Posts Tagged ‘South Korea’

Day sixteen saw the start of the knockout stage round of sixteen games.  Both games were exciting and were in doubt until the final whistle.  Uruguay did enough in the first game to hold off South Korea.  In the second game, the USA didn’t do enough to hold off Ghana.  Now American fans can stop pretending to like soccer and go back to forgetting that soccer is even a sport until 2014 in Brazil.  MLS attendance isn’t going to skyrocket because of the USA’s performance in South Africa and soccer isn’t gonna surpass hockey to be the seventh most popular sport in the USA.  If someone tells you that, they’ve probably been saying the same thing since the 1994 World Cup in America.

on to the games:

Uruguay – South Korea (2-1)

Goals – Suarez (URU) 8′ & 80′, Lee Chung Yong (KOR) 68′

Uruguay scored early and didn’t seem interested in doing much except defending until South Korea scored midway through the second half.  South Korea deserved better.  They controlled the play but were unable to get the ball in the net.  A few posts here and there and they were stuck on one goal.

Luis Suarez’ (Ajax) first goal for Uruguay was odd.  Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) rolled a pass across the mouth of goal and South Korean keeper Jung Sung Ryong (Seongnam Ilwha Chunma) looked like he was going to steer the ball away but when he stretched, he didn’t quite stretch enough and Suarez was there all alone to put the ball in the net.  I think any other goalie in this tournament would’ve at least gotten a glove on the ball.

Suarez: In the right place at the right time

South Korea kept coming but Uruguay kept stopping them.  Diego Perez (Monaco) was everywhere and would’ve been my choice for Man of the Match if Suarez hadn’t scored two goals.  It probably helped that Perez is a teammate of Park Chu Young at Monaco.  Park Chu Young just couldn’t make the last move on the Uruguay defense.

After Lee Chung Yong (Bolton) scored, Uruguay turned it up again.  Edinson Cavani (Palermo) was building the Uruguay offense from midfield and he was playing both sides of the pitch.  Suarez scored with ten minutes to go but South Korea didn’t give up.  Defender Lee Young Pyo (Al Hilal) was making runs up the left side while his defense partner Cha Du Ri  (SC Frieburg) was doing the same on the right.  Somehow Uruguay was able to stop the final move to goal and they were through to the Quarterfinal.  Diego Forlan was quiet but it seemed Uruguay only really had three real chances to score.  Too bad for South Korea they scored on two of them.

USA – Ghana (1-2, aet)

Goals – Prince-Boateng (GHA) 5′, Donovan (USA) 62′ penalty, Gyan (GHA) 93′

USA had a slight edge in time of possession but it seemed like they controlled the game from the moment after Kevin Prince-Boateng (Portsmouth) scored for Ghana at 5′ until Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) scored at 62′.  Once this game was tied, Ghana seemed more interested in really going forward.  Both teams traded chances until the end of regulation.

Asamoah Gyan (Rennes) scored three minutes into the first extra time and that took a lot out of the Americans.  Ghana held on and they look like a team that can give any team fits.  They’ll be dangerous going forward.  This was the right result.  Ghana is just the better team.  Clint Dempsey (Fulham) was a monster.  He was going forwards and back all through the game.  He was the best player for the USA by far.

Dempsey: The man for the USA

The next set of games are Germany – England and Argentina – Mexico.  Both games should be awesome.  Germany and Argentina should win but who knows.  Maybe England will wake up and maybe Argentina will falter.  Who knows?  Watch, you won’t be disappointed.

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Day twelve was the start of the final games of round one.  Some teams were not mathematically assured to advance but they were pretty certain while others had to play their way in.  Everyone was alive in Group A & B so the games were bound to be exciting.  They were.

Aside from the actual games, the drama surrounding the French team was probably the biggest story of the day.  Would the players boycott the game or would they show up?  The result was going to be the same either way.  France played with little heart in their last game against Mexico.  Since then, Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea) was sent home for berating a French team official or coach Raymond Domenech, I’m not sure which.  The French players staged a revolt and refused to train on Sunday and their appearance in the final group game against South Africa was in doubt.  What a mess.  Domenech is a douche but he is still the coach and the players have to respect that and play the game.  It’s the World Cup, why would you decide to mess with that?  You never know, you may never get a chance to come back and play on the biggest stage in the sport.  They shouldn’t have been here anyway.  We should’ve been watching Ireland instead.

