Posts Tagged ‘Kaka’

There have been an outrageous amount of horrible calls and missed calls throughout this World Cup, that have spurred renewed conversation of FIFA’s use of technology and instant replay during the World Cup. With most of the talk being motivated by horrible foul calls, I’m really hoping this doesn’t happen. I’m not against instant replay. I think it has its place in football (the American type) and basketball. And although I would agree with The Mark, who earlier wrote about his opposition to using replay in baseball (see Baseball Is Just Fine The Way It Is), I really don’t have a strong opposition to it in baseball, I would just like to keep the game as traditional as possible…but with the addition of steroids, the designated hitter, the wild card, and relief pitchers in the last half decade, I’m basically giving up my hopes on that. While I think instant replay may have a place in soccer, it’s a small place at best, and wouldn’t help right the foul calls that have people upset.

For Foul Calls?

My opposition pretty much comes down to one thing, soccer is just too fast paced to have instant replay. Replay is fine in other sports that have breaks and adequate time between plays. Football, there’s almost always a 30 second break after each play, except for in the sadly underused no huddle offense; In basketball when each team has 5-6 timeouts per half and there are 30 stops for free throws per game, they are not concerned with adding a couple more breaks to review questionable calls. Soccer on the other hand has zero timeouts per game and rarely has stops over a couple seconds. There are hardly pauses for most foul calls, as most teams are trying to get the game going before the other team has a chance to reset. This sort of play also allows for an advantage to the most physically fit team, so to add a break for instant replay would take away strategy and advantage from the game.

If they don’t decide to stop the game, then the other option would be to let play resume and review, but how would they correct the call. Reverse the call and reset the game clock to where it was? Offer a makeup call? Basically, when it comes down to putting instant replay in effect, you can either stop the game and ruin the pace of the game or you can let the game proceed and have no effective way to reverse an incorrect call.

Also consider though, since there is so much interpretation involved in what’s a foul, yellow, and red card, it’s practically impossible to have a perfectly called game. What I think is a yellow card is a foul to someone else, what some else thinks is a red, I think is a yellow. Is a player intentionally hitting someone or was it an accident (foul or yellow)? Replay will never solve the difference in interpretation and if done by a review booth, could potentially cause inconsistency in calls.

If any of the people who were bitching that instant replay was necessary in soccer for foul calls could please tell me how they planned on enacting it without destroying the game, that would be greatly appreciated.

For Goals, Red Cards?

I will agree with the pro-instant replay people that it should be used on goals (unless sensors start getting used, which would be even better). Unlike most other stops to the game, this stop is longer, with adequate time to review the call from a booth. And it’s the most crucial part of the game to call correctly. I don’t see this having a huge effect on the game except ensuring accuracy.

There are some areas that still lie in a gray area for me, though, such as the review of red cards. I don’t think it was fair that Kaka had to sit out a game for his slight brush against Keita that sent him (evidently convincingly enough) crashing to the ground in the worst imaginary injury to date in the World Cup. All review showed that this was simply a case of Keita abusing slight contact and the ref’s bad view of the situation. So, do we undermine the refs and review double yellows? And again, do we undermine them and tell them that what they saw as an intentional foul, which should merit a yellow, we happened to feel was unintentional and should simply be a foul call? I think there should still be no instant replay with these, since it’s just too complicated to reverse, just as I said with a regular foul call, but it hurts me to say that when there are clear mistakes being made.

So We Just Let The Horrible Officiating Continue?

There’s bound to be error in soccer, I know. It’s very difficult to be in proper position when the ball is moving so quickly, there’s no way to always be in a correct position to see any possible call and foul, and to add to that, the ref is running the whole time while trying to keep an eye on 22 people at once. But I’m not asking for perfection, I’m just asking for the copious amount of bullshit calls to be reduced to a small handful.

While I disagree with instant replay, there needs to be some change in the officiating. I don’t know that I can stand to watch another World Cup where players spend more time on the ground fake crying than up on their feet actually playing the game; I’ve already lived through Vlade Divac’s career and don’t care to see this type of play in any sport again.

Other solutions.

More refs. Baseball has 4 umps for a max of 13 players and they are watching a much more limited area of play, and all of this with more time to react, instant replay for homeruns, the ability to consult each other, and even more umps in playoffs. Football has 7 officials for 22 players and are watching 1 direction of play (for the most part) and all of this with only one play going on at a time, time to consult, instant replay, and booth review. Basketball has 3 officials for 10 players and are watching on a much more limited court size, and all this with the ability to consult and have instant replay. Basically what we see with soccer is there are fewer officials, more players, and due to the speed of the game and the inability to consult at length, 2 of the 3 officials have a lot of power taken out of their hands and the power really lies with the head ref. This has just been encouraging the fake fouls, since the players are taking advantage of the lack of vision on the field. I think the addition of more refs, (maybe another on field, and split power like in basketball?) would discourage this embarrassing behavior.

