham, and possibly (assuming that they survive in this division) Exeter.

The local paper hasn’t picked it up yet.  However, in an article on how the local airport and the airline based in Plymouth (with a fleet of five, and yes, I’ve been on every one of them) are shut down five days running, they offered this bit of optimism:

But Plymouth Argyle could benefit from the mayhem, after tonight’s opponents Newcastle United were forced to make the 400-mile journey to Home Park by coach.

Wishful thinking, it turns out.

Donovan 1, Cole 0 and Other Random Soccer Observations

[ 0 ] February 12, 2010 |

I want to preface this by asserting that I don’t revel in sporting injuries, even if they’re players that I loathe. As a result of what the BBC characterizes as a “mundane-looking and perfectly legitimate challenge” by Landon Donovan in Everton’s 2-1 victory over Chelsea at Goodison Park on Wednesday, Ashley Cole was forced to limp off the field in what has since been diagnosed as a broken ankle (which came to my attention over at Prost Amerika). I have loathed Cole since he lamely forced a transfer from Arsenal to Chelsea in 2006.

Cole is out for three months, and while it’s not impossible for him to make England’s World Cup 23, will not be at 100% match fitness even if he does make the squad.
There are a couple delightful ironies here. First, it’s Donovan, the USA’s best player, taking out a dead cert member of the England starting XI in the run in to their opening group match in South Africa.
More ironic is that Cole’s likely replacement in the starting XI is Man City’s Wayne Bridge. Meaning, Bridge would play alongside John Terry in the England back four. I’m only going to treat this briefly for those LGM readers who do not follow soccer (and care even less about who is shagging whom), but there was a spot of bother over the last couple of weeks fuelled by the English tabloid media (as only the English tabloids can do) that alleges Terry had an affair with the ex partner of Bridge, with whom Bridge and said partner have a son. Terry himself is married with twins. While this non-story story remains an allegation, it has had an effect on Terry’s career; Fabio Capello stripped Terry of the England captaincy last Friday, and Chelsea have since allowed Terry to go on leave because of the allegations and concomitant media furor.
The ever erudite, eloquent, and quite possibly existential FIFA President Sepp Blatter sagely opined that “Terry would have been ‘applauded’ in Latin countries.” Because, well, we know that Catholics are all about adultery, especially the women who presumably constitute over 50% of the population of said Latin countries. This is the same Blatter who once suggested that women’s soccer would be more popular if only it were sexier, advice from the sage that was not well received by its target audience, oddly enough. This is too good to pass up:

“They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”

Whatever, Sepp. When are you going to just go away?
In other random soccer / football news:
My local side Plymouth Argyle are edging closer to certain relegation from the English second-tier. When I arrived in Plymouth too many years ago now, they were enjoying their second promotion season in three years; this will be my first experience of a relegation season. At least the lads still have the fight in them. They’ll need it next season when matched against another Devon side, Exeter City, in League 1. And, ah, Millwall. Oh yes, I think I’d rather be in Glasgow during an Old Firm derby than in Plymouth when Millwall come to town.
Speaking of the Old Firm, astonishingly Celtic managed to score goals while at the same time keeping a clean sheet, against Hearts no less, which usually secures three points (but with this Celtic side, I don’t assume anything.)
On the same night, Rangers dropped points, narrowing the gap at the top of the table to a mere eight points. There’s hope for Mowbray and the Bhoys yet, but don’t get too excited, Marc-Antoine. I sure as hell can’t. An eight point gap in mid February is not quite Everest or K-2, but it is an uphill slog, made more difficult with half the squad now playing for Middlesbrough.
I know it’s difficult to get excited about the SPL, especially when we’re eight points down, but I’m trying to have some faith. I certainly have more faith in Celtic’s chances than President Obama’s chances at reaching a bi-partisan agreement for Health Care Reform that includes the word “reform”.

Clint Dempsey

[ 0 ] January 18, 2010 |
I have a post on the small matter of tomorrow’s Massachusetts Senate election underway, but figured I’d fire this off ASAP. Dempsey was injured in Fulham’s 2-0 loss to Blackburn Rovers yesterday, which is not a positive development for the US MNT’s chances in the upcoming World Cup.

A Couple Random Soccer Bits

[ 0 ] December 10, 2009 |

As the USA and England are renewing their bitter competitive rivalry after a 60 year hiatus (not counting friendlies), the NYT reprises the 1950 World Cup match won by the USA, 1-0.