France Football is not without fault.  Domenech was on the brink of being fired before qualifying even began.  The players were losing respect for their coach and he had to prove his worth or be fired.  They snuck into the tournament in controversial fashion and yet Domenech was still the coach.  To make the situation worse, Laurent Blanc was named the new coach of France before the tournament.  So, you had a lame-duck coach in Domenech who was never really popular with the players and France in a World Cup that the entire world believed they didn’t deserve.  You had a feeling it wasn’t going to end well for this team.  France has been known to fold under the slightest of pressure and I don’t mean just on the soccer field.  Why did I think France was going to show up for this tournament and do enough to make it to the next round?  How stupid am I?

On to the games:

Mexico – Uruguay (0-1)

Goal – Suarez (URU) 43’

Going into the game both teams knew a draw was all it would take to move on and that’s how they played the game.  Mexico dominated time of possession but that’s deceiving because most of the game was played near midfield and it was all about not making mistakes.  Sure, Mexico wanted to win and claim first place so they wouldn’t have to face Argentina in round two but going through was the top priority.

Uruguay scored at the end of the first half on a Luis Suarez (Ajax) header and Mexico prayed South Africa wouldn’t beat France 4-0 or 5-1.  It didn’t happen and Mexico are moving on.

Mexican forward Carlos Vela (Arsenal) was injured so Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Veracruz)) started in his stead.  Andres Guardado (Deportivo La Coruna) finally got the start for Mexico and he rattled the post on an early long-distance shot from about 30 meters.  Francisco Rodriguez (PSV Eindhoven) missed a late game header but that wouldn’t have made much difference anyway.

Uruguay are playing some of the best soccer in the tournament.  Their passing is on the mark and they can control the ball well.  They’ve surprised me since they haven’t really been a force internationally for a while.

France – South Africa (1-2)

Goals – Khumalo (RSA) 20’, Mphela (RSA) 37’, Malouda (FRA) 70’

Red Card – Gourcuff (FRA) 25’

Would the French players even bother to show up for the game?  C’mon now, they aren’t that stupid are they?  Could you imagine the chaos if they boycotted the game?  The punishment would have been so severe.

Both teams knew that with some help and lots of goals they might be able to sneak in to the second round.  Not so much.  Bongani Khumalo (SuperSport Utd.) scored early and France could see the writing on the wall.  I thought Columbian referee Oscar Ruiz was a bit harsh with his red card to Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux) at 25’.  I saw the forearm but was that really his intent?  Not so sure on that.  Katlego Mphela (Mamelodi Sundowns) scored soon after and France was in all kinds of trouble.

South Africa was running a ten man France all over the pitch for the rest of the game.  Florent Malouda (Chelsea) scored for France at 70’ but that did more to dent South Africa’s hope than it did to help them.

France goes home as a major disappointment.  Laurent Blanc should have no problem turning this team around.  They have the players and I think the players should respect him (more).

Nigeria – South Korea (2-2)

Goals – Uche (NGA) 12’, Lee Jung Soo (KOR) 38’, Park Chu Young (KOR) 49’, Yakubu (NGA) 69’ penalty

Huge game for both teams.  Nigeria didn’t have any points after two games but they still had a chance to advance with a win because you had to figure Greece had no chance against Argentina.  If Nigeria won this game 1-0 or 2-0 they would advance with an Argentina victory over Greece.

On a side note, I got up at 3:15 am to catch the game.  I was legitimately excited about this game.  Everyone in town and at my school was buzzing about this game.

Korean coach Huh Jung Moo came to his senses and started defender Cha Du Ri (SC Freiburg).  I’m not saying South Korea beats Argentina last week if Cha plays but I would like to think it wouldn’t have been 4-1.  Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback still has me puzzled.  Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg) couldn’t find a place in the starting lineup, again.