"The foul's on......eh, who cares?"-Coulibaly

Explanations. One thing that’s clearly necessary is justification of calls. I don’t think that the Coulibaly call is evidence of a need for replay as much as it’s evidence for mandatory explanations. The Bearded Man just wrote about this in his recent controversial post Why The World Cup Sucks and I absolutely, absolutely agree. The fact that he is unable to say who the foul is being called on is unacceptable. Even worse is FIFA’s avoidance to address the issue. Even as quick paced as the game is, he does have the two seconds it takes to tell a scorekeeper the players number. There’s no point in having headsets if they’re clearly not being used properly.

All I can say, is hopefully some sort of change will be made. I would like instant replay to stay out of the game, but if it does in fact sneak its way in, at least I won’t have to watch another miserable World Cup with the refs being the third team on the field.

-The Sand-Rant

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Day twenty-two saw Brazil’s run come to an end and Asamoah Gyan (Rennes) miss one of the biggest penalty kicks in the history of the World Cup.  It doesn’t top Roberto Baggio’s miss in 1994 but it’s up there.  The Netherlands find a way to fight back against Brazil and Uruguay continues its improbable run to the Finals.  With Brazil gone, it’s anybody’s tournament to win.

One of my darkest moments as a sports fan.

On to the games:

Netherlands – Brazil (2-1)

Goals – Robinho (BRA) 10′, Felipe Melo (BRA) 53′ own goal, Sneijder (NED) 68′

Red Card – Felipe Melo (BRA) 73′

Brazil scored at 10′ and it seemed like this was gonna be another Brazil highlight reel.  The Netherlands could not get anything going in the first half.  Brazil was running them all over the field on offense and were swarming them on defense.  Luckily, the half ended and Brazil was only up 1-0.  Manageable.

The second half started and it was a totally different game.  Brazil slowed its pace, looking content to hold on, and the Netherlands picked it up.  On offense they were stringing passes together and on defense they were coming up big.  An accidental header by Felipe Melo (Juventus) tied the game and Brazil seemed stunned.  Fifteen minutes later Wesley Sneijder (Inter) scores and panic started to set in for Brazil.  Melo then gets red carded for stomping Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) and the Dutch had the man advantage for the last 17+ minutes of the game.

Brazil tried to go forward but the Netherlands defense was up for it.  Andre Ooijer (PSV Eindhoven), a last-minute starter in place of  Joris Mathijsen (Hamburger SV), was brilliant.  He didn’t let anyone get by him and was physical to boot and the Brazilian players hate that.  The final whistle blew and I think most of the world was stunned.

How did Brazil fall apart so quickly to start the second half and how did the Netherlands adjust so quickly?  It was a fantastic game.  Robben, Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) and Sneijder didn’t seem too friendly out there and it seemed like there was some tension between them.  I know the team didn’t take too kindly to Van Persie’s actions after being substituted in the round of sixteen game earlier in the week and that spilled over in to practice.

The referee wasn’t that great and he lost control of the game somewhere late in the first half.  The players didn’t respect him and were jawing all game at him and he didn’t even card anyone for it.  A yellow card early in the game would’ve put an end to that.  Referee Yuichi Nishimura(JPN) always felt the need to explain himself to the players whenever he blew the whistle so there were a lot of conversations between him and the teams.  It’s like he had to validate why he blew the whistle and that’s not a good sign.

Yes i just blew the whitsle now let me tell you why

Brazil did a lot of complaining in this game and obviously the Dutch got under their skin in the second half and threw them off their game.  Usually Brazil does the talking with their play and not their mouths.  Dunga is probably already gone as Brazil’s coach and if he isn’t, he will be soon.  Kaka (Real Madrid) was off but I think the whole Netherlands physicality thing had something to do with it.

Uruguay – Ghana (1-1) (4-2 PSO)

Goals – Muntari (GHA) 45’+2, Forlan (URU) 55′

Red Card – Suarez (URU) 120’+1

What a great game!.  It was back and forth all the way.  Ghana had more time of possession and shots on goal but the difference in the game was some quick thinking from Luis Suarez (Ajax) and a huge miss by Gyan.  Both these teams deserved the result but there had to be one winner.