I’m going to love being in England for the England v USA WC match. Just love it.
Landon Donovan appears set for a three-month loan move to Everton. As regular readers know, I naturally support this.
I’m probably going to be largely inactive over the next few days, as on Saturday morning I depart for a month in the USA, and have a sea of lectures to give between then and now. The only lengthy layover I have on this itinerary is at SEA, eagerly awaiting a wee little Horizon flight down to PDX that was originally forecast to deposit me in the midst of an ice storm. At least I’ll have a long spell on board an Air France A330 across the Atlantic to consider that flight, which will get my mind off of the less-than-perfect record those AF A330s have going across the Atlantic.

World Cup draw Part II

[ 1 ] December 6, 2009 |

I largely agree with everything that Paul has written, and the comments thread off of that one is excellent. Having had my daughter for the last three days, I’ve not had an opportunity to do much of, well, anything beyond pay her attention and acquiesce to her three-year old demands, so now that I have a moment, I’ll offer some comments.

I’ll take this group by group, and go out on a limb and predict the qualifiers (in order), and then have a bit more to say about our [*] chances at the end, tomorrow.
Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France.
Prediction: Mexico, France.
This group has been underrated, especially by the French media. Yes, S.A. are not so good, and in the international media they are two names, in this order: Pienaar and McCarthy. But I own a Kaizer Chiefs jersey so I figure I should defend these guys (the Chiefs were in Durban the same time I was; they for a match, me for a conference, they checked in as I checked out, and I said hey, can I? Couldn’t tell the lads that I really wanted an Orlando Pirates jersey, could I?) SA will have the home side advantage, and as Paul notes, the host side has pretty much always made it out of the group stage. Second, there is talent there. I know this kid probably will only see garbage time, but a name to remember is Claasen. Plays for Jonge Ajax. If I remember anything from my three years in Amsterdam and Holland, it’s that Ajax still have one of the best youth academies on the planet.
All that said, they don’t qualify. Why Mexico over France? Having watched both legs of an above average Ireland side against France, the latter were out played. France aren’t France any longer. Furthermore, and critically as any Yank knows, altitude matters. Mexico are conditioned and used to playing in Azteca Stadium. I haven’t looked at the fixtures that close, but the critical match in this group, France v Mexico, is at altitude.
Our rivals to the south take this group. And Uruguay don’t suck either, even though they did a France themselves to get past Costa Rica in the playoff.
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece.
Prediction: Argentina, Greece.
This is a tough group on several levels. First, who manages Argentina? If it’s the original Hand of God, he has, as one British broadsheet said yesterday, an inimitable ability to make a good side look crap. Give Messi, Aimar, et al. a proper manager, they top the group easy. But it gets a bit more complicated below Argentina. Greece are not what they were in Euro 2004. But then Nigeria also aren’t what they once were. These days, the Super Eagles have Nwankwo Kanu leading the side (and the front line), with the still emerging talent of Mikel Obi as the future. Any Arsenal fan will have an opinion on the soon-to-be relegated Kanu. I don’t see Nigeria being what they once were. I suspect that South Korea finish third ahead of Nigeria, and it’s not because Celtic signed Ki Sung-Yong. There’s more talent in every position on this side, whereas Nigeria seem to be isolating their value in a few key players.
Group C: England, United States, Algeria, Slovenia.
Prediction: England, United States.
Right. Don’t underestimate Slovenia, any of you.
Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana.
Prediction: Germany and Serbia (and a punt).
Germany win this group. But any of the other three can finish second. If I had to bet, I would bet on Serbia, but don’t underestimate the Australians (see 2006.) And if England finish first, and the Australians finish second, your best match of the last 16 (outside of the match the Americans are playing in) is England – Australia, just for the sheer provincial jingoistic value of it (it would be like cricket in reverse).
And Ghana may be all about Essien in the international media, but they have a reputation of being well organized in a disorganized way. Which, as a faux statistician, I can appreciate. But more critically, they have a lot of youth, and their kids have done well in FIFA tournaments in the past decade or so. That said, I still see them finishing last in this tough group. Serbia are that good.
It’s a tough one to call, Group D.
Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon.
Prediction: Holland and Denmark.