When Kalu Uche (Almeria) scored for Nigeria at 12’ I did the math and South Korea were out.  I started to feel anxious.  Lee Jung Soo (Kashima Antlers) tied it up before the half and Park Chu Young (AS Monaco) put Korea ahead after the break and everything was going to be ok.  Not so fast.

Yakubu (Everton) converted a penalty at 69’ and the game was open again.  In the last twenty minutes Nigeria had some very good chances.  I forget who but I think Uche was all alone in front of goal late in the game and he pushed a shot wide left.  The keeper was no where in sight.  I think it was harder to miss than to make it.  South Korea survived and a nation rejoiced.

There were a lot of tired faces at school today but everyone said it was worth it.  They were right.

Greece – Argentina (0-2)

Goals – Demichelis (ARG) 77’, Palermo (ARG) 89’

Before I get to the game I have to tell you how excited I was that Martin Palermo (Boca Juniors) scored.  He’s like my favorite Boca player ever.  The 1995-2000 era Boca Juniors, next to any AC Milan team, are probably my favorite teams ever.  I couldn’t wait for Sunday afternoons when the games from Argentina would come on.  It didn’t matter who Boca played because they always put on a show.  Racing, River Plate, Huracan, whatever, they were fun to watch.  They had some exciting players.  Palermo, Jorge Bermudez, Cristian Traverso, the Schelotto brothers, Nicolas Burdisso, Mauricio “Chicho” Serna, Rodolfo Arruabarrena, Hugo Ibarra and I could go on and on.  Palermo’s career is winding down and it’s nice to see him score in the World Cup.

Sometimes crazy but always entertaining

I don’t really have much to say about the game.  Argentina coach Diego Maradona didn’t think this game was too important so he had only a few regulars starting the game, Lionel Messi (Barcelona) was one of them.  Too bad for the Greeks.  Greece never really threatened and Argentina controlled time of possession 67% to 33%.  There really should’ve been more goals from Argentina in this game but they really didn’t need them I guess.

Thanks for coming Greece.

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

Uruguay (7), Mexico (4),  South Africa (4), France (1) – Uruguay and Mexico advance

Group B:

Argentina (9), South Korea (4), Greece (3), Nigeria (1) – Argentina and South Korea advance

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 (4), Ivory Coast (1), North Korea (0) – Brazil advance, North Korea eliminated

Group H

Chile (6), Spain (3), Switzerland (3),  Honduras (0)

Day seven was very entertaining.  Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid) put on a show in the Argentina – South Korea game, Greece came back from the dead to beat a now dead Nigeria team and Mexico might have done enough against France to punch it’s ticket to the next round.  Day seven also showed that sometimes coaches can’t even get out of their own way.  Huh Jung Moo (South Korea) and Raymond Domenech (France) were too smart for themselves and decided to replace key players from game one with players who probably should’ve stayed on the bench.  Mind you, South Korea played well and won and France played well but drew.  More on that later.

On to the games:

Argentina – South Korea (4-1)

Goals – Park Chu Young (KOR) 17’ og, Higuain (ARG) 33’ 76’ 80’, Lee Chung Yong (KOR) 45’+1

Argentina thrashed South Korea but it could’ve been worse and at the same time, it wasn’t that bad.  Argentina was running South Korea ragged in the first half and the time of possession was lopsided in Argentina’s favor.  A quick Lee Chung Yong (Bolton) strike just before the stroke of halftime brought life to this game that was quickly getting out of hand.

South Korea took the momentum of that first half goal into the second half and had Argentina scrambling to recoup.  A second South Korean goal looked like it was imminent.  South Korea was getting close and getting close.  Park Chu Young (AS Monaco) and Lee Chung Yong were giving the Argentinian defense fits.  Then, Gonzalo Higuain spoiled the party and ended all hope for South Korea to get back in this game, let alone win.  2-1 is manageable but 3-1 is impossible.  South Korea knew they were defeated and Argentina kept their foot on the gas and Higuain scored the hat-trick to close the books on this game.