Sulley Muntari (Inter) was finally deemed good enough to start for the Black Stars and it paid off.  Milovan Rajevic should’ve done more with him in this tournament.  Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) did a lot of work for Uruguay and was rightfully named Man of the Match.

As I said, the game was back and forth but the result hinged on a late game scramble in front of the Uruguay net.  The game was about to be headed to penalty kicks.  After the second extra time period but just before the whistle could come, Ghana made a late rush and two shots were saved on the goal before a third was saved by a handball from Suarez.  Luis Suarez was on the line and punched the ball out of the air that was destined for the back of the net.  I don’t know who shot it but it was going in if not for the quick thinking of Suarez.  The referee pointed to the spot and Suarez was shown the door.  The penalty kick was going to be the last play of the game.  Make it and the game is over, miss it and we go to penalties.  Asamoah Gyan places the ball down, takes a few steps, takes a shot, the goalie is beaten, CLANK!!!  The referee blew the whistle for time and we have penalties.  How did he miss it?  That has to go down as one of the worst, clutch misses ever but not the worst.  Suarez stayed around near the tunnel to see the outcome.  Once the ball hit off the crossbar he jumped for joy and went to the locker room.  Sure, Luis Suarez is suspended for the Semi-final but he had no other choice.

Ghana was devastated going into the penalty shoot out and after two Ghana misses, Sebastian Abreu (Botafogo) makes Uruguay’s fifth shot and the South Americans move on.  Gyan was inconsolable after the match.  He was crying like a baby.  What a game!  It’s sad that Gyan will be remembered by the miss because he did have a great tournament.

I had a good tournament, really!

Tonight we have Argentina – Germany and Paraguay – Spain.  The winner of the Argentina – Germany game should automatically become the favorite to win the whole thing.  Don’t miss it!  Remember this name: Mesut Oezil (Werder Bremen, for now).

One Reason to Watch

So before I get started, I have to give a little background. I had been really enjoying the country pride that Korea has and some exciting upsets, so my opinion of this whole soccer thing were beginning to change.  Before this year I wasn’t a soccer fan, but the World Cup obviously has another aspect that makes you watch -similar to speed skating in the Winter Olympics – you wouldn’t watch it any other time, but now when it’s the best in the world you go with it. There have still been so major flaws….

5) Anti-Climatic endings: fans do not seem to amp it up as it gets closer to half or the end of the game. Often the athletes seem inclined to accept the results at the three-minute mark, sometimes when it even means the difference between winning and tie.

4)… Speaking of ties. Why are they so satisfied to let games end this way? At least put on 15 to 20 minutes and see who can endure from there,  sudden death. Each team would probably have a possession or more, so sudden death should work. It works in hockey.

3) Unlike hockey though, there is a huge amount of faking or injuries, falls, etc. Especially, but not limited to, the European teams. This is not the players fault, FIFA has allowed this practice to become an effective method of gaining an advantage, its time for FIFA to pull in the reigns and force players to have some dignity on the field.

2) The lack of the worlds best athletes. If you tell me Kaka is…. you are highly confused. Just imagine how much damage someone like LeBron could do on the soccer field.

1) Explanation of calls on the field or off. I shouldn’t have to write this, really I shouldn’t. In what is the biggest global athletic event, in a globally televised game an official can make a call on the field without having to say who the foul is against is absurd. The official does not even have to write up a report on the game listing his calls. Other sports organization have offered explanations and sometimes even apologies for missed calls. Several at the highest levels use instant replay. I am not demanding instant replay, I am just pointing out the lack of accountability.  I can not speak of an agenda of an official, but it is possible, and without FIFA requiring explanations and justifications of calls, an official could fix the biggest tournament in the world. I want to see a Deadspin article with Donaghy breaking down the calls of the World Cup, instead of him telling me about the missed traveling violations in the final. Weird Tim, the NBA has not consistently called that in years, but I digress.

Anyways, none of these things are ground breaking.   They really would not change the game of soccer as seen on the field, the only one not easily solved is the athlete thing but I guess I can survive that, but it would make it a better game.  What do you think?

Day eighteen is in the books and Brazil and the Netherlands continue to roll.  Should be a good game this weekend when these two teams meet in the Quarter-finals.  Brazil looks too good at this point to say that they won’t win the whole thing.  Argentina is good but can they get past Germany in the Quarters?  Germany also make a case but don’t underestimate how bad England was when you look at the final score.  This weekend is going to be awesome!