The Oranje are not playing ‘total football’, and they’re better for it — they haven’t had a Cruyff, Neeskens, or even a van Basten in a generation or two. Hell, Bergkamp hasn’t played for the Oranje since Euro 2000. They win easily. The Ajax keeper is solid, van Bronckhorst only gets better with age, van Bommel has peaked but is still useful, hopefully van Persie is fit, and the rest, man, we wish we had this side. Denmark have a core of talent that has peaked under excellent management — allowing Martin Olsen to manage the side since . . . when? 2000. This has instilled a sense of stability, and considering, superficially, the relatively thin side talent-wise, this is impressive. They topped Portugal and Sweden (and an impressive Hungary side) in qualification. Japan always play well, and are smattered with some talent (Nakamura, who plays for Espanyol, has the best free kick on the planet, Beckham be damned, but then I am a Celtic supporter), but aren’t up to the Danes. Cameroon have to be a dark horse here. Look at their squad on Wiki, and you’ll see if I am not mistaken, aside from two poor souls who play for Spurs, they each play at different top flight clubs in the top five leagues (aside from the few stragglers who are playing for clubs in Turkey (2), Scotland (N’Guemo has the misfortune of playing for Tony Mowbray at Celtic), Austria and Switzerland). A lot of quality in that side.
Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia.
Prediction: Italy, Paraguay.
Italy are old, over rated, and I dislike them with a passion I would normally hold in reserve for Rangers. But this group is a cakewalk. Slovakia are touted in the European media, because of their group performance. But let’s look at that closely. Who were in that group:
Slovakia
Slovenia
Czech Republic
Norn Iron
Poland
The Mountaintop (San Marino)
I know I gave Slovenia some cred above, but that’s based on their playoff performance against a real side: Russia. This group ought to have resulted in the Czechs and Poland, but both sides were fragile and thin. And as much as I love Northern Ireland and David Healy et al., let’s be realistic: Norn Iron gave this group a respectable run. If the Northern Irish are giving your group a run, it’s not a strong group. There is some quality in Slovakia, especially at the back, but I don’t see them going through.
Paraguay, on the other hand, took four points out of six from Argentina in qualification, won at home and lost away with Brazil (but the goal differential was in Paraguay’s favor: 3-2), lost at home to Chile 0-2 yet won away 3-0 . . . I have to go with Paraguay for second here.
Who was the fourth side in this group? Oh right. The All Whites. Who wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for Australia’s defection to Asia. If their playoff hero is one Rory Fallon, of my local side Plymouth Argyle (who have been in the relegation zone all season of the English second tier) and one of their best players is Chris Killen, of Celtic (who rarely sees the pitch), you’re in trouble. They do have Ryan Nelson, who allegedly plays respectfully for Blackburn Rovers . . .
Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Cote D’Ivoire, Portugal.
Prediction: Brazil (going out on a limb here I am), Cote D’Ivoire.
The so called group of death. It isn’t. It’s not as though every tournament every year requires a group of death. In 2006, Italy, USA, Czech Republic, Ghana, now that was a group of death. On paper, at least until Arena’s side played, there was no pushover. Everybody should get 3 from our nuclear-eneabled friends of the Axis of Evil. Unless Kim calls in an airstrike.
Why Cote D’Ivoire and not Portugal? I’d like to say it’s because the Ivory Coast had a much more impressive qualification run than Portugal did, but let’s be honest: they didn’t. Portugal had a more difficult path, until the playoffs, where they barely managed to get past Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is gut instinct here, Portugal are over-rated, I have a dislike for one Ronaldo that I would normally reserve for the Kenny Millers and Barry Fergusons of the world, and I feel it’s Cote D’Ivorie’s time.
Oh, and they have a couple blokes who play up front for Chelsea.
Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile.
Prediction: Spain, Chile.
Spain are Spain. The Confederations Cup blip aside, they’re currently in my (Yank) opinion, the best side on the planet. This group comes down to second, and even here, it’s an easy call. Chile performed admirably in a difficult qualification group, finishing second. As much respect as I have for the Swiss side, who have done a good job in the past several tournaments (they have a tendency to qualify . . . and I’ll leave others to exploit the obvious stereotypical cliches) their qualification run wasn’t exactly challenging. It was Greece. Whom they beat by a single point. Somehow, Luxembourg took five points out of this group.
[*] Being a beersnob of some repute, I belong to something of an ad-hoc yet exclusive international mailing list of like minded arrogant fucks (and this is as exclusive as I ever will be: a bunch of pissheads who know their way around a pint). Several of the guys (and yes, sadly, we’re all guys) on the list follow this game. So when the draw was made, I sent out an email to said list, and said something to the effect that “we can make it out of this group”. The first response was from a friend of mine who resides in Manhattan (and by virtue of his owning season tickets to the Yankees, an eternal enemy of LGM): “Who is the “we” (though I have a feeling you mean both your native and adopted lands)?”
I don’t mean both.
UPDATE: Randy Paul’s predictions at Beautiful Horizons match mine, aside from having France win their group (I predict Mexico) and swapping Chile and Switzerland . . . more people seem to be going for the Swiss, but I’m sticking to my guns.
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