Higuain got it done against South Korea

You see the score and when a team scores four goals you think that the opposing goalkeeper had a bad game.  Not in this case.  The first Argentina goal came when a cross went off Park Chu Young’s leg and into his own goal.  Jung Sung Ryong (Suwon Bluewings) had no chance to keep the ball out of the net.  Jung made some fantastic saves and kept this game from being 6-1 or 7-1.

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) showed why he’s the best in the game right now.  He can do whatever he wants when he gets the ball.  It must be frustrating for defenders to know that whatever they do, this guy is still gonna get over on you.  He does so much work in such small space and needs minimal separation to get off a shot.

The thing that frustrated me as the game went on is that Cha Du Ri (SC Freiburg) didn’t start the game or even make an appearance.  I wrote after South Korea’s first game that Cha Du Ri was a monster and that he was all over the field causing trouble, not to mention how he was frustrating Greece with his defense.  So coach Huh Jung Moo decides that Oh Beom Seok (Ulsan Hyundai) is gonna do a better job stopping Carlos Tevez (Manchester City, for now) and Messi.  Wrong!  Most of the first half pressure came form the left side of the field (South Korea’s right) and Oh couldn’t handle it.  Why did Huh feel the need to make this change?

Park Ji Sung (Manchester United) was very disappointing.  He wasn’t involved much in the game and when he was, he wasn’t very effective.  I wouldn’t have minded if Hu had switched Park Ji Sung in the second half.

Greece – Nigeria (2-1)

Goals – Uche (NGA) 16’, Salpingidis (GRE) 44’, Torosidis (GRE) 71’

Red Card – Kaita (NGA) 33’

Before I get into this game, is Danny Shittu (Bolton) the fattest player in this World Cup?  Yes, he looks solidly built but fat is still fat.  Nigeria should’ve won this game because they are the better team.  In the early going it looked like Nigeria wasn’t going to have too much trouble with Greece.  Then, Sani Kaita (Alania Vladikavkaz) decided to show Vasileios Torosidis’ (Olympiakos) leg the bottom of his shoe.  The Referee had to show him the red and Kaiti was in disbelief.

Nice move Kaita

Greece then turned it up and Nigeria couldn’t keep up.  Greece ended the game with more than double the amount of Nigeria’s shots and shots on goal.  Greece could’ve had a third but two was enough.

I have to praise Greece’s coach Otto Rehhagel with his roster moves in this game.  Some coaches get it.  In game one I questioned why Sotirios Kyrgiakos (Liverpool) didn’t start, let alone play.  This game, Kyrgiakos starts.  Also in game one, I mentioned on how Georgios Samaras (Celtic) was a complete waste.  Samaras doesn’t start this game but Rehhagel brought him in as soon as Kaita was shown the red to bring in more attacking power.  Not starting Samaras was a good idea and so was bringing him in to strengthen the attack against a short-handed Nigeria.  Samaras did play better this game.  Maybe the benching got him to think about his play.  Who knows?

France – Mexico (0-2)

Goals – Hernandez (MEX) 64’, Blanco (MEX) 79’ penalty

Has a coach even been fired before during the World Cup?  I mean, have they been fired while their team was still in it?  If not, Raymond Domenech should be the first one.  If it’s already been done then he should join the list.  How does Youann Gourcuff (Bordeaux) not start this game, let alone play?  Next to Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Gourcuff has got to be one of the top, most important players on this team.  Florent Malouda (Chelsea) is very good but not good enough to play in the first game, a game France looked pretty good in.  Domenech decides France doesn’t need Gourcuff and so he wastes away on the bench while France sees it’s World Cup aspirations go down the drain.

As for the game, blah blah blah, France couldn’t finish but Mexico could.  Subs Javier Hernandez (Chivas) and Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Veracruz) score the goals for Mexico and their ticket is close to being punched for the second round.  Mexico – Uruguay should be very good.