On to the games:

Netherlands – Slovakia (2-1)

Goals – Robben (NED) 18’, Sneijder (NED) 84’, Vittek (SVK) 90’+4

Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) gets the start after his performance as a sub in the last group game.  Who did he replace?  You guessed it, Rafael Van Der Vaart (Real Madrid).  I’m pretty sure I said something about that before.  Robben is back in form and that’s dangerous to whoever has to play this Dutch team.

Bad news for Brazil?

Slovakia are just too young and inexperienced to really make a dent in the Netherlands’ hope of advancing.  Midfielder Vladimir Weiss (Manchester City) was back in the lineup for Slovakia.  God knows why?  If this team can stay together, I can see this team making noise in Euro 2012 and Brazil 2014.

On a side note, I was watching CNN International this morning because that’s the only news channel I get that’s not in Korean.  Woe is me.  CNN is terrible and especially terrible when it comes to sports.  CNN probably hasn’t been relevant on the sports scene since the late 80’s.  I wish we could get BBC or SKY but I don’t think it’s happening.  I was watching the highlights and Mark McKay called Arjen Robben, Aryan Robben.  I’m pretty sure it’s not Aryan.  Then you have Pedro Pinto overenunciating all the Latin/Spanish names and also naming those players by their nickname or using their middle name.  Diego Maradona is Diego Armando Maradona and Gonzalo Higuain is Gonzalo Pipito Higuain.  I don’t know what’s worse, CNN’s World Cup coverage or the biased ESPN coverage?  Poor CNN, they try so hard.

Breaking news: No one cares about CNN

Brazil – Chile (3-0)

Goals – Juan (BRA) 35’, Luis Fabiano (BRA) 38’, Robinho (BRA) 59’

Losing defenders Waldo Ponce (Univ. Catolica) and Gary Medel (Boca Juniors) to suspension didn’t help Chile.  The return of Kaka (Real Madrid) was a bad sign too.  Just too much Brazil.  Chile came out in a 4-3-3 and Mark Gonzalez (CSKA Moscow) finally got the start up front but that was short-lived.  Bielsa came to his senses and brought in midfielder Jorge Valdivia (Al Ain) to replace Gonzalez right after halftime and changed back to a 4-4-2.

This Brazil team seems to be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want.  That game against North Korea was just an anomaly.  The Netherlands are next but it remains to be seen if midfielders Elano (Galatasaray), Felipe Melo (Juventus) or Julio Baptista (AS Roma) will be back from injury by then.  Brazil went 5-3-2 in this game but if any of those players can be fit before the Netherlands game, there’s no reason they won’t go to a straight 4-4-2 formation.  We’ll see.

Luis Fabiano is the real deal

Tonight it’s Paraguay – Japan and Spain – Portugal.  I don’t have a clue who’s gonna win these games.  Paraguay has been solid but Japan has surprised me with how good they can play and defend.  I like Portugal in the second game but that’s just my gut.  Should be fun.

Of the three games on tap, only Brazil – Ivory Coast seemed interesting.  It wasn’t but there was one other game that was.  Italy should’ve killed New Zealand.  They didn’t.  Now, Group F is still wide open and the reigning champs are in danger of missing out on the second round.  This World Cup is starting to get interesting.  Well…more interesting.

On to the games:

Slovakia – Paraguay (0-2)

Goals – Vera (PAR) 27′, Riveros (PAR) 86′

Paraguay OWNED this game but, surprisingly, Slovakia held a slight edge in time of possession.  From what I could see, Slovakia didn’t really have a purpose or a plan when they had the ball.  Vladimir Weiss (Manchester City) had the ball a lot but he didn’t really do anything with it.  Slovakia had a ton of missed passes and off the mark shots.  It’s like Slovakia has never been pressed before because that’s what Paraguay did in all game.  Smart.

Sure, you had the ball but what did you do with it?

I’d be surprised if Paraguay didn’t handle New Zealand in their final game.  They moved the ball well and controlled the midfield against Slovakia.  Everyone on Group F is still alive but Paraguay surely goes through.

Italy – New Zealand (1-1)

Goals – Smeltz (NZL) 7′, Iaquinta (ITA) 29′ penalty

Italy continues to look plain in the World Cup.  God forbid they should ever score two against lowly New Zealand.  Let’s be honest, New Zealand doesn’t have many quality players.  Yet, they hung with the reigning champs.  Italy has never been a fan of making things easy.

The longer New Zealand could stay in this game the higher their confidence would be.  Shockingly, to the Italians and the world, they scored first and just like that, Italy were in trouble.  Italy regrouped and struck back on a Vincenzo Iaquinta (Juventus) converted penalty at 29′ and they took off from there.  Italy was peppering the New Zealand defense but the Kiwi’s were able to hold them off.  Good result from New Zealand, not so much for Italy.

New Zealand have two points after two games, two more than I thought they would have.  So much for them being one of the worst teams in the tournament.

Did anyone notice who the 4th official was for this game.  It was Koman Coulibaly from Mali.  Who’s that?  I’m sure American “fans” know.

Brazil – Ivory Coast (3-1)

Goals – Luis Fabiano (BRA) 25′ and 50′, Elano (BRA) 62′, Drogba (CIV) 79′

Red Card- Kaka (BRA) 88′

This was supposed to be the game of the day but it was a letdown.  Brazil seemed as thought they were toying with the Ivory Coast.  Another Sven Goren Erikkson team underperforms.  Why do teams still hire this guy?

Brazil looks to have bounced back from their lackluster performance against North Korea.  Kaka (Real Madrid) was on and played way better than in the first game.  Sure he got a red card and will miss the next game but who cares?  Brazil are already in round two.  Kaka gets to rest and be ready for the next round.

About that red card:  The Ivory Coast’s Kader Keita (Galatasaray) should either be punished or given an award for that performance.  Kaka shouldered him up but Keita acted as if he were punched in the face.  Terrible!

And the Oscar goes to...Kader Keita

Brazil looked like the powerhouse they are and with Germany looking plain against Serbia, Brazil look to be the class of the tournament.  They seem to be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want.

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

Uruguay (4), Mexico (4),  France (1), South Africa (1)

Group B:

Argentina (6), South Korea (3), Greece (3), Nigeria (0)

Group C:

Slovenia (4), USA (2), England (2), Algeria (1)

Group D:

Ghana (4), Germany (3), Serbia (3), Australia (1)

Group E:

Netherlands (6), Japan (3), Denmark (3), Cameroon (0) – Netherlands advance, Cameroon eliminated

Group F:

Paraguay (4), Italy (2), New Zealand (2), Slovakia (1)

Group G

Brazil (6), Portugal (1), Ivory Coast (1), North Korea (0) – Brazil advance, Portugal/North Korea still to play

Group H

Chile (3), Switzerland (3), Spain (0), Honduras (0)

The World Cup is finally here and I’m here to get you up to speed on what’s gonna happen in South Africa.  Remember to come back after every matchday to get my thoughts on what’s going on in the World Cup.

I don’t think there’s much excitement from the other contributors at Reverse Oreo Sports but my excitement level is at near Wrestlemania levels.  As I stated in my preview to this preview, I haven’t missed a minute of the World Cup since 1994.  I watched a ton of games between 1982 and 1990 but they didn’t always have every game on or I would have been all over them too.  I’m already planning my sleep schedule around these games because living in Korea means we’ll have games starting at 8:30 pm and the latest game starting at 3:30 am.

There are so many great players in this World Cup but it seems to me that there are not that many great teams.  Before writing this post I was all over England and germany doing well in the tournament but looking at the groups and the games more closely, I’ve had a change of heart.  I want England to win but I just don’t think they can.  Fabio Capello might be able to get more out of England than any other coach but it may not be enough.  Italy shouldn’t do well but somehow they’ll manage.  So many storylines and that’s what makes the World Cup so great.

World Cup 2010 in South Africa should be interesting.  The venue makes it even more interesting.  Will there be problems?  I hope not.  Africa deserved to finally host this prestigious tournament and South Africa was probably the best choice.  I’m sure there will be minor glitches but there always are, except at Germany 2006 because the Germans know how to get things done.

I grew up watching Italy because the family is from there so they will always be my team but this team is annoying the hell out of me.  For the past eight years this team has been so whiney and annoying that it’s been hard for me to root for them but I always do and always will.  I’m looking forward to the new generation of Italian stars.  Maybe they’ll be more tolerable than this one.

Let me drop some knowledge on you.

Group A (France, Mexico, South Africa, Uruguay):

France

As we all know, France shouldn’t be in this World Cup but they are and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t make it out of this group.  They’re stacked but this team won’t go too far.  Hugo Lloris (Lyon) is one of the top keepers in the world so he should be solid.  On of my favorite players, Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), is on this team but the player to watch might be midfielder Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux).  He was with AC Milan for a bit but they let him loose (too soon).  Everyone wants him and he should be moving on to bigger and better things later this summer.

Mexico

My sleeper team in this World Cup is Mexico.  I have them making some noise in this tournament.  They’re a young team with a surprising amount of European based players.  It’s probably the most European based players Mexico has ever had going into any World Cup.  Giovani Dos Santos (Galatasaray) should be the star and he can make things happen.  I saw Mexico beat Italy last week in a friendly and Mexico just looked faster, quicker and had more energy than the Italians.