Blanco's still got it

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 (3), USA (1), England (1), Algeria (0)

Group D:

Germany (3), Ghana (3), Serbia (0), Australia (0)

Group E:

Netherlands (3), Japan (3), Cameroon (0), Denmark (0)

Group F:

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

Group G

Brazil (3), Ivory Coast (1), Portugal (1), North Korea (0)

Group H

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

Day two was better than day one but the last game of the night, England – USA, had me regretting my decision to get up at 3:30 am to watch it.  Those horns are still annoying and I’m not sure how I’m gonna get through the tournament with that sound.  I could still hear them after the games were over.  Now the sound is in my head.  Damn you Vuvuzela!

I was supposed to watch the South Korea game on the big screen at the stadium here in Yeoncheon but it rained all day and I am too much of a pussy to sit out in the rain to watch a game.  Many brave souls who really love their team did end up making the trip to the stadium.  I was watching them out my window.  Rain or no rain, they had a good time and I would turn down my television whenever something big happened and I could hear them cheering.  Hopefully it doesn’t rain on Thursday because they’ll be showing the game at the stadium again.  That should be one hell of a game, Argentina- South Korea.

On to the games:

South Korea – Greece (2-0)

Goals – Lee Jung Soo (KOR) 7′, Park Ji Sung (KOR) 52′

Greece, the former European champions, must have forgotten when the game started because they didn’t really start playing until the 68th minute and by that time it was too late.  They were outplayed and outclassed by Korea throughout the game.  Korea just seemed to be faster, quicker and have more energy than Greece.  Greece’s body language looked as if they were defeated half way through the game while Korea had the intensity and will to win this game.

Georgios Samaras (Celtic) was barely a factor in the game.  There were long stretches where I had forgotten he was in the game.  Actually, Otto Rehhagel’s Greece lineup was a bit puzzling.  Why didn’t defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos start the game or even enter the game as a substitute?  With Korea controlling the midfield and Greece down 1-0, Rehhagel subs in a defender, not Kyrgiakos, for another defender.  What he needed to do was add a true midfielder and get rid of one of the forwards who were playing midfield.  Samaras should’ve been sacrificed at 46′ instead of at 59′.  Finally at 68′ they decided they could play this game but Korea was still able to keep them from finishing.  They didn’t put enough pressure on the Korean midfielders until late in the game.  The South Korean players used this space to create havoc all over the field.

Samaras, this isn't St. Mirren, try a little more effort next time

Korea was running from the first minute until the game was over.  Park Chu Young (Monaco) didn’t score but he created lots of problems for the Greek defense.  Defender Cha Du Ri (SC Freiburg) was a monster all over the field and drove the Greeks crazy in the defense, midfield and up front.  Korea’s European based midfielders, Park Ji Sung (Manchester United), Lee Chung Yong (Bolton) and Ki Sung Yueng (Celtic) owned this game.  They couldn’t be stopped and should create problems for Argentina in the next game.  Korea might be better than I expected.

Argentina – Nigeria (1-0)

Goal – Heinze (ARG) 6′

Probably the best game of the World Cup so far.  I know it’s early but this game was played at a high pace and both teams could’ve had three goals a piece if not for some good goalkeeping.  Actually, Lionel Messi (Barcelona) could’ve had five goals himself.  He didn’t need much space to get off a shot and it looked like the Nigerian defense were doing too much watching and not enough defending.  If South Korea has any chance of winning against Argentina they have to get physical with Messi and not give him any room.  I don’t mean knock him down but make sure they are right in his face when he gets the ball or he’ll use the space to make them pay.

High marks for all players on both teams.  The game was back and forth until the final whistle.  Only change I would’ve made for Nigeria was having Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg) start the game instead of Victor Obinna (Malaga).  Nigeria went for a 4-3-3 formation which I thought was odd but it worked and they should be able to better against Greece in the next game.

Neither of these sides need to do much different in their next games.  Did you notice Diego Maradona’s suit on the sidelines for Argentina.  The suit looked terrible and he looked like a used car salesman/drug lord.

The Rock says, "nice suit, 25 cents!".