Giovani Dos Santos will make some noise

South Africa

South Africa are the hosts but that might be all they have going for them.  No host nation has ever failed to make it out of the first round.  This might be the year it happens.  Steven Pienaar (Everton) is the brightest star on this team but the rest of the squad is so-so.  There are sixteen South African League based players and I don’t think that’s a good thing.  Anyway, thanks for hosting.

Uruguay

I want to like Uruguay but they might not have enough to get themselves to the second round.  Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) and Luis Suarez (Ajax) should give teams fits but the midfield is where they might not stack up.  I hope Palermo’s Edinson Cavani gets a chance to show his stuff but most likely England is in his future.

Group winner:  Mexico

Runner-up:  France

Group B (Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Republic, Greece):

Argentina

How does a team as stacked as Argentina limp into the World Cup?  Somehow Diego Maradona is a big help and a huge hinderance to this team.  Hopefully he can keep it together through the tournament without hitting or shooting anyone.  The Inter duo of Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso are huge omissions but let’s not forget that the greatest player in the world is on this team.

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) should OWN this World Cup.  If he struggles, so does Argentina.  If Diego Milito (Inter) is his strike partner, they should be unstoppable.  Will Carlos Tevez (Man City, for now) get the nod over Milito?  Tough choices for El Pibe de Oro.  By the way, Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid) and Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid) are also forwards on this team.  That’s a nice problem to have.

The king of the (soccer) world

Nigeria

This team should do well but will they?  Playing on African soil doesn’t hurt.  Nigeria has a lot of good players but not great ones and that’s what will keep them down.  Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg) is key for this team.

Korea Republic (the good one)

South Korea has a ton of talent but most of it is in the midfield.  Park Ji Sung (Manchester United), Lee Chung Yong (Bolton), and Kim Sung Yeung (Celtic) will control the game for the Reds but who’s gonna put the ball in the net?  Park Chu Young (AS Monaco) is on the big stage playing in France but he only had eight goals in twenty appearances in Ligue 1.  An aging Ahn Jung Hwan (Dalian Shide) is on this team but it may only be for sentimental purposes.  Lee Seung Yeoul (FC Seoul) probably be the player to pick up the slack.

Greece

Sure Greece won Euro 2004 but what have you done lately?  This team doesn’t scare me one bit.  Georgios Samaras (Celtic) and Sotirios Kyrgiakos (Liverpool) are probably the best players on this team.  I would tell you about more players but I don’t want to type all those a’s, o’s, i’s, u’s, s’s and t’s.

Group winner:  Argentina

Runner-up:  South Korea

Group C (Algeria, England, Slovenia, USA):

Algeria

At first I thought this team was France II but, looking at their roster, I was wrong.  Algerian players are all over Europe, not just France.  They play in nine different European leagues.  Algeria was good enough to beat African powerhouses Egypt to make it to the World Cup but not good enough to make it out of the first round in South Africa.

England

This England team is very good but it will only go as far as their goalkeeping will take them and that’s the problem.  David James (Portsmouth) is shaky, Joe Hart (Birmingham City) is young and Robert Green (West Ham) is new.  If Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) continues his hot form, this team will be fun to watch.

Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United) is out but that’s not the biggest loss to this team, Owen Hargreaves (Manchester United) is.  Hargreaves was by far the best player for England in Germany 2006.  He could play anywhere and came up huge when the team needed him.  Sadly, he hasn’t played much in the last 19 months due to an injury.  Versatile players are gold to a team.

You will be missed Owen Hargreaves

Slovenia

This team usually does not play good defensively but Bostjan Cesar (Grenoble) will be their rock on defense and it should improve.  This is a very young team.  I don’t know why but this team will make some waves in this group.  I’m a sucker for teams that have players whose last names end in ic.  Maybe that’s why I also like Serbia in this tournament.  Samir Handanovic (Udinese) is a proven keeper in Serie A and that could be the difference between them finishing second or third.

USA

As much as I’m not a fan of USA Soccer, this team has talent.  Not just mediocre MLS talent but talent with real European experience.  I hope they’re not expecting too much from Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), seeing as how he missed the entire Serie A season due to an injury.  Plus, he just wasn’t that good when he was healthy anyway.  Is Jozy Altidore (Hull City) the answer?  He didn’t do much in England this year.  I’m sure the big fish in a small pond, Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) will get a lot of face time.  Whatever!

One of the reasons why I like the World Cup is because it’s the time every four years when the US pretends to care about soccer and vow to take it to the next level in the hearts of all Americans.  Not so much.  They forget that four years ago the level of interest was exactly the same, no more, no less.

Group winner:  England

Runner-up:  Slovenia

Group D (Australia, Germany, Ghana, Serbia):

Australia

Australia has a lot of players you may have heard of but none that really scare you.  Tim Cahill (Everton) is their biggest weapon but he’s struggling to be fit for the opener against Germany.  Don’t expect too much from this team.

Germany

Germany is a machine when it comes to big time competitions.  Michael Ballack (Chelsea) is out but I’m sure this team will be just fine.  Expect big things from Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (FC Cologne) and Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich).

Bastian will be Germany's BMOC

Ghana

Because of their quickness and pace, Ghana did a lot of damage in the 2006 World Cup but this team might not be as good as that one.  The loss of Michael Essien (Chelsea) is a big one.  Sulley Muntari (Inter) and Stephen Appiah (Bologna) will have to carry the load.  Another African team that won’t go far.

Serbia

Serbia, formally known as Serbia and Monetenegro, formally known as Yugoslavia, are very talented.  Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Aleksandar Kolarov (Lazio). Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea), Dejan Stankovic (Inter) and Nikola Zigic (Valencia) are all big stars in Europe and they can get this team out of the first round.  The only problem I see is that they have a retread in Radomir Antic at the helm.

Group winner:  Germany

Runner-up:  Serbia

Group E (Cameroon, Denmark, Japan, Netherlands)

Cameroon

You never know which Cameroon team will show up to the big games.  This team is very young.  Even Samuel Eto’o (Inter)  is only 28 years old.  Cameroon might do better in another group but Denmark and the Netherlands are better.

Denmark

This team should have a pretty good defense with the likes of Christian Poulsen (Juventus), Daniel Agger (Liverpool), Simon Kjaer (Palermo) and Per Kroldrup (Fiorentina).  That’s formidable.  Forward Nicklas Bendtner (Liverpool) likes like he’ll be back from a groin injury in time for the opener.  Not too many people are talking up Denmark but this is a solid team.

Japan

Most likely a down tournament for Japan.  Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow) and Shunsuke Nakamura (Yokohama F Marinos) are the stars but there is little else to be excited about.  They were beaten at home 2-0 by South Korea in a friendly in late May.

Netherlands

This team is filled with talent but the injury to Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) casts a big shadow over the team.  He’s surely out of the opener with Denmark.  I think they might be able to do without him for the opening round of this weak group.  Mark Van Bommel (Bayern Munich), Wesley Sneijder (Inter) and Nigel De Jong (Manchester City) can pick up the slack until round two.  Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) and Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan) should be lethal up front.  Huntelaar is my pick to be among the top scorers in the tournament.

I can see this guy scoring a lot of goals

Group winner:  Netherlands

Runner-up:  Denmark

Group F (Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia)

Italy

How Antonio Cassano (Sampdoria) and Fabrizio Miccoli (Palermo) didn’t make this team is beyond me but coach Lippi has his “guys” and who are we to change his mind?  There has to be a reason why Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus) is on this team.  It just can’t be the fact that he plays for Juventus.

Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan) looks like he’ll be ready for the opener but he might still sit out just to be safe.  He suffered a groin injury in a friendly against Mexico last week.  He’s key.  This team is an older team and don’t expect them to repeat.  They’ll get lucky like they always do and go far but no more magic.

New Zealand

This team should be happy to be here.  If Australia stays in the Oceania region then the Kiwi’s are just watching this tournament on television.  New Zealand is probably one of the worst teams in the World Cup.  There are quite a few local players on this team and that’s not good (see South Africa).  Plus, there are two players who aren’t even attached to a league team anywhere.  How does that happen?  Not much to say.

Paraguay

Looks like a solid team and hopefully Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City) can knock off some the rust and make a difference for this team.  Paraguay likes to grind out games and they’re not big on scoring in the World Cup.  Let’s hope they can be more interesting this year.  They’re lucky to be in this weak group.

Slovakia

As far as I can tell, Marek Hamsik (Napoli) and Martin Skrtel (Liverpool) are the best players on this team and everyone else is “good”.  Not good enough for this World Cup but this is a really young team.  Watch out for the Czech Republic’s less popular sister at Brazil 2014.