England – USA (1-1)

Goals – Gerrard (ENG) 4′, Dempsey (USA) 40′

Where to begin.  Yes American “fans”, the USA tied England for the first time ever but don’t get too excited because your defense is awful and if it wasn’t for your keeper, Tim Howard (Everton), this game would’ve ended 3-1 or 4-1.  Howard was the man of the match and rightfully so.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) didn’t have a great game.  I actually didn’t hear his name for long stretches.  I though Emile Heskey (Aston Villa) outplayed Rooney.  This lineup was good but I would’ve found room for Joe Cole (Chelsea) and/or Michael Carrick (Manchester United).  James Milner (Aston Villa) probably shouldn’t have started because he had a slight injury and it must have flared up because he was replaced by Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City) at 31′.  Joe Cole would have been a better replacement.  Fabio Capello has a tough job because he has so many talented players to choose from.  It’s not always a good thing.

Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) showed how bad the USA defense was with his early goal and it looked as if there would be more to come.  That didn’t happen because they looked frustrated by not be able to score more.  The USA equalised at 40′ when a Clint Dempsey (Fulham) shot bounced into the goal off of Robert Green’s gloves.  Green (West Ham) looked terrible on the play.  Maybe he should stop wearing those hamburger helper gloves.  His body was turned in such a way that the ball had only one way to go if he didn’t stop it.  Terrible!!!  I said in my preview that England would only go as far as their goalkeeping would take them.  If this continues, it won’t be far.  I can only imagine how much Capello yelled after the game.

This isn't the best choice of goalkeeper gloves.

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

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

Group B:

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

Group C:

USA (1), England (1), Slovenia and Algeria have not played

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

The selection and post-selection shows are finished and the brackets are all over the net waiting to be printed.  By the way, if you’re in the States and you need help with your picks, make sure to pick up a copy of the Monday USA Today.  They always, in my opinion, have the best coverage and analysis before the tournament.  It gives me a headache to watch all the shows talk about the tournament.  Most talking heads are vague enough that they can always be right later in the tournament.

If I were back in Chicago I would have already filled out ten brackets just as a precursor to all the information I will devour in the days before the tournament.  Don’t disregard that first bracket you fill out “just for fun” because sometimes your gut is better at picking games than stats.  Sometimes too much information is bad information.  When all is said and done and the information has been absorbed, I fill out my final bracket and that’s the one I use.  I’m not Multiple Bracket Guy.  I hate that guy.  Don’t be that guy or any of these guys.

I'll miss you most of all Jim Nantz

The tournament has been very lucrative for me over the years.  I’ve won a pool on five occasions.  In 1994, while at Eastern Michigan, I nailed the tournament for four large.  While everyone was drooling over the Duke roster of Grant Hill, Cherokee Parks, Antonio Lang, Chris Collins and Jeff Capel, I put all my chips on Arkansas with Scotty Thurman and Corliss Williamson.  The other times I’ve filled out a bracket the story was always the same.  I’d kill round one (28-4, 29-3) and then my brackets get busted in round two.  So, by the end of the first weekend I’d already be out of the running.

Thanks Scotty, I owe you big time.

This site doesn’t promote gambling but it’s not discouraging it either.  If you’re in college, find your campus bookie (every school has them) and become friends with him.  He’ll automatically be the most interesting person you know.  If you know what you’re doing, you can make some good money in college.  If you’re just looking for a quick, big score then stay away.

Guys of his ilk will be the most interesting people you ever know

I’m not going to bore you with my (lack of) insight on the greatest three weeks of sports because I haven’t been able to really follow the season as a whole here in South Korea.  I know the rankings, I’ve seen box scores and I’ve even been able to watch streams of some games but that’s not enough that you should care what I think.  I will give you my Final Four and winner but feel free to disregard it.  I’ll just do it for posterity.  You’ll probably get some insight later in the week from The Bearded Guy and The Blasian.  To be honest, forget everything The Blasian tells you about the tournament.  He still thinks the Memphis Tigers were in the 2008 National Championship game against Kansas but we all know that Memphis went winless in the 2007/2008 season.  Yes, Kansas did win the tournament that year but I can’t remember who they played.  The NCAA can be confusing sometimes when it comes to records and history.