It's too soon for Hamsik but at Brazil 2014, watch out for Slovakia

Group winner:  Italy

Runner-up:  Paraguay

Group G (Brazil, Ivory Coast, Korea DPR, Portugal)

Brazil

No Ronaldinho, no problem.  Brazil is just Brazil.  They got younger and are just as good as ever.  Kaka (Real Madrid) is the key and it doesn’t matter who’s playing alongside him because they’re all good.  They’ll probably coast in the last game of round one because it won’t mean much.  Champs?

Ivory Coast

Before the tournament everyone tries to figure out which African team will go the furthest.  How about none of them?  They all don’t make it out of round one.  This is the best African team in the tournament but not the best African team out there.  Egypt would have done well had they been able to beat Algeria in the one-off game to get into the World Cup.  Too bad Didier Drogba (Chelsea) will be limited because of an elbow injury sustained during a friendly against Japan.  As Drogba goes, so does the team.

Korea DPR (the bad one)

Don’t know much about this team except that they only have three players who ply their trade abroad.  The rest of the players come from the PRK League and I have a feeling that league isn’t one of the strongest in Asia.  They had a ton of trouble with Nigeria in a friendly last week.  I’ll be surprised if they score a goal.  On a side note, I heard that the North Korea games will be shown in the DPRK only if they win.  Looks like North Koreans won’t get the chance to see World Cup soccer.

Win or don't come home

Portugal

If Portugal can take time away from diving to actually play good soccer, they will have no trouble in this group.  The Brazil-Portugal match-up will be one of the marquee games of this tournament.  Too bad it’s the last game in the group and won’t mean much.  Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) will own the center of the midfield and Nani (Manchester United) should be causing trouble over on the right side.  Defensively they’re solid.

Group winner:  Brazil

Runner-up:  Portugal

Group H (Chile, Honduras, Spain, Switzerland)

Chile

Chile will make it out of this group because they’re better than Honduras and Switzerland but not much further than that.  Mark Gonzalez (CSKA Moscow) and Humberto Suazo (Zaragoza) will team up at forward and should be able to punish everyone except Spain.

Mark Gonzalez should be enough to get Chile over

Honduras

Honduras has some quality players.  Wilson Palacios (Tottenham), Maynor Figueroa (Wigan), David Suazo (Genoa), and Victor Bernardez (Anderlecht) have made it in Europe but I’m not sold on the rest.

Spain

Remember when Spain was supposed to go into World Cups and European Cups and be great, only to fade early?  I do.  Am I supposed to forget about that since they won Euro 2008?  Looking at this team, maybe I can.  Will Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal, for now) be fit?  That’s huge.  David Villa (Barcelona) and Fernando Torres (Liverpool) should score lots of goals.  This team goes far.

Switzerland

Switzerland has a collection of good but not great players.  No one really excites me enough to choose Switzerland over Chile.

Group winner:  Spain

Runner-up:  Chile

Round 2 (Round of 16):

1A v 2B – Mexico v Korea – Winner:  Mexico

1C v 2D – England v Serbia – Winner:  England

1D v 2C – Germany v Slovenia – Winner:  Germany

1B v 2A – Argentina v France – Winner:  Argentina

1E v 2F – Netherlands v Paraguay – Winner:  Netherlands

1G v 2H – Brazil v Chile – Winner:  Brazil

1F v 2E – Italy v Denmark – Winner:  Italy

1H v 2G – Spain v Portugal – Winner:  Spain

Quarterfinal:

Netherlands v Brazil – Winner:  Brazil

Mexico v England – Winner:  England

Argentina v Germany – Winner:  Germany

Italy v Spain – Winner:  Spain

Semifinal:

England v Brazil – Winner:  Brazil

Brazil will be too fast for England.

Germany v Spain – Winner:  Spain

Germany will want to try and slow this game down but they might not be able to stop Spain

Final

Brazil v Spain

If this final happens it will be one of the best finals ever.

Champion

Brazil

This team is just too stacked to not win the World Cup.

Top Scorers:

Lionel Messi

Klaas Jan Huntelaar

David Villa

World Cup MVP:

Kaka

I didn’t mention them but I hope the referees don’t ruin this World Cup.  Be consistent and don’t try to be an important part of the game.  If you go through a game without noticing the referee, that’s a good referee.  Unfortunately, Olegario Benquerenca of Portugal is one of the referees in the tournament.  I mentioned him in February and said he shouldn’t get another big game after his performance in the AC Milan – Manchester United Champions League, round of 16, first leg match.  Somehow, he’s in South Africa.  Roberto Rosetti of Italy is also in the World Cup.  Why?  Is this the best Italy can produce?

Enjoy the World Cup.  I know I will.

Looks like the trophy will be headed to Brazil. Hopefully no one steals it, again