I know Mario Chalmers hit a big shot in 2008 but I can't remember against whom

With the time difference, the lack of coverage in the ROK and the fact that North Carolina and Eastern Michigan are not in the tournament, I don’t have much to say about March Madness.  This will be the second time in my life that I won’t be in the States for the tournament.  In 2003 I was in Hong Kong and it sucked not being able to see any games.  I don’t know if there was something like justin.tv back then.  You can’t get psyched about it by reading recaps and message boards (remember them?).  Somehow Malcolm Gladwell became a huge fan of the NBA as a child by only reading old issues of Sports Illustrated and never seeing an actual game in his native Canada but Gladwell must have some gene I’m missing because I need to watch the games to get excited about them.  Maybe it’s not a gene, maybe it’s a Canadian thing.

Malcom Gladwell - Genius and Canadian. That doesn't sound right.

My favorite memory of the March Madness was back in 1996 when I travelled with a bunch of other Eastern Michigan students to Indianapolis for rounds one and two of the tournament.  Eastern beat Duke in round one and it was the greatest sporting experiences I’ve ever had.  The Eastern fans were hot and it was nice giving it back to the Dukies.  Plus, Greg Newton told me to fuck off as Duke was leaving the court at the end of the half.  Good times.  Unfortunately, we lost to Ray Allen and UCONN in round two but we had so much fun over those four days.

What I think might happen:

Final Four – Kansas v Pittsburgh, West Virgina v Duke
Final – Kansas v West Virginia
Champs – Kansas

I’m sure you’re gonna be hearing a lot about John Wall.

Try to watch any games Gus Johnson is doing because you’ll be in for a wild ride.

Gus Johnson is excited about everything

Back in the day, Craig Bolerjack and Ian Eagle would always be in The Pit in New Mexico, Boise or some other out-of-the-way venue and I couldn’t wait to see where CBS shipped them off to.  It was like they were being punished or paying their dues.  We use to actually have bets on where they would show up.  Now that Bolerjack and Eagle have moved up the pecking order, who are the announcers CBS sends to the Siberia of March Madness?

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!!!!

The Winter Olympics start on Friday and I think I care less about them than I did about the Super Bowl.  The Super Bowl had a team I don’t care about (New Orleans) against a team I hate (Indianapolis).  Throw in the fact that I’m not in the states and the Super Bowl might as well have been the NHL Finals, except for the whole Jim Nantz thing.

I think the Penguins won the last Stanley Cup but I'm not sure

I guess I used to watch the Winter Olympics but I can’t remember anything memorable happening except for the Miracle on Ice, the Nancy Kerrigan – Tonya Harding thing and Dan Jansen getting his heart-broken over and over.  The only thing the Winter Olympics might be good for is to introduce you (me) to exotic, beautiful, foreign, female figure skaters.  It started with Katarina Witt in and then it was Kristi Yamaguchi and Oksana Baiul.  I don’t think I’ve watched too much of the last two Winter Olympics because I can’t think of any hot chicks from those games.

I’m sure the Winter Olympics offer more than just watching scantily clad, hot females, but what?  Why should I spend more than five minutes watching these games?  Part of my problem watching the Olympics is that the coverage was always America Über Alles no matter what channel they were on.  That won’t be a problem here in Korea but I still don’t care.  I’m pretty sure the coverage here will be very Korea-centric.  If a South Korean wins a  silver or bronze medal, forget about it.  If a gold is won by a Korean athlete, that athlete will automatically be the best ever at that sport and later we’ll find out how Korea invented that particular sport.    

If Kim Yu-Na wins gold in Vancouver, look for some history to be rewritten

To be honest, I’m not much of a winter person and maybe that’s why the 21st Winter Olympiad is being met with so much indifference by me.  Wait, I hate running but I am a huge track and field guy during the Summer Olympics so the lack of love for the cold can’t be the reason.  If anyone has any ideas on why I should watch the games from Vancouver, let me know. 

Is the fact that I loathe Canada a reason for my apathy?

America's upstairs neighbor